7 Traits To Look For When Selecting A Church Elder

7 Traits To Look For When Selecting A Church Elder September 20, 2017

When a church selects an elder, what traits should be looked for and what are the biblical qualifications?

An Older Elder

The word “elder” used in the New Testament is from the Greek word “presbyteros” which means “elder, of age, advanced in life” or a “senior,” so since the word “elder” means “older,” then a elder should not be a new or very young Christian. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy that the elder must not be a recent convert, or he may become  “puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1st Tim 3:6). Paul was laying down qualifications for an overseer or an elder for the church, and one of the qualifications was that he was not to be a recent convert, new to the faith, or someone who is young since they might “become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” because “knowledge puffs up” (1st Cor 8:1).

Has Godly Children

Part of the qualifications that Paul gives to both Titus and Timothy is that the elder should be ruling his own household well. If an elder cannot even control his own children then how can he be expected to rule with authority in the church? This is why Paul told Timothy that “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church” (1 Tim 3:4-5). It’s also important that an elder’s “children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination” (Titus 1:6), however, if the children have reached adulthood and have forsaken God, there is little the elder can do but love them and pray for them.

Be Above Reproach

An elder must be above reproach (1st Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6) and must have a good reputation and standing in the community in which he lives. The word reproach means actions that are disgraceful, behavior that is disapproving, or bringing a cause for shame or blame. An elder represents the church and certainly all Christians should live to be above reproach, but an elder is held to a higher standard, and the general public or unbelievers will hold this man to a higher standard than most. Every pastor is an elder but not every elder is a pastor but if the elders are not living above reproach, they are not qualified to be an elder.


Not a Drunkard

Since church leaders will be held to a higher standard and they will be judged more strictly by Christ, I believe it is best for all elders and pastors, and yes, even deacons, to have no association with alcohol. If an elder drinks, then his children may come to believe that alcohol is no problem? I am not saying that drinking alcohol is a sin, but there is an image that an elder should portray before the public and the church. They can still drink and not sin, but the temptation to get drunk might be too great for some and it could hurt the elder’s testimony before the unsaved public and even the congregation. Certainly they should never get drunk because that is a sin for any believer so if a potential elder has a drinking problem, they’re not ready to be an elder.

Not a Hothead

In a church I attended years before I became a pastor, we had an elder who had a problem with his anger. I hate to use the term “he lost his temper,” because he had no problem losing it, but he did have a problem keeping it in check. He had several instances where his temper flared out of control and it caused some to leave the church, and so that’s why an elder should not be “not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7), and “not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” (1 Tim 3:3). Here Paul groups arrogance in the same category as being quick-tempered and violent. Someone like this would make a poor choice for an elder according to the biblical qualifications (1st Tim 1:3).

A One-Woman Man

Some believe that an elder should not have been previously divorced and then remarried. Others feel that an elder shouldn’t be single. They believe this from the way Paul writes to Titus and to Timothy. For example, Paul writes to Timothy that an elder should be “the husband of one wife” (1st Tim 3:2), however, the literal reading of the Greek says an elder should be “a one woman man,” so many believe that this means that an elder should not be a womanizer or one that flirts with women, and he must be faithful to his wife. Certainly if an elder has issues with sexual immorality or adultery, he is disqualified because an elder must be “self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). If someone is “self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined,” then there should never be any sexual immorality or even a hint of it (Eph 5:3). If there is sexual immorality, that man is not qualified to be an elder, or if he already an elder, he is disqualified because he must not be “open to the charge of debauchery” (Titus 1:6b), and he would not be “above reproach” (Titus 1:6), because even the deacons or elders should “be the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:12).

Must Be Dignified

There is a certain dignity to the office of an elder. Dignity is where one has conduct or speech that is very respectable and respecting of others. It is a state or the quality of being worthy of honor or to be highly esteemed because they act in a dignified manner. Paul believes that this is important enough to be part of the qualifications for an elder. Paul writes that the elder “must be well thought of by outsiders” (1st Tim 3:7), meaning those outside of the church. Dignity includes not being “open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:6b-9), as well as “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive” (1st Tim 3:2-4). Any man that can do these things will most certainly make a great elder.


