Are Pastors Required to be Married?

This may seem like a strange post.  Some of you may wonder why I even bring such a topic up for discussion.  Well, the reason I want to discuss it is because it is an issue that has impacted me directly.

When I finished seminary, I interviewed for a pastoral position at a medium-sized church in Michigan.  Over the span of several weeks, I met with the senior pastor and church leadership to interview and discuss my thoughts on how to effectively run their student ministry.  The leadership was convinced.  They wanted me on their staff as an associate pastor.  The only thing left to do was to introduce me to the church membership and allow them to vote on the matter.

 A weekend was arranged for me to visit the church so that I could speak and engage in a question / answer session with the people.  During the question and answer time, a young man stood up with his Bible and stated, “1 Timothy 3:1-2 tells us that ‘If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife.'”  The same young man went on to say that he could not vote for me because I was not biblically qualified to be a pastor.  I was single.  I did not get the job.

Is this really what this passage is saying?  If so, then pastors are also required to have children because in verse 4 we are told that he must have submissive children.  These same requirements are listed for deacons in verses 8-13.

However, this seems to contradict the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul states that it is better to remain single as he was because single people do not have the obligations that naturally come from marriage and children.  They have more time to dedicate to serving the Lord.

It is also interesting that the passage in 1 Timothy 3 is often used to disqualify those who have been divorced because they are not the “husband of one wife”, but more than one wife.  If the passage is telling us that people who have been married more than once are disqualified, it makes no sense to also read it as a requirement to have a wife.  These are two totally separate issues!

The passage is not concerned with the marital status of a person, but the person’s character.  Is the man faithful to his wife and is he a good father?  If he the answer is “yes”, then he may be a good candidate for a pastor or deacon.  If he is unfaithful, he is not biblically qualified.  In the case of a single man, since the questions about wife and family are not relevant, we must look at the other qualifications listed in this passage to judge his character.  Is he above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, not a recent convert, and well thought of by outsiders (these additional qualifications are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7)?

If a man is qualified in all of these areas, he is biblically qualified.  He does not have to be married.

What are your thoughts?  Is marriage a requirement to be a pastor?  Would you consider a single person as a candidate for a pastoral role in your church?

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20 Responses to Are Pastors Required to be Married?

  1. jeremiah17 says:

    That’s strange. Paul said it’s for some, others not. We know what it’s done to Catholics. Yet at the same time, you would be a hireling anyway, a person that’s gets instruction from a board. Is the board more educated or less educated than you concerning scripture? I’m guessing less educated. Yet they have the power to hire and fire you according to what they think is scriptural. Odd.

  2. Tim Farley says:

    So, what do you think about the topic at hand: marriage and the pastor. I agree that some can be married, but others may not be.

    What are your views on church government? What do you do with the teaching of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that outline the qualification for elders and deacons? Or, how about the fact that almost all of the New Testament epistles are written to the elders and deacons of the individual churches?

    You want church without structure, but this is not the New Testament teaching concerning church.

  3. jeremiah17 says:

    One man goes and preaches at a certain place and expects nothing. It’s understood to the congregation or whoever, that this is a free event. Another man goes to preach and gets an agreed upon amount weekly to perform certain duties. Both claim to be sent by God. The first man says what he wants, regardless of what the people thinks he should say, good or bad. The second man cannot say anything he wants, he reports to a board , and can be fired, even if he feels God is speaking through his mouth. Both claim to have faith. Is a weekly paycheck faith? Or does the first man have more faith to keep going? And I apologize if you felt attacked.

  4. Tim Farley says:

    I am sure this is true in some cases, but you over-generalize. Paul even states that elders who rule well, especially those entrusted with teaching, should be payed double for their efforts (1 Tim. 5:17-18). Acts 14:23 tells us that appointing elders in every church was the normal practice. Paul even commands Titus to appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5).

    While pastors are elders in a church, they are not the only one. The New Tetsament always mentiones a plurality of elders made up of the Spiritually mature of the church (qualifications outlined in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus1).

    While there is nothing wrong with a pastor working for free. It is not a requirements, either, as I have already pointed out. There are many pastors who say things that go against what the other elders think, especially when it is an issue of sin that is being addressed.

    So now, tell me how you believe the New Testament tells us a church should be organized. What is the role of elders and deacons?

  5. jeremiah17 says:

    1 Cor 12 “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” Ephesians 4:10-12

    10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

    11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

  6. jeremiah17 says:

    I’ll get to elders and deacons in a few, or you can tell me.

  7. Tim Farley says:

    Tell me what you are proposing by quoting these verses. I do not like to guess.

  8. Tim Farley says:

    I think I have already stated my position (there is New Testament teaching that prescribes elders and deacons for churches). I will wait to hear your thoughts on this topic.

  9. jeremiah17 says:

    It is a copy of a democracy or loosely based, where the people decide issues and have authority over the church. God always put one man in charge of the sheep, not the other way around.

