Order of Deacon

Deacons are ordained United Methodist clergy who lead the church in relating Christians to their ministries in the world through worship leadership, preaching, teaching, nurturing spiritual vitality, and leading ministries of service, love and justice. They may work primarily in congregations or they may work primarily in settings like hospitals, social service agencies, mission agencies, schools, counseling centers, denominational agencies, and more.

The Ministry of the Deacon

"Deacons give leadership in the Church's life: in teaching and proclaiming the Word; in contributing to worship, in assisting the elders in administering the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, or in presiding at the celebration of the sacraments when contextually appropriate and duly authorized; in forming and nurturing disciples; in conducting marriages and burying the dead; in embodying the church's mission to the world; and in leading congregations in interpreting the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world."

-- The 2016 Book of Discipline, para 328

Ordained to Word, Service, Compassion and Justice

Deacons are clergy leaders who are called by God, authorized by the church, and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of word, service, compassion and justice to the congregation and community in ministry that connects the two. Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship, nurture others in their relationship to God, and lead church people to respond to the needs of the most needy, neglected and marginalized of the world.

In the congregation, they teach, preach, officiate at funerals and weddings, offer pastoral care, assist the elder in administering Holy Communion and baptism, lead discipleship-development ministries, and help lay people identify and claim their own ministries.

Outside the walls of the church, deacons share the good news in word and in their advocacy for the poor, neglected, oppressed, and discouraged, provide ministries of mercy, and invite Christians into these ministries. Deacons lead the congregation in its servant ministry, and equip and support all baptized Christians in their ministry.

Through the Order of Deacons, The United Methodist Church affirms this historic, central and distinct ministry. As clergy, deacons are set apart for a leadership ministry, represent Christ and the body of Christ to the world, and are accountable in covenant relationships to The United Methodist Church, the clergy (particularly those in the order of deacon) and to all Christians.

Conference Membership

United Methodist deacons are clergy members of an annual (regional) conference and have the rights of voice and vote in the clergy session and annual conference where they hold membership. They serve as clergy on boards, commissions, or committees of the annual conference and hold office on the same, and are eligible for election as a clergy delegate to the General, central or jurisdictional conference. They are to participate in the life of the order of deacons in their conference.

How to Become a Deacon

If you believe God is calling you to the ministry of the deacon:

  • Spend time in discernment, listening to God.
  • Talk to your pastor or campus minister and, if possible, a deacon. God uses others to help in your discernment. Ponder the questions they suggest. Read The Christian as Minister.
  • Meet with your area's District Superintendent. The superintendent may help you begin the candidacy process and assign you a candidacy mentor to help you continue discerning how God might be calling you to serve.

How can Deacons serve?

In congregations

  • As part of a team ministry
  • Administration
  • Music leadership
  • Christian education
  • Mission outreach
  • Pastoral care and visitation
  • Life-stage ministries (youth, children, young adults, family, or older adults)
  • Business administration
  • Evangelism
  • Language or culture ministries

A group of churches or district

  • Music ministry
  • Disaster relief
  • Homeless ministry
  • Community outreach
  • Youth or other life-stage ministry
  • Mission strategy
  • Rehabilitation ministries
  • Counseling
  • Parish nursing


  • Community centers
  • Schools
  • Aged-care ministries
  • Counseling
  • Hospice care centers
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons
  • Industry
  • Church-related agencies
  • Group homes
  • Social justice advocacy organizations
  • Disability advocacy
  • Legal aid
  • Military or institution chaplaincy

Denominational Structures

  • Annual conference staff (connectional ministries, missions or discipleship strategy, communications, bishop's assistant, etc.)
  • Campus ministry
  • Camping ministry
  • Denominational agencies