I have never been in favor of the category “Professional Church Worker.” As far I know, it’s only used by the LCMS. In it are all those who work for the church fulltime except never are janitors included (I don’t know why not.) and seldom are secretaries. So the list includes pastors, teachers, DCE’s, directors of evangelism, deaconesses, and all those ministers made so by contemporary churches. I don’t like the category of “Professional Church Worker” for the same reason I don’t like “The Religious” category of the Roman Catholics. Both exclude the ordinary Christian lay person.
On another LCMS church’s website I found a deaconess’s self-description of her work. Here it is.
What a Deaconess Does
Many people often ask, “What does a deaconess do?” In response to that, I’ve compiled a list of 25 things a deaconess can do for you. Note that this list is just the tip of the iceberg — my mission here is to serve the congregation in the most practical, helpful and spiritual ways that I can.
1. Pray with you before a stressful doctor’s appointment.
2. Bring a hot meal to a family with a new baby.
3. Lead a women’s Bible study.
4. Stop and check on your elderly parent when you’re having a hectic week.
5. Find ways for you to get the volunteer hours you need for a scholarship application.
6. Drive you to an appointment.
7. Pick up a prescription.
8. Answer your questions about church.
10. Go along with you on an appointment that might be scary to go to alone.
11. Come over for a visit and devotion on a day when you’re feeling lonely.
12. Take a walk with you on a day that is too nice for you to be inside.
13. Call to check in with you when you haven’t been to church in awhile.
14. Come along when you go to visit a grandchild who has stopped coming to church.
15. Help you find a ride to church.
16. Help you fill out a confusing form.
17. Bring you some groceries when you’re too sick to leave the house.
18. Sit with a sick child while you run the other kids to school.
19. Go with you to visits a friend who is going through a tough time.
20. Help you to find the social services available in the community.
21. Read a recipe for you when you want to bake cookies for your neighbor.
22. Follow up with visitors to the church.
23. Recommend a good book.
24. Give you ideas for ways to lead family devotions.
25. Pray for you.
What this deaconess does any lay person can and should do. She is not a Professional Church Worker; she is Professional Laywoman. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not this woman’s fault. She gave up many years of her life and many thousands of dollars to become this for her church ( I suspect that the latter of her two sacrifices is most important to our seminaries.). But this Professional Church Workers’ movement is at best a move back to the Middle Ages and at worst a move back to Rome. Only “professionals” are really going to be the Body of Christ. Only “professionals” are going to be about the work of the church. Don’t try it yourself at church, and whatever you do, don’t try doing these things at home! And people won’t. Herein is the true loss.
This is my assessment of the deaconess program as well. It seems like an interested lay person could receive “extra training” if she wanted to do these things.
The future will be fraught with fights over this methinks.