How old does a person need to be to become an elder?
The word translated as "elders" in the New Testament comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which refers to an older person. No set age is implied by the word and it is sometimes used to denote relative age. For example, in the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son ran off while the elder son remained (Luke 15:25). "Elder" in this verse is presbuteros. It doesn't mean that the sons were elderly men, but that this son was older than the other one. Similarly, in John 8:9 after hearing Jesus's stinging rebuke, the crowd dispersed beginning with the eldest (presbuteros). Consider as well I Timothy 5:1 where younger men are not to rebuke an older man. Once again, it is the relative age that comes into play.
I have had people tell me that a man cannot be an elder until he is a senior citizen (i.e. older than 65), but there is nothing in the Scriptures setting an age for elders. Instead, the qualifications limit consideration to older men with no specific age limit given. These qualifications are:
- "Not a novice" (I Timothy 3:6) - An elder cannot be a relatively new Christian. Even if he were 70 years old, if he was a recent convert, he would not be qualified as an elder.
- "Husband of one wife" (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) - An elder must be of marriable age and is married.
- "Having his children in submission" (I Timothy 3:4) - An elder must have children and have demonstrated that he is able to control his children. A parent of infants definitely would not qualifiy as an elder.
- "Having faithful children" (Titus 1:6) - Here the children are mentioned as being old enough to decide to be Christians and have demonstrated faithfulness as Christians. Since this usually occurs during the teenage years, an elder would have to be a parent of teenagers or older children.
These qualifications would eliminate most men in their twenties and thirties, though some men in their late thirties might meet these standards. Beyond this, to place further restiction would be to add qualifications that are not given by God.