What’s a Deacon?

Earlier this week, SPRC announced that Julie Popplewell will be concluding her ministry as Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministry (CYFM)with UMCG this summer and that with the additional departure of Pastor Lisa this summer, we are creating a staff position – preferably utilizing a United Methodist Deacon – a seminary-trained and ordained pastor with a demonstrated ability to connect the community and the church through outreach.

An appropriate question to this news could be something like: “I thought we couldn’t afford two pastors as a church, nor are we large enough to need two pastors, so how is it that we are searching for a new pastor?”

First, an explanation of the mechanics: currently, the positions of Associate Pastor and Dir. of CYFM constitute 1.625 FTEs (one full-time position and a 5/8 part-time position) and we are moving to a .75FTEs (one ¾-time position), in essence building upon our renovated Children and Youth Ministry program with outreach to new families to continue growing our church.  

Next, an explanation of ordination in the UMC: In the UMC there are two orders of ordained ministry (pastors or reverends): elders and deacons. As far as I can tell, the pastors of UMCG have all come from the order of elder.

While both orders are pastors, the Order of Elder and the Order of Deacon differ in function. To borrow from medical terminology, elders are generalists overseeing the entire ministry of the church, while deacons are specialists that connect the church with the world. Specifically:

  • Elders are ordained to:
    • Order – an administration role.
    • Sacrament – presides over our two sacraments: communion and baptism. Deacons may assist but not preside over sacraments.  
    • Word – a teaching/preaching role.
    • Service – leading the church in living out our faith daily in the world.
  • Deacons are ordained to:
    • Word – a teaching/preaching role.
    • Service – leading the church in living out our faith daily in the world.
    • Compassion – leads church in loving our neighbors & hearing the cry of the needy.
    • Justice – leads church in resisting evil, injustice and oppression.
    • Deacons are fully authorized to lead worship, preach, conduct funerals and preside over weddings.

Ordained Elders are itinerant who are sent and appointed by the bishop with a specified minimum compensation package and are guaranteed appointment.

Deacons find their own ministry setting and then request the bishop’s approval and appointment to that ministry setting within the local church or beyond the local church and negotiate a compensation package.[1]

So how does pursuing a Deacon help us? We want to reach new families and build our ministry with families to build on the growth we’re already experiencing thanks to Julie, Pastor Lisa, and many others. I hope it’s been clear deacons are called by God, educated and trained, and confirmed and ordained by the church to connect the church and the world within a specialized area of ministry – in our case, reaching the next generation. We are recruiting a deacon who has demonstrated proficiency in these areas.  

I hope this is clarifying and helps to focus our daily prayers for what God is doing next in our church!

[1] Adapted from: https://www.eocumc.com/order-of-deacons/similaries-differences.html