Nurturing Leaders. Changing Lives.

pair of worn boots
Lead on. We're with you.

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.

Main menu

Work of the Order

“Ordained persons . . . live in covenant of mutual care and accountability with all those who share their ordination, especially in The United Methodist Church, with the ordained who are members of the same annual conference and part of the same Order.”
—The Book of Discipline

The Order of Deacons in an annual conference comprises the deacons in full membership. Orders are to gather regularly and provide spiritual and professional development opportunities, assist deacons in their retreat and continuing education plans, strengthen the bond of unity among the members, and nurture among members supportive, trusting, accountable relationships.

Ordained clergy in The United Methodist Church are members of an order, and orders have responsibilities and purposes. These are spelled out in the introductory portions of the 300s section of The Book of Discipline.

Order membership

All ordained clergy become members of an order upon election to full membership and are to participate in the order.

Organization of an order

  • The bishop convenes and provides spiritual leadership for the order
  • The annual conference provides funds for the order through the Board of Ordained Ministry
  • The board nominates (and the order elects) from the order membership a chairperson every quadrennium. The chairperson is a voting member of the Board of Ordained Ministry executive committee.

The functions of the order

  • Gather regularly for continuing spiritual formation (Bible study, issues facing church and society, theological exploration of vocational identity and leadership)
  • Assist in plans for individual study and retreats
  • Develop a bond of unity and common commitment to the UMC mission and ministry
  • Nurture mutually supportive and trusting relationships among order members
  • Hold order members accountable to the above purposes


There are many ways for an order of deacons to maintain and strengthen relationships and purpose among members. Here are just a few examples to get your order started on developing its own plan.

  • Meet at least once annually with the area bishop. According to The Book of Discipline, the bishop is to convene the orders and provide spiritual leadership. A question-and-answer time can help bishops and deacons (historically a team ministry) to engage the ministry of the deacon effectively across the conference.
  • Hold an annual retreat for purposes of spiritual renewal.
  • Invite a special speaker to talk with your order about a need among the marginalized in your area, a missionary to talk about needs in her or his area of service, or an expert with a skill (such as community organizing) to teach.
  • Organize a covenant group for mutual support, development, and accountability. Depending on the number of deacons, the geographic size of the conference, and the location of the deacons, more than one group may be helpful.
  • Agree to read the same book or use the same devotional resource for a three- to twelve-month period.
  • Develop a social media site for discussion on shared reading, best-practice sharing, and problem solving. (Try to avoid letting it turn into a solely a gripe room; members will start to avoid it. Airing difficulties is good—but encourage constructive responses.)
  • Plan a shared compassion or justice project. This might be a compassion ministry like serving at a community meal, or a justice project like advocating your state legislators about a legislative proposal facing them.
  • Exchange ideas for leading laypeople into ministry outside the walls of the church.
  • Plan a deacon/elder/local pastor shared ministry workshop to demonstrate effective elder/local pastor/deacon partnerships in ministry and liturgical leadership.
  • Plan and lead a worship service at an annual conference gathering.
  • Meet over a meal at annual conference session. Invite certified candidates and provisional members in order to develop relationships with them.
  • Staff a booth at conference session and talk to folks who might sense a call to the ministry of deacon.
  • Lead a community ministry project for those attending annual conference session. (This could be a service ministry, a fund-raising walk for a mission project, a legislative letter-writing campaign, etc.)
  • Collaborate with United Methodist Women and/or United Methodist Men on a ministry project.
  • Ask your conference communicator if he or she would publish an article on a ministry your order is promoting or an informational piece about how deacons serve in your conference.
  • Keep order members informed of Ministerial Education Funds available for their continuing education and spiritual growth.