Become a Deaconess

As a member of the Deaconess Community, a Deaconess is a public leader in the ELCA as a minister of Word and Service or in the ELCIC as a Diaconal Minister. The Deaconess Community is composed of women who are called by God to compassionate service in and through the Church and the world, compelled by the love of Christ, and sustained by community. Deaconesses have a specific call to a prayerful, Spirit-led, interconnected vision of community as part of their diaconal call. To explore the process of becoming a deaconess, please click on the links below, or scroll down.

To explore the process of becoming a deaconess, please click on the links below, or scroll down.

Word and Service Ministry
Diaconal Identity
Deaconess Identity
Formation Process
Formation Process for Rostered Leaders


Word and Service Ministry
Word and Service Ministry finds its biblical roots in the prophets who delivered God’s call for social justice, in the life and servant ministry of Jesus who proclaimed that the last shall be first, and in the witness of those in the early church who followed the call to care for people who are poor, lonely and marginalized. Word and Service ministers serve in specialized areas such as social work, chaplaincy, education, congregational ministry, healthcare agencies, community organizing, outreach development, youth ministry, community non-profits and advocacy. In addition to their specialized calls of service, Word and Service ministers are called and accountable as public leaders to serve with Word and Sacrament ministers in equipping the church to meet the needs of the world.


Diaconal Identity
Word and Service ministers have a unique diaconal identity focused on service. It is an inner attitude formed from Christ-centered spirituality, shaped by study of Scriptures and other Christian texts, and informed by the theological and practical knowledge particularly necessary for servant ministry.

The Core of Diaconal Identity is:

  • A distinct perspective of justice and mercy that is informed by Lutheran theological understanding of justice, an articulated understanding of compassionate servant leadership, a well-developed ability to see clearly human need or signs of injustice, and the courage to advocate on behalf of the powerless and vulnerable
  • A perspective of bridge-building that promotes innovation and practices accompaniment with others in mission, acknowledges interdependence as God’s intention for all creation, honors diversity in all its forms, manages conflict, practices reconciliation, and embodies a spirit of humility in all relationships
  • A public witness in and to the church as well as in and to the world which proclaims and furthers the reign of God, attends to what God is doing in the world, and demonstrates a willingness and ability to speak the truth of the Gospel


Deaconess Identity
A Deaconess identity not only embraces the core of a diaconal identity but is distinct in its “life together” that is formed in and through community. Belonging to the Community empowers Deaconesses to be bold in the places where they serve, living at the center and at the margins at the same time.

The Deaconess identity is a unique expression of the Spirit’s call to servant ministry. Deaconess identity is shaped in community both for the sake of the community itself and for the sake of the world into which a Deaconess is sent by God to serve. A Deaconess identity is the result of a deep inner journey nurtured and sustained through dependable accompaniment, prayerful discernment, and moments of joy in the midst of a community of women who see and embrace gifts, strengths and vulnerabilities. Deaconess identity requires the formation of bold women of integrity and authenticity who celebrate diversity, build communities of faith, and love with compassion.

The Core of Deaconess Identity is:

  • A unique perspective informed by and supported by participation in an intentional community of Christ-centered, prayerful women, involving:
    • an appreciation for its history
    • a commitment to participate fully in the Community’s life
    • the capacity to make and keep relationships in community
    • the disposition to prayer


Formation Process
The purpose of formation is to foster individual growth and community identity, deepen one’s relationship with God, and empower, equip and sustain women to serve and meet the needs of the world.  The Deaconess Community accompanies individuals through this formation process, mutually discerning and sharing gifts, strengths and vulnerabilities with one another.  As a community of Spirit-led, skilled, prayerful, independent and interdependent women, Deaconesses believe that service, spirituality, and community cannot be separated.  During formation, women will deepen their prayer and spiritual life, engage in the Community through worship, build relationships, participate in formal and informal events, and become acquainted with examples of inspiring ministries of both present and past deaconesses in the historic tradition.

Because discernment is not solely an individual activity, candidates enter faithfully into mutual conversation with members of the Community about the sense of call to ministry the candidate has experienced.  Led by the Holy Spirit, candidate and Community reflect together to affirm both the candidate’s internal and external sense of call.

Becoming a deaconess insurt 2


Formation Process for Rostered Leaders
Formation Process for those who are on the Word and Service Roster of the ELCA or the Diaconal Ministry Roster of the ELCIC, including those who were rostered as Diaconal Ministers or Associates in Ministry who are discerning a call to the Deaconess Community.

More Information
Ready to engage in some discerning conversation? If you feel called to serve as a Deaconess, please contact us for further information and an application packet. We would welcome an opportunity to share in conversation, answer your questions, or connect you with your synod and other partners as you continue to discern your call.

For more information please Sr. Liz Colver, Director of Vocation and Education.