Much of the work of the church is done through committees representing the governing departments.:
One Body with Many Members
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, through many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (First Corinthians 12)
Within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) each local congregation owns its own property, organizes its own programs, and calls its own staff but each congregation is bound together in covenant with all other Disciples congregations, with Regions such as our own Upper Midwest Region, and with the "General" denomination-wide units around the planet. The local, regional, and general manifestations of the Disciples are not arranged in a hierarchy with one manifestation having authority over another, but rather we are bound together in a mutual covenant which recognizes that each brings unique and important spiritual gifts to our common table. So also within a local congregation there is not a hierarchy where those of higher office rule over those of lower office. In most cases, important decisions are made by consensus or by a simple majority vote following open discussion at a board or congregational meeting. The musician who is able to summon the souls of worshipers to new appreciations of God's grace and the church gardener whose fingernails have the grit of the soil beneath them have gifts that are equally spiritual. The church is called into existence in response to the loving acts of God and so our purpose is the increase of the love of God and neighbor.
The title Deacon, meaning servant/minister/attendant, has been used since apostolic times for a major order of ministers within the church.
Within the Disciples of Christ, the function of Deacons (as individuals) or the Diaconate (all deacons collectively) is patterned after Acts 6:1-6 where Deacons were chosen to assist the apostles in the distribution of charitable provisions to the poor widows of the early church.
Deacons continue to have the connotation of table servers in that they prepare and organize the Lord's Supper each Sunday. As the ancient Deacons collected and distributed charitable funds, today's Deacons are members of the congregation's administrative Board which oversees the congregation's budget and programs. The deacon's responsibilities include seeing to the physical needs of the church and its members. Deacons are in leadership of, or a part of most of the committees of the church. Deacons welcome and continually invite greater participation in the mission of the congregation.
"At the heart of every vibrant congregation is a dedicated core of deacons who are living out of the joys of Christ's own servant heart." --Your Calling as a Deacon by Gary Straub and James Trader, II
Elder is a title carried over from Judaism into early Christianity and connotes a person of special dignity and responsibility within the church community.
Within the Disciples of Christ, Elders are persons of relative spiritual maturity who have been chosen by the congregation to be recognized as spiritual leaders. Collectively and individually, they seek to discern God's call for the congregation in mission and service and serve in partnership with the Pastor in responding to the pastoral needs of the congregation. Elders serve in a pastoral role to the Pastor.
Elders serve as spiritual advisors to the Pastor and staff, and to the congregation at large. Typically, Elders teach, serve on the congregation's administrative Board, are active in leading the congregation's programs, and most particularly, pray at the Lord's Table.
The Chair of the Elders organizes and schedules the Elders for service.