This outline of instruction for training deacons and deaconesses has been used by Bess Ninaj, an experienced Bible instructor connected with the Washington Sanitarium. Our ministers and workers generally will appreciate this information.—Editors
I. ORIGIN OF CHURCH ORGANIZATION. (Read The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9).
1. A crisis among the early Christians.
a. Satan sought to check the progress of the gospel.
b.Satan tried to create disunion in the church by arousing old prejudices among the new Christians.
c. The Grecian Christians began to murmur about "an alleged neglect of the Greek widows."
2. Rapid growth of the church had created responsibilities too great for one man or set of men.
3. A meeting of the believers was called to outline a plan for better organization of all the working forces in the church.
4. Seven men were selected, ordained, and set apart as deacons.
a.The plan was "in the order of God."
b. This organization later served as a model to other churches.
c.These men were to have a uniting influence on the church.
II. PURPOSE OF APPOINTING DEACONS.
1. To free ministers from certain duties so that they would be able to devote their time to preaching the gospel.
2. To give careful consideration to needs of individuals within the church.
3. To care for the financial interests of the church.
4. To bind together various interests of the church into a united whole.
5. To distribute to the poor.
6. To handle and adjust minor matters.
7. To instruct others in the truth.
III. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS. Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:2-4; and The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 90, 95.
1. Character: Honest, blameless, not double-tongued, not greedy for money, grave, sober, not self-willed, not soon angry, hospitable, just, holy, temperate, willing, full of Holy Ghost, an example to others.
2. Ability and zeal: Full of wisdom, willing, ready mind, "first be proved," not a lord, qualified "to instruct others in the truth." Men of firmness and decision, who would take their position unitedly on the side of right; able to act as officers; have high standards of leadership.
3. Family above reproach: Wife faithful in all things; faithful children; be the husband of one wife, and rule children and household well.
IV. BIBLE REFERENCES TO WOMEN ASSISTANTS.
1. Phoebe spoken of as a "servant" (or deaconess), and a "succourer of many" (Rom. 16:1, 2).
2. Paul speaks of "women which laboured with me in the gospel" (Phil. 4:3).
V. DUTIES OF DEACONESSES. (See Church Manual, p. 88.)
1. Assist with Communion: Bake the bread, purchase the wine, take care of linens and other articles, set up communion table, and dispose of bread and wine following the service.
2. Ordinance of humility: Care for linens, basins, etc.; serve at table during service; see that members and visitors take part.
3. Baptism: Care for equipment and materials, such as robes, sheets, towels, caps, and blankets; assist the women who are being baptized; and instruct candidates on what to bring.
4. Serve on welcoming committee at church service.
5. Visit church members, particularly before communion service.
6. Care for the poor and sick.
7. Attend church business meetings and give report of activities.
VI. UNEXPLORED POSSIBILITIES FOR DEACONESSES. I. Help with communion service at the home of sick members or others not able to participate in the church service.
2. Hospital visitation of members.
3. Visit bereaved families, help as necessary, see that flowers are sent.
4. "Instruct others in the truth," as did the deacons (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 90); visit people in own neighborhood and in vicinity of church; refer interest to the pastor; give Bible studies; and help with Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and other projects.
Deacons and deaconesses should engage in practical missionary work. They should learn to give Bible readings, to conduct cottage meetings, to teach principles of health and temperance, and give treatments to the sick.