According to the biblical qualifications required of deacons and deaconesses, they are multi-talented people that are responsible for multifaceted duties. The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual lists the following duties for deacons and deaconesses: (1) assistance at services and meetings, (2) visitation of members, (3) preparation for baptismal services, (4) assistance at the Communion service, (5) care of the sick and aiding the poor and unfortunate, and (6) care and maintenance of church property.
The instruction given that pertains to the duty of assistance at services and meetings is, “Deacons are usually responsible for welcoming members and visitors as they enter the church and for assisting them, where necessary, to find seats. They cooperate with the pastor and elders for smooth functioning of all meetings. . . . In many churches, deaconesses assist in greeting guests and members at meetings. . . .”1 By assigning the duties of greeter and usher to the deacons and deaconesses is particularly consistent with one of the deaconesses’ roles during the early centuries of the Christian church. According to the Apostolic Constitution in Church Discipline, Doctrine, and Worship, “During the first five Christian centuries, some of the help rendered by the deaconesses was to assist the presbyter in the baptism of women: greet the women parishioners, direct them to their seats, and maintain order among them.”2
The Church Resources Consortium of the North American Division lists the following duties of ushers:
1.Greet worshippers, making every attempt to help them feel welcome and at ease.
2.Escort members and guests to their seats.
3.Distribute materials related to the service/meetingsuch as bulletins, hymnals, handouts, etc.
4.Receive certain offerings, delivering them properly to the treasury department of the church.
5.Maintain an alertness for any emergency that may arise, relieving the need or contacting the person(s) needed to provide the proper assistance.
6.Direct individuals out of the service/meeting in an orderly fashion (in most instances row by row), leaving the auditorium or room ready for the next service or meeting.
Newcomers’ first experience with the church is through its welcoming system. Therefore, greeting the worshippers and helping them feel welcome and at ease should begin in the church’s parking lot. Deacons, serving as parking lot attendants, are to insure that there is adequate parking for visitors; assist those with disabilities, the elderly, single parents with children, etc. Door greeters should engage the worshippers in friendly conversation while directing them to the greeters at the welcoming station. The usher at the sanctuary door welcomes and opens the door for them, and the ushers inside the sanctuary escort them to their seat.3
In addition to these services, the deacons and deaconesses serving as ushers should view the members and visitors who sit in the pews that they monitor as their parish. They should get to know those individuals, call them during the week to pray with them, call them when they are absent from church, send them cards on special occasions, and offer assistance to those needing help caring for their children. Seek God’s guidance in developing this into small group ministries where Bible studies and fellowship can be conducted from house to house. This could also develop into outreach ministries in the various neighborhoods of the church members and visitors, in preparation for a public evangelistic meeting.
Although in some churches persons other than deacons and deaconesses serve as greeters and ushers, “it is readily apparent,” says Robert E. Naylor, “that no one could serve more efficiently as an usher [or greeter] than a deacon [or deaconess].”4
1 Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2010, 71-73.
2 Maurice Riley, The Deaconess: Walking in the Newness of Life, 2nd ed. (Newark, NJ: Christian Associates Publications, 1993), 1.
3 Steven Norman, Quinton Fletcher, and Shakebra Johnson, Parking Lot to Pew Ministry, SCC Ushers and Greeters Ministry Department.
4 Robert E. Naylor, The Baptist Deacon (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1955), 84.
Vincent E. White, Sr., D.Min., is a retired pastor and author of The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model; The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model Workbook; and Problem Solvers and Soul Winners: A Handbook for Deacons and Deaconesses. www.avasbookpublishers.com.