Deaconesses were included in the official staff of the early Christian churches.
“I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church [deaconess] in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also” (Rom. 16:1, 2).
Deaconesses should be chosen for their consecration and other qualifications that fit them for the duties of the office.
Board of Deaconesses—If a church elects several deaconesses, it should organize a board of deaconesses chaired by the head deaconess and another deaconess serving as secretary. This board is authorized to assign duties to individual deaconesses and cooperates closely with the board of deacons, especially in welcoming members and visitors and in home visitation. (See pp. 76, 77.) It also provides a training ground where new deaconesses are instructed in their duties.
Ordination Service for Deaconesses—Such a service would be carried out by an ordained pastor currently credentialed by the conference. The ordination service should be characterized by simplicity and performed in the presence of the church. 78 CHURCH MANUAL
If they retain church membership, deaconesses do not have to be ordained again if they move their memberships to other churches. When the term for which they were elected expires, they must be reelected if they are to continue to serve as deaconesses.
Duties of Deaconesses—Deaconesses serve the church in a wide variety of activities, including:
1. Greeting and Visiting Guests and Members—In many churches, deaconesses assist in greeting guests and members at meetings and in visiting members in their homes when they cannot attend services.
2. Assistance at Baptisms—Deaconesses ensure that female candidates are cared for both before and after the ceremony. They also give such counsel and help as may be necessary regarding suitable garments for baptism. Robes of suitable material should be provided. Where robes are used, the deaconesses should see that they are laundered and carefully stored. (See p. 49.)
3. Arrangements for the Communion Service—Deaconesses and deacons arrange for everything needed for this service and see that everything used is cared for afterward. (See p. 121.)
Before the communion service begins, deaconesses make arrangements for the communion table, including preparing the bread and wine, arranging the ordinance table, pouring the wine, placing the plates of unleavened bread, and covering the table with the linen provided for that purpose.
Deaconesses assist in the ordinance of foot-washing, giving special aid to women visitors and new members.
4. The Care of the Sick and the Poor—Deaconesses assist deacons in caring for the sick, needy, and unfortunate. (See p. 78.)
5. Care and Maintenance of Property—In churches where the responsibility for the care and maintenance of church property is not assigned to a building committee, deacons and deaconesses have this responsibility. (See Notes, #3, p. 167.)