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Difference Between Deacons and Elders

Deacons vs Elders

The majority don’t know that an elder and a deacon are two different persons or offices. Many assume that they are the same or that the difference between them is not that significant. However, it must be recognized that these two offices were specially designated by God because His church is to be administered or managed by different individuals with different gifts, specializations, and abilities.

One can be considered a church elder if he is spiritually mature. This means that he has been nurtured or raised for the purpose of serving the Lord. This does not mean, though, that if someone is already old enough like in his 50s or 60s that he is immediately qualified to become an elder. These individuals should be like the apostles and prophets who have years of experience in the spiritual ministry.

Elders are the overseers of the church. The term “elder” is related to the Greek word “episkopos” which refers to the office of the bishop and the person holding this office. They are tasked with supporting, encouraging, and guiding the lower office of the deacons.

Deacons are responsible for assisting the pastor by feeding the less fortunate, taking charge of the church building, distributing goods, and even in helping deal with widows. Their presence gives time for the pastor to do other activities like prayer and fasting. The latter were the ones who appointed new deacons for the church at large. Deacons are the servants of the church. They have been called forth for spiritual service.

In the scripture of Acts, Paul appointed new pastors to oversee the church. Specifically in Chapter 6 verse 2, it is stated that “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, it is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.” The term “serve” is used with particular reference to “diakonos.” It is a Greek word that means “waiter or attendant” to which the title “deacon” has been derived.

In 1st Timothy Chapter 3, the qualifications of either the elder or the deacon do not vary that much because it mentions more on the character qualifications rather than the role descriptions. The two (elder or deacon) should be reverent, have a pure conscience, holy, hospitable, faithful to the word, and not strongly connected to money and wine.


1.The offices of the elder and deacon are two separate entities.
2.Pastors appoint elders while elders appoint deacons.
3.Elders do more spiritual oversight while deacons do more of the physical hand and legwork of the church.

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  1. Thank you for you help me with this because I don’t know what a blessed for having both men’s could ladys be.a deacon or Elders or just men’s did God say anything about the women be blessed

  2. Thank much for this vital information.

  3. What role the decoeness have in church.

  4. Thank you for your informative explanation. God bless you.

  5. Where in the Bible is the position of a deaconess mentioned and the qualifications given?

  6. This explanation does not hold for many Christian denominations. Within my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and many other Presbyterian denominations, Elders and Deacons are nominated, called to ministry, elected, and ordained by an act of a congregation, not a Pastor. In addition, Elders are co-equal with Pastors (which we term Teaching Elders or Ministers of the Word and Sacrament). Pastors and Ruling Elders work together on all levels of the Church to discern God’s will, lead the People of God, and excersize pastoral care and oversight. Both are eligible to hold any ecclesiastical office in the Church. This is simplified, but the main difference is where a Teaching Elder concentrates on teaching and preaching a Ruling Elder concentrates on discerning and measuring the faithfulness of the Church (both big and little “C”) to Scripture, especially the words and actions of Jesus, and our doctrinal Confessions. Ruling Elders advocate for and act to hold the Church to those standards.

    While all three ordained offices are called and charged with pastoral care, Deacons concentrate on this as their main concern.

    • Thanks so much foe your explanation, but as i know there is a slit different between deacon and priest or pastor. The priest serve only spiritual matters while deacons serve both spiritual and social matters; knowing that human being both spiritual and social.Thanks

    • Eric, your description is well thought out, but pastors and elders are not equal (unless you are referring to the collective group of elders/overseers). With all assignments regarding to the body of Christ, we must look to God’s word. A pastor (Shepherd in Greek) is the protector, “feeder”and servant leader of a group of people given responsibility from God for the groups (including overseers) spiritual growth and God given purpose. An Overseer also helps in spiritual training, steps in when a pastor is called away and the collective group of Overseers help the pastor stay on task.

  7. The first time knowing the terms. Thanks.

  8. Thank you very much for this explanation! 🙂

  9. The definition of Deacon or Elder depends on the denomination. In the Baptist Church, a deacon is a lay person in the congregation. There are no elders in the Baptist churches. In this denomination, deacons assist the pastor in the administrative matters of the church as well as some spiritual matters.

    In the United Methodist Church, there are Deacons who are ordained to ministry of Word(preaching/teaching) and Service(community, church; they do not have authority to preside over communion or do baptisms).
    Elders in the UMC are ordained to ministry of Word, Service, Sacrament and Order. They preach/teach, lead the church in community service, preside over communion, baptisms and weddings. A UMC Elder is the chief administrative officer of the church. They are resonsible for seeing that correct records are kept concerning business dealings. If there is a problem with something, the presiding bishop of their conference will come to the senior pastor(elder) to ask about it.

    Other denominations have elders who assist the pastor in spiritual matters of the church. Deacons have responsibility in the administrative and business matters of the church.

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