© the diakonia™ program 2011
The diakonia™ Program was started by the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman in 1977 when he was pastor at
Atonement Lutheran Church in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. Atonement, along with a church in
Connecticut (First Church in Stamford) and a church in Harlem (Central Methodist) received a grant
from Union Theological Seminary for a one-year study to determine what each needed to do to reach
out to the community.
As a result, Pastor Bouman developed the diakonia™ Program to train lay people to be servants of the
Lord. As he has frequently said, "to take the message of the font and the table (altar) out the front door
of the church into the community." This would be a program of spiritual formation and theological
education of the "breadth but not depth of theological seminary." To maintain the grassroots of the
program, local parish pastors were invited to teach the courses, and the courses were offered locally.
The first classes were held in Queens, New York and 6 students completed the two-year program of
study in 1980.
Over the years, additional locations in the Metro New York area were opened (and sometimes closed)
based on need. When Pastor Bouman received a call to be pastor in New Jersey, he took the program
with him across the Hudson River and over the years an additional seven locations were planted in the
New Jersey Synod. In 1994, with a grant from the Metropolitan New York Synod, a Latino location was
developed, and since then Latino locations have been meeting in the Metro New York area.
Through the efforts of graduates who have relocated, diakonia has been planted in other ELCA
Synods. The diakonia Program National Board continues to be engaged in expansion and publicity
efforts in a number of additional ELCA Synods.
In the first 30 years more than 1,600
persons have completed the diakonia
Program course of study started by
Rev. Stephen Bouman. At the present
time, there are multiple locations in the
New Jersey Synod – 1982
Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod –
Metropolitan Chicago Synod – 1999
Metropolitan New York - 1977
Northern Illinois Synod – 2003
Greater Milwaukee Synod – 2006
Florida/Bahamas Synod – 2006
Indiana-Kentucky Synod 2008