Archives For Appointment Covenants

Deacons who are appointed beyond the local church also have appointments to a local congregation, where they are to take missional responsibility for leading other Christians into ministries of service. The Discipline does not say much about what such secondary appointments look like (¶331.5), leaving a lot of flexibility for the deacon and congregation to shape the appointment.

Plan your secondary appointment to meet your gifts, interests, and availability. If, like many deacons, you serve a demanding primary appointment beyond the local church, you certainly need not consider the secondary appointment an additional part-time job. Offer reasonable ways you can provide leadership.

Also consider entering into a secondary appointment covenant. This can confirm agreement on matters such as time commitment, office space, continuing education funds, worship participation, and more.

Here are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. Again, customize your ministry to fit your gifts, the church’s ministry priorities, and your availability.

  • Preach on occasion
  • Conduct weddings or funerals on occasion
  • Facilitate a seasonal study group (Lent, Advent, other)
  • Lead a spiritual formation group or a retreat on reflection/action
  • Assist in worship leadership/lead worship on occasion
  • Assist elder in the administration of the sacraments
  • Extend communion to those who cannot be present (see This Holy Mystery)
  • Inform the congregation about opportunities to participate in and support United Methodist missions
  • Share with the congregation (in worship, newsletter, other) prayer requests for needs in the community and world
  • Lead laypeople into a community ministry (one-time event or ongoing): food drive, disaster-relief kit drive; school-supplies drive, public-policy advocacy (contacting legislators about policy that affects those on the margins), environmental stewardship, clothing drive, mission trips, promote volunteer outreach opportunities
  • Train lay people in worship leadership practices (reading scripture, assisting with communion, etc.)
  • Serve as a chaplain at a shelter or community meal
  • Mentor and guide laypeople as they explore where God may be calling them into ministry (lay or ordained)
  • Mentor a confirmand
  • Lead a confirmation session/new membership session on discipleship & compassion ministries

While district superintendents supervise clergy, including deacons, they tend to get pulled to emergencies and urgent tasks. Sometimes they don’t find time to meet with the clergy who do not pose a problem!

Given that district superintendents are the “chief missional strategists” of the conference (¶419.1), assist them by helping them think about how they can make use of deacons in their strategy. Demonstrate how you and other deacons in your conference connect people outside the church to the church’s ministry. This is one way to keep the ministry of deacons before the cabinet.

Here are some ways some deacons are taking initiative:

Initiate meetings: Contact your district superintendent and ask to meet with them quarterly or semi-annually for a lunch or other convenient time.

Group meetings: If your district has three or more deacons, consider group rather than individual meetings with the district superintendent.

Agenda: Take initiative on preparing what you’d like to discuss with the DS. Possibilities:

  • An update on your ministry, particularly how you are equipping the baptized to address the needs of the world.
  • An update on what your order is doing to lead the conference’s ministry to equip the baptized and lead the church’s mission to the marginalized.
  • Suggestions on how you and/or the order would like to assist the district or conference in meeting the UMC mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Examples: Lead the conference in a hands-on mission project at annual conference session; create and train churches in using a curriculum to address poverty in your region; design a training for churches in developing discipleship systems; consult in your area of expertise, etc.
  • Information refreshers: The Disciplinary description that the deacon assists in worship and what that looks like; appointment and severance processes for deacons; Disciplinary paragraphs on compensation and benefits for deacons; appropriate deacon appointments; how deacon ministries enhance a congregation’s ministry to the community; helping Staff-Parish Relations Committees understand their responsibilities related to deacons; etc.
  • Ask how you can hold the DS in your prayers

Some churches have fired deacons from their appointments, without prior notice and without consultation with the district superintendent.

If you are a deacon appointed to a congregation, know the proper due process for ending appointments. Make sure this is part of your appointment covenant.

Here are the supervisory processes that The Book of Discipline 2012 requires of deacons whose primary appointment is to a United Methodist congregation:

  • The district superintendent is the supervisor of conference clergy. The bishop appoints conference clergy, which includes deacons.
  • The deacon requests of the bishop an appointment to the congregation or entity that wishes to employ the deacon.
  • A United Methodist congregation may not dismiss a deacon without prior consultation between the deacon and the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, nor without full knowledge of the district superintendent and bishop (¶ 331.10.e).
  • The Staff-Parish Relations Committee may recommend dismissal of a deacon, but an appointment change can be carried out only by the bishop and the bishop’s cabinet (¶ 258.2.g.11).
  • If the SPRC plans to discuss continued appointment of the deacon, the SPRC must inform the deacon in advance (¶ 258.2.e).
  • The deacon shall be given a minimum of 90 days’ notice before final termination (¶ 331.10.e).
  • When the deacon needs improvement in required ministry skills, the Discipline requires, in ¶ 360, that the clergyperson develop with the bishop a plan for improved ministry skills and practices.

For further consideration:

  • The district superintendent should sign off on job descriptions and covenants of deacons whose primary appointments are to United Methodist congregations, to allow for informed supervision. Further, a church should consult with the deacon and the district superintendent before changing the job descriptions, covenants, compensation, or total work hours required of the deacon.
  • Prepare an appointment covenant to clarify these and other ministry expectations in advance.

If you are appointed to a congregation, please make sure that your Staff/Parish Relations Committee, district superintendent, and the church’s lead pastor is aware of these denominational policies.

Compensation promises that are not honored. Confusion about benefits. Misunderstandings about your roles and responsibilities. Ignorance about the United Methodist ordering of ministry. Lack of due process in supervisory conversations.

If you are a deacon appointed to a congregation, some of these concerns may sound familiar. One way to help prevent some of these misunderstandings and establish clear expectations is to work out an appointment covenant at the very beginning of an appointment.

Appointment covenants can benefit both elders and deacons. Check out this description of what a covenant for deacons could include and a suggested format.

The deacon, the district superintendent, the Staff-Pastor/Parish Relations Committee and the lead pastor are participants in the agreement. The covenant also includes a process for regular ministry evaluation conversations as well as reference to the United Methodist due process for “ineffectiveness” as well as minimum notice for terminations.

Already in an appointment? It is not too late to work out a covenant!

For a great introduction for how covenants can enhance clarity and accountability, read Gwen Purushotham’s Watching Over One Another in Love. It is brief but informative. Recommend it to your bishop, cabinet, and Board of Ordained Ministry!