A church must be extremely careful in choosing an elder, but one important thing that I didn’t include was that “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). In other words, the elder must be able to teach sound doctrine and be ready to rebuke those who contradict his teachings because his teachings are not his own but are the very teachings of the Bible, because those who reject the teachings of the elders reject the teachings of the apostles. Those who reject the teachings of the apostles reject the teachings of Christ. Those who reject the teachings of Christ reject God Himself, and that leads to nowhere good.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas.  Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • tovlogos

    Titus 1:9 is a good place to start after the Elder has sincerely received the requirements of John 3:3 “in his heart”;
    so that he lives the reality of John 4:24; and very importantly, 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 — these people are indwelled
    by the Holy Spirit. Without that indwelling I do not believe anyone would be an adequate Elder from the perspective of
    heaven — no matter how proper he might be. Is a human being above reproach if he has decades of excellent service,
    and one day stumbles? In cases like that I have seem ministers all but crucified. Can someone be completely above
    reproach while wearing the curse of this world? Some of the leaders referred to in Matthew 7:21-23 may have appeared
    to be above reproach only to have to hear verses 23 -24, which have to be the absolute worse things a human being
    could ever possibly hear.

    When I look at Matthew 5:11-12 I see the personal relationship that must be established between the Son of God
    and the disciple. Here the Lord appears to be virtually excited at the prospect of the kind of faith and commitment
    it takes to withstand even direct abuse for Him as He did for us. This constitutes the guts of the spiritual leader, as is well pleasing
    to God — and it’s a place where the Son speaks of “rewards” — It has to do with character, spiritually developed.

    • Jack Wellman

      Most excellent additional Scripture, and you make a great point my friend about setting the bar impossibly high. I hope that was not how it came out, and it wasn’t my intention to do so, but the other Scriptures make good sense for those who would be chosen by God to be an elder. Thank you. Spot on.

      • pud

        Just have to be a willfully ignorant cult member…hello?

      • tovlogos

        God bless you Jack — you have done great work for the Lord over the years — thank you.


        PS, And, No, it didn’t come out that way — it came out as you intended..

        • pud

          Why can’t the “lord”, the creator of the universe, do his own work? Lunatic

          • tovlogos

            Yes, my friend,
            He is sovereign — If anyone is working it is Him. We are simply asked to have faith in Him;
            and follow Him. No one can improve upon perfection. This is the same reason why The
            Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will never disagree — it is impossible to improve upon
            Humans on the other hand, never stop disagreeing — due to our gross, imperfect condition.
            It is difficult for us to get a clear and comprehensive look at the “Truth”.
            Therefore the Bible gives us a gradual daily growth cycle (including studying and prayer)
            that let’s us learn within our limited capacity.
            If it were not that way, and we saw God in His ultimate purity we would not be able to handle the shock
            of seeing ourselves in our “full” depravity. As in the case of Moses — he was able only to see the outer edge of
            God in His glorious state. He forebears and patiently guides us to the Kingdom He has
            provided for us, when this difficult life is over.
            However, that’s okay, God obviously understands that; and doesn’t hold our condition
            against us — we are considered positionally “perfect” if we simply learn to listen, and continue to
            follow despite the fact that we will occasionally stumble in thought and otherwise — we repent, and continue on
            the Path of our salvation. You will receive “assurance”; and you will know the truth, and it will set you free – a freedom,
            that cannot be explained — it has to be experienced. Key passages are in John 3:3, and John 4:24.

          • pud

            I’m not your friend

            You are clearly an idiot

            Your babble and drivel is mindless nonsense. You know nothing, you believe crap

          • tovlogos

            Right — you go your way, and I’ll go mine; and you are correct about one thing — we are not friends.

        • Jack Wellman

          Thank you my friend.

