Deaconess Ministry

Deaconess Ministry

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

LCMS deaconesses are women who are professional church-workers, trained to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through works of mercy, spiritual care, and teaching the Christian faith. “Deaconess,” from the Greek word diakonos, means “servant.”

Because of the strong historic and ongoing human care component in deaconess ministry, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Deaconess Ministry works closely with LCMS deaconesses across the world.

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News & Articles

Deaconess Ministry – Reporter
Life Ministry has new director
Tuesday, June 2, 2020 9:22:11 AM

Seminaries hold online-only Call Day services
Friday, May 8, 2020 2:02:28 PM


About LCMS Deaconess Ministry

What is a deaconess?

LCMS deaconesses are women who are professional church-workers, trained to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a ministry of works of mercy, spiritual care, and teaching the Christian faith.

“Deaconess,” from the Greek word diakonos, means “servant.” Phoebe, named in Rom. 16:1-2, was a helper to Paul and others. She often is considered the first deaconess.

Where do deaconesses serve?

Deaconesses serve primarily in three settings:

  1. Missions — both foreign and domestic;
  2. Congregations — teaching, visiting the sick and imprisoned, or serving in family or other caring ministry; and
  3. Institutions — serving as chaplains in hospitals, prisons, retirement communities, and facilities that care for people with developmental disabilities. In order for a deaconess to be endorsed as an LCMS institutional chaplain, she first must complete a master’s degree in theology along with four units of clinical pastoral education (CPE). As an institutional chaplain, a deaconess provides valuable spiritual care to those she encounters, complementing the Word and Sacrament ministry of an ordained pastor.

Because of the strong historic and ongoing human care component in deaconess ministry, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Deaconess Ministries maintains a consultative presence on the Deaconess Council, which was formed to enhance the coordination of training and promotional activities.

Contact us

For more information, please contact:

Deaconess Grace Rao
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

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Fact Sheets


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Resources en Español

Educational Resources

LCMS Church Worker Wellness


This video offers a glimpse of the vocation of service to which a Lutheran deaconess dedicates herself.

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Mercy Essays

Selected essays for deaconesses from Mercy Booklet Series

In timely yet timeless essays, Lutheran theologians look at Christ’s mercy and the way in which He showers healing, compassion and forgiveness on His people.

Readers will learn about mercy’s roots in the Old Testament, how to make the case for showing mercy in the world, the vocation of Christians as it pertains to showing care to the neighbor and even what it means to be a Lutheran engaging in acts of mercy in today’s social ministries.


Download essays

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What is the history of deaconesses in the LCMS?

While deaconesses have served the Lutheran church since the 1830’s in a variety of roles, it wasn’t until 1922 that the first deaconess began to serve in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

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    • In 1919, the Lutheran Deaconess Association (a pan-Lutheran organization) was formed and began training deaconesses for the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, which at that time included the Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Norwegian Lutheran synods.
    • Between 1919 and 1935 all deaconesses trained to be nurses, and their training took place at hospitals or institutions in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Beaver Dam, Wis; Hot Springs, S.D.; or Watertown, Wis.
    • In 1935, the deaconess training centers were consolidated into one school in Fort Wayne, which moved to Valparaiso, Ind., in 1943.
    • In 1980, The LCMS opened its first synodical deaconess training program at Concordia University Chicago (River Forest), for both undergraduate and graduate training, and in 1981 added a deaconess colloquy program.
    • Concordia Deaconess Conference (a free association of confessional LCMS deaconesses) was formed in January 1980.
    • In 2002, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, started a graduate level deaconess program.
    • In 2003, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, also opened a graduate level training program.
    • In 2008, Concordia Publishing House published a book titled In the Footsteps of Phoebe: A Complete History of the Deaconess Movement in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, written by Dcs. Cheryl D. Naumann, providing in-depth history of deaconesses in the LCMS.

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What is the deaconess motto?

Based on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, the CDC motto reads:

Working in faith
Laboring in love
Remaining steadfast in the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another deaconess motto is “The True Deaconess Spirit” by Wilhelm Loehe. Many deaconess motherhouses in Germany adopted Loehe's poem as their motto in the 19th and 20th centuries. It later gained popularity in America after the immigration of German deaconesses to this country.

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  • The True Deaconess Spirit
    What is my want? I want to serve.
    Whom do I want to serve?
    The Lord in His wretched ones and His poor.

    And what is my reward?
    I serve neither for reward nor thanks
    but out of gratitude and love.
    My reward is that I am permitted to serve.

    And if I perish in this service?
    “If I perish, I perish,” said Queen Esther.
    I would perish for Him who gave Himself for me.
    But He will not let me perish.

    And if I grow old in this service?
    Then shall my heart be renewed as a palm tree.
    And the Lord shall satisfy me with grace and mercy.

    I go my way in peace
    casting all my care upon Him.

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From the desk of President Harrison

Dear Sisters in Christ,

No one understands mercy better than a deaconess. Caring for others is part of who you are, what you do on account of and for the sake of Christ.

Because you are loved by Christ — regarded as valuable because of His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death — you are free to regard those around you in the same way: to acknowledge, to recognize, to value, to listen, to forgive, to have compassion, to speak up for and, ultimately, to act in mercy.

The Church is exceedingly grateful to you for this, humbled by the way in which you so selflessly love those Christ has placed in your midst.

That’s why it gives me great joy to introduce a host of resources that not only explain the versatile services deaconesses perform in the LCMS but also discuss contemplating deaconess service, training, internships, placement, job descriptions, diaconal care in the congregation or an institution and the like.

It’s my hope these will be not only helpful to you in your work but also to those whom you serve.

And finally, please know that you are in my prayers, that our God who deals with us mercifully because of His Son would steady your hands and strengthen your hearts to show mercy to His children: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, comforting the grieving, consoling with the lonely and friending the friendless.

May our Lord and Savior continue to shower His gracious mercy upon you that you may, in turn, serve His wretched ones and His poor, neither for reward nor thanks, but out of gratitude and love, satisfied day in and day out with our Lord’s grace and mercy.

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Support Deaconess Ministry

Our Synod is blessed by women committed to full-time teaching and the sharing of Christ's mercy under the supervision of a pastor. Deaconesses are valuable servants of Christ, and they are a resource for carrying out ministry.

With your gift, you help recruit and prepare deaconesses for service and build up deaconess ministry in our Lutheran partner churches.

Give Now

Give by mail

To make a donation by mail, make a check payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” or “LCMS.” Write the “Deaconess Ministry” on the memo line of your check or on an enclosed note, and send to:

  • The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
    Mission Advancement
    P.O. Box 66861
    St. Louis, MO 63166-6861

Give by phone

To make a credit card gift over the phone, you can call the LCMS toll-free gift line between 8 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. Central time.

  • 888-930-4438


Contact LCMS Mission Advancement if you have questions or want to discuss the impact you can have on the LCMS Deaconess Ministry through your Christian giving.

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Lutherans Engage the World

Lutheran Engage the WorldEngaging the Church in the work of witness and mercy across the globe in our life together.

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