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Healthy Deacon-Pastor Relationships

A healthy relationship between a pastor and his deacons contributes to a vital, healthy church body.

This article originally appeared in Deacon Magazine.

When my pastor, Greg Pouncey, asked me to write about the relationship between a deacon and his pastor, I thought, "What an honor!" I've been a deacon for 18 years. I've served as a deacon officer for 11 years and as chairman for the past two years. I'm a pastor's son, so I can identify with both roles.

Although what I have to say may not be new to you, I hope it will help you have the best relationship possible with your pastor. A healthy relationship between a pastor and his deacons contributes to a vital, healthy church body. I know you won't be surprised to learn that during the years I have served as a deacon, times have not always been easy. Our church has gone through some tough times.

Through it all God has been faithful, and He has provided for us what and whom we needed for our church at just the right time. I know God sent Bro. Greg to our church.

As a deacon, I feel I should always support my pastor unless he's preaching doctrine that's contrary to God's Word, or there's a moral issue in his life that must be dealt with. I should also be there as a friend to give him moral support and affirm him in what he's doing in his leadership role.

A spiritual relationship

Prayer is a vital way that a deacon can support his pastor. James says that " ... The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful" (James 5:16). I pray daily for my pastor that God will protect him and his family. I pray that God will give him wisdom and discretion when making decisions and counseling others. I pray that God will give him a clear vision for our church and reveal to him each week the message our church needs to hear as he prepares his sermons.

While this is being written, I am praying for Bro. Greg as he leads our church in a building program. Without prayer support, Bro. Greg won't be able to stand against Satan's attacks each day. I also believe that the more I pray for my pastor, the better husband and father he will become. Bro. Greg also prays for me in my role. As well as praying for each other, we pray with each other regularly.

A personal relationship

Friendship between a pastor and a deacon is very important. We have a friendship rooted in our love for our Lord Jesus. Because of that love, we trust each other and know we can share confidences without fear.

Bro. Greg knows I'll be honest with him, offering both praise and criticism when warranted. I believe my commitment to encourage Bro. Greg makes him a better preacher and pastor. I believe that the more affirmation I give him, the better pastor he will become.

I'm always available when Bro. Greg needs someone to listen to him. Because he trusts my judgment, at times he'll ask for my opinion and advice. As part of our friendship, we hold each other accountable for our actions. We seek God's will in all we do, including the decisions we make while upholding our responsibilities to our church.

We enjoy spending time together. We both like sports and enjoy friendly competition. I'm an Auburn football fan and he's an Alabama fan, so you can imagine our "ragging" each other.

We enjoy watching televised games at each other's homes while our wives and children visit. I helped him coach a soccer team last year. When the deacons beat the staff in a church volleyball game, I did happen to bring up the subject a couple of times. But he's a good sport.

A deacon relationship

Another way that I support my pastor is by promoting unity in the church. A deacon can assist the pastor if a problem arises between staff members or others within our congregation. If strife and discord occur within the church family, then the church will not be doing what we are called to do. We would be more focused on what is happening within the church rather than focusing on reaching the lost for Christ.

My role as deacon is to be a peacemaker. Many times I have dealt with potential problematic issues and have been able to resolve those issues without involving my pastor. A pastor should not have to be burdened with small issues that can be handled by a deacon, especially on Sunday morning when he is trying to prepare himself mentally and spiritually for the worship service.

In the early church, the book of Acts tells us that the church was in one accord. Because of that unity, the church was in God's will and was doing the work He called them to do. As a result, the church grew rapidly.

We are to do the same work as the early church and for us to be effective in that work, our church needs to reflect that same oneness. A deacon should promote unity within the church so that when God's word is preached, people are saved and their lives are changed.

Part of promoting unity in the church involves discipline. Matthew 18 says that if your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he doesn't listen, then take two or three others with you as witnesses and confront the sinning church member. While discipline in the church is sometimes difficult, I believe a healthy church needs to have a discipline policy in place to restore the individual or group to God and the church.

As a deacon, I should assist the pastor in dealing with those who cause problems in the church. When an individual or group is out of God's will, and as a result, their actions cause division in the church, a deacon should support his pastor to resolve any problem.

As a deacon, not only should I provide moral support to my pastor, but also I should make sure he and his family have adequate financial support. Some churches believe that a pastor should not make the same amount of money that a person in the secular world makes, but that is contrary to God's word.

In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 Paul says that a pastor or elder is worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. This Scripture uses the analogy that you should not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain; the laborer is worthy of his wages.

As a pastor's son and my pastor's friend, I know how hard pastors work. I have seen the work, up close and personal! Because we love our pastor, our church honors him each year by having a Pastor Appreciation Day. We take up a love offering, and we plan special events that encourage him and his wife.

A ministry relationship

I believe that a deacon's main calling is for ministry and outreach. In Acts chapter 6 the first deacons were instructed to minister to the widows and orphans - those who had the most need. As a deacon I should assist my pastor by ministering to individuals and families that need support.

Because of the size of our church, we have an organized deacon family ministry plan. Each deacon is responsible for ministry to approximately fifty church members. Not only is this our calling but also it assists our pastor by giving him time to study and prepare to preach God's Word each week.

My fellow deacons and I are also involved in outreach visitation. This is the primary calling of all Christians -  not just deacons and pastors. Jesus commands us to reach others for salvation. We are to witness to our community for the Lord. I know outreach is our pastor's main focus in his ministry and this should be our main focus as fellow deacons.

Nothing provides as much joy in Bro. Greg's life and ministry as seeing people saved. This experience is also the greatest joy in my life, both as a Christian and deacon. Nothing is better than praying with someone to receive Christ and then seeing that new Christian walk down the aisle of our church to make a public profession of faith.

The motto of our church is "Loving God, Loving People - Connecting the Two." Supporting my pastor in the ways mentioned are just some of the things that I can do as a deacon to contribute to our church's mission. I want to serve my Lord and help our church to be a vibrant, growing, Spirit-filled church.

Being a deacon is a calling from the Lord. Serving Him as a deacon is sometimes challenging but always rewarding. Serving God alongside my friend and pastor is both a joy and an honor.

Steve Campbell is chairman of deacons at First Baptist Church Tillman's Corner in Mobile, Alabama. He also serves as a Sunday School department director and AWANA leader.