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What Does the Bible Say About..Needing Elders?

I know all churches are to have elders but some are just not big enough or no one meets all the requirements.


I find nothing in the scripture that requires elders if there are none qualified. Clearly there were some congregations in the first century that did not have elders because Paul assigned Titus to “ordain elders in every city.” (Titus 1:5) These were congregations that apparently had been around a while (some possibly at least fifteen years) but had no elders. Paul saw that there was a need for elders in these established congregations. Certainly, if a congregation is composed entirely of new Christians or of women there would be nobody qualified. What Paul’s instruction to Titus implies is that a congregation that could have elders should have elders. Because he gave Titus instructions about the qualities of men to be appointed, Paul is clearly also saying that one should not be an elder who doesn’t meet these qualities (and those in 1 Timothy 3).

You are right that there might be congregations that are too small to have anyone qualified to be an elder. (Some would say that there must be two men who qualify. I am not absolutely sure that is a requirement.) There might be congregations in which nobody is qualified, even if the congregation has several men. The goal of such congregations should be to grow in size or spirituality so they can have men to look out for their spiritual welfare. Even with elders, the physical business of the congregation (bills, building maintenance, etc.) may not be their responsibility but that of a group of deacons or a congregational business meeting.