The role of deacons and deaconesses in the worship service is very important. Deacons are responsible for collecting tithes and offerings. This function should be conducted in an organized and graceful manner. The head deacon is to develop a quarterly duty roster which includes a schedule for the deacons who are to participate in this part of the service. The number of deacons involved in this process will be determined by the size of the congregation and the layout of the sanctuary. Even if the congregation is small, deacons are to attend to this task with dignity. The Manual for Church Officers warns, “For the small churches, it may seem to be a simple task. Unfortunately, however, it is often in the small churches that order, system, and finesse are most lacking.”1 Deacons should dress uniformly when serving; for example, they may wear black or navy suits, black shoes, white shirts, and dark ties. Most importantly, however, they are to observe the principle of modesty in dress so as not to draw attention to themselves.
The procedure used for collecting tithes and offerings may vary slightly from church to church, but the typical procedure is as follows:
When the elder calls for the tithes and offerings, the deacons will rise from their seats, walk together, and stand facing the pulpit. The elder will pause to allow them to pick up the offering plates. Then the elder will pray or begin reading Scriptures. The deacons should work in pairs. They will march abreast to their designated areas and pass the plates down the pews. They should handle the offering plates with care, holding them with both hands.
When the tithes and offerings have been received, the deacons march to the rear of the sanctuary and wait until the elder asks the congregation to stand. Then they march by twos to the front of the pulpit, as the elder concludes the reading of Malachi 3:8-10. After the elder offers the prayer of dedication and the congregation sings the response, the deacons who are assigned to take the offering plates to the treasury room do so. The other deacons march to their seats in an orderly manner. In large churches, it may be necessary for the deacons to rehearse this process at least once a quarter to minimize mistakes.
Deaconesses should also dress uniformly when serving during the worship service. They may wear white outfits, especially during the spring and summer. Some deaconesses wear black or navy suits in the fall and winter. Again, modesty is important.
At least one deaconess should be assigned to the children’s room to assist parents with babies and toddlers as needed. She should also assist the usher that is assigned to this room to maintain reverence and order. The deaconesses seated in the front of the sanctuary should assist the person telling the children’s story and help to keep the children quiet and orderly. They should pay close attention to special needs that may arise, such as a child with a runny nose, an upset stomach, a coughing or crying spell, spilled milk, etc.
Deaconesses should also make sure that there is fresh water at the pulpit for the speaker. The water should be room temperature because cold water will affect the speaker’s vocal cords.
Deacons and deaconesses should seek to maintain reverence in the sanctuary and on the church premises. They should be discreet and tactful when dealing with disturbances.
When the worship service is over, the deacons, deaconesses, and ushers should see to it that hymnals and Bibles are returned to the pew racks, trash is picked up, items left behind are taken to Lost and Found, and the church is securely locked.
1 General Conferenace of Seventh-day Adventists, Manual for Church Officers (1978), 87.
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. These resources are available at www.avasbookpublishers.com.