Bible Question:

Can a single man become a deacon and if so, what scripture says so? Can a woman be a deacon?

Bible Answer:

The list of spiritual requirements that a person must satisfy to qualify as a deacon begins in 1 Timothy 3:8.

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain . . . 1 Timothy 3:8 (NASB)

The Greek word for “deacon” refers to one who “serves.” It comes from the root word diakonos. This person is a servant of the church under the direction of the elders. It is important to remember that the elders, who are also called overseers, have the responsibility for directing the affairs of the church (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-2). So a deacon is one who serves the Lord Jesus by supporting the elders. God promises a special blessing to deacons who serve worthily,

For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 3:13 (NASB)

The Greek word diakonos in 1 Timothy 3:8 is in the masculine gender. Therefore, we should ask, “Are all deacons males?”

The answer is found in two passages. The first one is 1 Timothy 3:11 where we discover that there are female deacons.

Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 1 Timothy 3:11 (NASB)

There are some who believe that this refers to the wives of deacons. But this cannot be supported, since deacons were introduced after elders with the phrase “Deacons likewise must be men of dignity . . .” Then we read, “Women must likewise be dignified . . .” That is, after the spiritual qualifications of elders were introduced, the spiritual qualifications for male deacons were introduced with “likewise,” and then the spiritual qualifications for female deacons were introduced.

Some translations may assume that these are the wives of the deacons in verse 8, but the Greek word in verse 8 can mean either “wives” or “women.” Therefore, the context must determine if wives or women are the focus. Further, it is important to notice that Romans 16:1 states that Phoebe was a female deacon. Since there is not a feminine form of diakonos, the apostle Paul added “women” at the beginning of the sentence. Next, it is important to notice that no qualifications are given for the wives of elders. Why would the Holy Spirit give qualifications for the wives of deacons and not for the wives of elders? Surely, the qualifications for elders would be just as important, since elders lead the church. Therefore, we conclude that verse 11 refers to the office of deaconess.

Now, can an unmarried man or woman serve as a deacon or deaconess? The key passage is found in verse 12,

Deacons must be husbands of only one wife . . . 1 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)

First, the actual Greek wording of this passage is as follows,

Deacons to be one woman males. (literal Greek rendering)

This passage tells us that any male deacon is to be a “one woman man.” That is, his character must be such that, if he were married, he would be completely emotionally and sexually bound to her. He is a man who would be completely committed to his wife, if he had one. The issue is his faithfulness and sexual purity. This mark of spiritual maturity does not require a man to be married. A man’s faithfulness toward a future wife can be assessed by his avoidance of pornography, his purity toward other women, and his speech. The same is true for female deacons or deaconesses.


Yes, a single man can become a deacon and a woman can be a deaconess.

Suggested Links:

Recovering the Pattern of Biblical Leadership
God's Design For The Church
Who are the elders?
Role of Women In The Church