      • Doug Barron

        I have been on both sides of the fence. My thoughts went to King David; who sinned terribly, but was not “un-kinged”.
        Though; he was punished for his sins later in his lifetime by Abba; who dearly loved David!
        An elder is indeed human; and indeed, does sin and fall short. Abba deals with that, if the elder is submissive to the Holy Spirit. An elder will fall, and the people will find ANY reason to have roast elder/pastor/deacon for lunch on Sunday. When the Holy Spirit chooses a person to serve Abba and a body of believers, it behooves that body to support and uplift the one, instead of watching; like a buzzard sitting on a fence for that one to fall so that the carcass can be consumed.
        Great article, Pastor!

        • Why wasn’t king David stoned to death for his adultery?

          • Doug Barron

            Good question! Why do you think he was not stoned to death for his deliberate sin?

          • Wasn’t the king meant to be subject to the so-called law of God? But as ruler, the power dynamics belonged to him and his power brokers. Don’t tell me that it was because he repented. If so, were ordinary Israelis also forgiven if they repented or was the law applied to them? Can you give me biblical evidence that the law was not applied in these latter cases?

          • Doug Barron

            Would have King David not have subjected himself to the edict of Nathan the Prophet’s judgement upon Nathan’s pronouncement of guilt?
            In David’s reign; the Prophet held more power than the King.

        • NathansFather

          There are consequences for all our actions.

      • pud

        There doesn’t even need to be a bar! Just be ignorant, credulous, gullible, indoctrinated, stupid, infantile, uneducated and willing to believe anything!

  • Kwok Kit Ho

    Actually what is in this article is the very basic requirements concerning the qualifications of an elder.
    Other more fundamental requirements should include that this brother should be submissive to God, who knows Jesus, loves His Word, enjoys His Word, dying to self everyday, loves to serve and walk by the Holy Spirit, and the glorification of God is his life goal.
    I can see so many brothers possess these qualities, may the Lord raise them to be His workers who has no cause to be ashamed.

  • Maltnothops

    The “one woman man” bit refers to polygamy. Polygamy in Judaism was neither mandated nor proscribed. While polygamy wasn’t all that common amongst Jews, it wasn’t a rarity either. And it was certainly practiced by Jews in the first century CE in Palestine. Paul was a Hellenistic Jew, of course, and polygamy wasn’t a thing amongst Greeks and Romans.

    Paul’s views on the “one woman man” bit likely reflects his personal prejudices as well as a political calculation that his version of Judaism (nascent Christianity) would be more acceptable to the powers that be if its leaders conformed more to Hellenistic morality than to God’s more libertine ways. You’ll note that Paul doesn’t suggest that the rank-and-file abandon polygamy if they were enjoying it. Just the deacons.

  • pud

    ““He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it”

    So he must be willfully ignorant, fully indoctrinated, willing to lie to children, impervious to evidence….a good solid cult member…got it where do I apply? LOL

    • Apparently sound doctrine includes belief in the existence and teaching of “demons”. How crazy can one get to believe that demons can teach people. They may as well believe that fairies can teach people. When are Christians going to give up their superstitions?

      • pud

        These indoctrinated lunatics cannot escape…they are cult members just like “moonies” or “branch dividians” They are wed to their beliefs and to reject them, no matter how ridiculous or stupid, is to leave them an empty suit. Their entire being is wrapped up in their cult doctrine…to severe that is to leave them completely adrift which is why they defend the absurd against all reason.

  • pud

    Oh oh…the world didn’t end again! One more christian lunatic down how many more to go?


    Other christian lunatics comment…Ed Stetzer, a professor and executive director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, slammed Meade’s theory on Friday, calling it “fake news” and asked Christians to be critical.

    “It’s simply fake news that a lot of Christians believe the world will end on September 23,” Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today. “Yet, it is still a reminder that we need to think critically about all the news.”

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! Think critically? LOL!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bruce Robertson

    Instructions and guidance on how to select a local cult leader. Essential to ensure your local community members remain in a state of delusional fantasy! Good grief.