Deacons AND Trustees?

Deacons and trustees are often the same individuals. This is not necessarily a bad thing and in some cases is a very good thing.   It is perhaps overlooked by many that deacons and trustees have two very different roles. States require that an organization has trustees for the purposes of having a legal identity. They are in fact responsible for the actions of the organization. Usually there are three trustees, one being the Pastor/President; one being Secretary; and one being Treasurer.  It is their job to manage and protect the assets and resources of the church which is legally organized. They are accountable to the state to do this properly. This really has very little with the Biblical office of a Deacon. Deacons are chosen by the church to serve the congregation. Their main responsibility is to “free up” the pastor in order that he has adequate time for his ongoing study of God’s Word and prayer. Deacons must be Biblically qualified to hold this office. They are to be the primary helpers to the Pastor. This work may or may not include being a Trustee of the legal organization. It is primarily a spiritual office which is to focus on the well being of the membership, both spiritually and physically. The Pastor is not accountable to Deacons, but rather they are accountable to him. When deacons and trustees are one and the same, there can be some confusion as to who is leading whom. Trustees invariably function as managers. Deacons are servants. I believe it can create awkward circumstances when deacons and trustees are one and the same. To be sure it would be unwise to place a man in the position of a trustee who is not spiritual, nor a dedicated servant of Christ. Placing him in both positions can create confusion. Is he supposed to obey his pastor as a servant of the church? Or is he to manage the corporation as a trustee of the legal organization? Some men erroneously think that this includes managing their Pastor. Some men can handle both responsibilities in a Christ like manner, but I believe it places unnecessary stress on their relationship with one another when their responsibilities are combined. I think it wise to include as many good men in the functioning process of the church as possible. When the offices of a church, whether deacon or trustee, are held so close that a very small number of men participate in the process, it tends to alienate other gifted men who may also serve well in one of those positions. In a church where this is practiced you will often hear complaints like, “The Pastor is a dictator,” or “This is a dictatorship”.  A man may be suitable to be a trustee who is not qualified to be a deacon. Thought should be given to using him where he can be used in a productive way for the Lord. Churches are not dictatorships, but neither are they pure democracies.  In a democracy everyone has an equal say. In the church the Pastor is to be obeyed and followed as he is a representative of God. Even if he is corrupt, God alone is the one who has the authority to remove him. If he is corrupt, he should be exposed, but great care must be given not to enter into the areas of authority that belong to God alone. A man who is qualified to be a deacon, may or may not be a good choice as a trustee of the organization. Men who are scripturally qualified to serve the church as deacons have a much higher standard by which to be measured. They usually have pastoral hearts. Making them serve in two capacities can limit, and even frustrate the zeal they exhibit for ministry. Exercising talents in the areas of money management, property care, and legal work can be done by members who are spiritual, but not qualified to be deacons. Unless a church can come to some kind of inclusive operational considerations, it will tend to be managed by a very small group of controllers. The best solution is to have regular meetings with all of the male members of the church for prayer, planning, and fellowship. There will be a natural flow of leaders that surface from that group who my never become deacons, but who are certainly capable of being helpful leaders in the church. In any event, the pastor who wants to grow the church must be the Chairman of the board of Trustees and Chairman of the Deacons. If he is not, he just has a job. A legal church must have trustees. It may or may not have men who are qualified to function as Deacons. The church at Jerusalem was very large before any Deacons were chosen. It is a mistake to appoint men to be deacons who do not qualify according to the Bible. It would be better not to have any deacons at all rather than to designate men to positions which they cannot or will not fulfill.

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3 Responses to Deacons AND Trustees?

  1. Robert Lewis says:

    Good morning Preacher,

    When I was in Tennessee the law for trustees was only applied if the church was incorporated. That’s the reason many churches never incorporated; it was easier not to have to fool with state regulation. Of course the legal issues were terrible. A whole congregation could be sued individual by individual, each member sued for their assets. It is my belief that the Pastor should always be the president of the trustees.

    A friend of mine has an unusual deacon’s meeting each Sunday morning at 8:30 am. They open with prayer and then each individual deacon presents his activities for the past week; elderly folks he has helped, visits he has made, witnessing he has done, new converts they have helped etc. Then they get on their knees and pray for the increase of God on their activities. Next, each individual deacon presents his goals for the week ahead; the elderly he intends to help, the visiting he intends to perform, those he hopes to help, who he desires to witness to, and the new converts he intends to counsel and help. They then get on their knees and beg the Lord for souls and help to do His work. This sounds like the best deacon’s meeting I have seen.

    Bro. Bob (Martin) 03/29/15

  2. Robert Lewis says:

    Thanks for the input. I agree with you obout the pastor being the President of the Trustees. I did not address the issue of incorporation. Perhaps this requires more thought.I think discussion on the matter is helpful.


  3. Robert Lewis says:

    Brother Lewis,

    Thank you for sharing the wisdom that God has given you either through experience (first or second hand knowledge). This is a blessing! Every pastor/preacher needs extra wisdom. This sharps the iron. Keep on sharing!

    Your Brother in Christ,

    Bro. George Nikitenko

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