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For those who’ve heard God’s call to leadership, we’re here to make the journey with you, connecting you with what you need to flourish as difference-makers. That’s our commitment as the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. GBHEM.

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Process for developing an appointment covenant

First, research and agree upon the context for the church’s ministry—the neighbors, the neighborhood, the area’s demographics and socio-economics, and discernment of how God is calling the church to participating in God’s transforming work in that place. “Churches that establish goals without regard for the needs and assets of the community in which they are located set themselves up for programs of maintenance and survival, which ultimately lead to decay and decline,” notes Gwen Purushotham in Watching Over One Another in Love (p. 33).

Covenant partners

The covenant is a mutually agreed upon document. The deacon, the lead pastor, and the Staff/Parish Relations Committee should do some separate thinking and consulting about specificities in the covenant, in relation to the church’s and the conference’s ministry priorities and the deacon’s gifts for ministry. The district superintendent provides the conference’s mission priorities and expectations for ministry. These parties should bring these elements to a joint meeting to develop together a covenant upon which they all agree and sign.

As the supervisor of conference clergy, the bishop or district superintendent should approve job descriptions and covenants of deacons appointed to congregations. A church ought not to change the job descriptions, covenants, compensation, total hours of the deacon without prior consultation with the deacon and with the district superintendent.

The review process

A covenant should be developed within the context of a process for regular meetings and feedback between the deacon, the lead pastor, and the Staff-Parish Relations Committee.

Quarterly meetings between the deacon and the SPRC will include conversations on how the deacon is meeting goals and other ministry activities and concerns. The SPRC provides constructive feedback and agrees on how they will help the deacon meet the goals, prioritize goals, and meet unexpected challenges and opportunities.

Annual evaluations also use the covenant in these steps:

  • The covenant is reviewed.
  • The deacon conducts and self-assessment related to the previously agreed-upon goals. What were achieved? Which were not achieved? What prevented achievement? How might the deacon adjust her/his ministry goals to better meet the church’s mission plan? What steps does the deacon propose to take to meet the goals (specific skill training, coaching, accountability procedures, etc.)?
  • The deacon and the SPRC share feedback along the abovementioned lines, as well as discuss a remediation plan for unmet performance requirements (if necessary) and description of how the SPRC can appropriately help the deacon meet unmet goals or adjust goals.
  • The SPRC Committee conducts a self-assessment on these questions:
    • What would be change about our covenant?
    • What would we change about our process?
    • How did we meet our promise to help the deacon meet the ministry goals we agreed upon?
  • The SPRC prepares a summary and discusses it with the deacon.
  • The feedback may inform continuing education plans.
  • The deacon and SPRC review and possible revise the covenant.

The district superintendent is a partner in the ministry covenants of all the churches in her/his charge and should be asked to affirm the covenant.

The lead pastor and the deacon should meet on a regular schedule to discuss their goals.

Please read Watching Over One Another in Love for important guidelines on giving and receiving feedback.

Secondary appointment covenants

Deacons appointed beyond the local church have secondary appointments to local congregations. Secondary appointments have less demanding requirements than primary appointments. Nonetheless, a covenant can be very helpful in clarifying expectations and maintaining communication.

The deacon requests a specific secondary appointment from the bishop after consultation with the lead pastor and the SPRC.

Covenants in secondary appointments are mutually agreed-upon by the deacon, the lead pastor, and the SPRC.

These covenants may address the following:

  • The church’s mission statement
  • The deacon’s roles in teaching, leading specific ministries, leading worship, conducting funerals or weddings, pastoral care, advising committees, other; time commitment
  • Lines of accountability
  • Support-staff availability and processes
  • Building use
  • Boundaries practices (same as those that apply to paid clergy and staff)
  • Office space
  • Continuing education support, if any
  • Regular meetings with lead pastor and/or staff
  • Annual meeting with SPRC to review and evaluate the relationship

The covenant should be flexible and adapt to the specific and changing ministry context of the church as well as the deacon’s healthy work/life balance.


A church 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). Dismissal can be recommended by the SPRC, 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).

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