What is... the Deacons court

In this next part of our series looking at different aspects of the practice of the Free Church, we turn our attention to the Deacons’ Court.  Of all of the bodies involved in the running of the church, the Deacons’ Court is the only one which as ‘court’ in its title, which is a little ironic as it is actually the only one which is not a court of the church.  Where each of the church courts (Kirk Session, Presbytery, Synod and General Assembly) is made up of Elders (including ministers), the Deacons’ Court is made up of Deacons (no surprises there), an entirely separate office.

Although sometimes considered a necessary step on the path to Eldership, there is no Biblical principle for this.  There is no requirement for an Elder to have previously served as a Deacon, nor should elevation to Eldership be considered as a ‘promotion’ for deacons who perform their role well.  These two offices call for different skills, abilities and personal qualities. Where the Elders have responsibility for the spiritual well being and leadership of the congregation, Deacons take on more practical issues.


Among other things deacons are responsible for finances of the congregation and for the maintenance and upkeep of its buildings and property.  They also have a responsibility for social ministry and practical welfare.

As the Deacons court are not part of the structures of the church courts they are  not answerable to any higher court nor are their decisions subject to review or appeal, provided they are within the bounds of their remit.  Deacons (or Deacons’ Courts) who overstep their remit or do not fulfil their duties may be subject to removal or censure by the Kirk Session or Presbytery.