  10. Tim Farley says:

    Well, you seem to be defining “congregational rule” which is much different than “elder rule”. The New Testament pattern is to appoint a plurality of elders, of which the pastor(s) is / are one. The teaching is that those who live godly lives and are Spiritually mature, should be the elders – not recent converts or those who live in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. I have already referenced the passages that discuss the appointment of elders. You can go back and look at those if you would like. They always mention multiple elders, not a single one. I do agree with you though, the church is not supposed to be a democracy. Although, there are certain instances in Scripture where matters are to be brought before the church for discussion and decision. I thin of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians where the man was to be brought before the church to be disciplined. I also think of Jesus’ words that tell us how to handle an unrepentant brother. Go to him alone. Then take two or three others. Then bring the matter before the church.

  11. jeremiah17 says:

    Seems to me the way it is practiced today, it’s a copy of a democracy or loosely based, where the people decide issues and have authority over the church. In scripture God always put one man in charge of the sheep, not the other way around. The sheep are not in charge of the shepherd. God is not the author of confusion. With that said, “apostles 1st, etc….an apostle is set first in the church.

  12. jeremiah17 says:

    How does your church work? Are elders elected, already there when the doors open? And are they on a board that hires and fires, or is that separate. sorry for repeating last post

  13. Tim Farley says:

    I agree that in many churches today, it is a copy of democracy, which many people then use to promote the idea that our country’s democracy is the biblical ideal for government. That is just ridiculous! The only form of government in Scripture, and the one we look forward to is a monarchy, with Jesus as King.

    The church should reflect this with Jesus as the King / Shepherd and us as the flock. We have guidelines in Scripture that inform us as to how the church should look (elders and deacons) and the requirements for these people. The elders are to be mature, godly men who direct the church and ensure that it is following the teachings of its King until He returns.

    While Scripture tells us who is eligible to be an elder or deacon, it does not give us specific teaching on how to go about making the appointments. As long as we are getting the correct men in place, by using Scripture to qualify them, that is the main thing. When churches begin putting ungodly men in leadership, that is when it runs into serious problems. I have seen this too often.

  14. Tim Farley says:

    “With that said, “apostles 1st, etc….an apostle is set first in the church.”

    Here is an area where you and I probably disagree. You seem to believe that apostles are still given today. I do not. Scripture never mentions any other apostles than the twelve. The apostles were given to establish the church, we are now standing on that foundation, which is why we often refer to it as the apostolic faith. The apostolic faith is what we find in the writings of Scripture, which were not yet completed during the days the apostles were alive.

  15. jeremiah17 says:

    Ok, I’m not set in stone on my view of that yet. Who in your church hires the pastors?

  16. Tim Farley says:

    My church does not represent all churches, but here is how we do it:

    First, it depends on if we are talking about a senior pastor or an associate. If it is a senior pastor, the church leadership team would assign a hand-picked group of individuals who represent the entire congregation. This team then gathers resumes and conducts interviews, etc until they find a candidate that they feel is biblically qualified and has a vision for the church that fits the vision in place. At that time, the candidate would be presented to the entire church to be voted on.

    In the case of an associate pastor, the same guidelines would apply accept that the senior pastor would serve as one of the team members reviewing resumes, interviewing, etc.

    I have been a part of other churches (not as a pastor) that do it differently. Some churches would simply have the elders decide without any kind of vote. Some have the senior pastor do all hiring of associates with no vote. Some churches even have pastors assigned to them by the denomination’s central office – without any input from the local church.

    Again, the process of putting the right people in place is not given to us in Scripture. We are only given the qualifications that our leaders should hold. If we appoint people with those qualifications, that is the primary thing.

    Any of the above ways of doing it can be abused (and have been). I think most churches seek to follow Scriptural guidelines. It is in their best interest to do so.

  17. jamie groover says:

    alote of times i find in the churches that we disqualify leaders based on their past.well if a man has had more than one wife in the world before he came into the faith how does that disqualify him.moses murders a man before he becomes a leader,paul persecutes the church before he became a if we really look at leaders were their lives really all that before god called them to be’s scripture that god uses who ever he chooses.jesus came to save sinners from the murderers to the been married 100 times.if god can take a murderer and make him a leader he can take a man married more than once and make him one too.the scriptures says for whom he called he justified.god used alote of men for leaders who’s history wasn’t so great,so make sure your knot judging people on their life before christ it’s about life after christ.if any man be in christ he is a NEW creature old things have past away and ALL things are become matter what a man has done or been through when he meets jesus he becomes a new man.

  18. jamie groover says:

    i have met men that meet the qualification faithful to wife sober of good behavior but they still don’t preach truth.

  19. Tim Farley says:


    You make a good point a when you say that we often disqualify men based upon their past – even their past before they were believers. This is so true. I do not think this is what the Bible has in mind when it gives us the qualifications for elders and deacons. I think it is talking about a person’s PRESENT life.

    The other side of the argument, even though I do not agree with it is this: If God had meant for the person to one day be a leader in his church, God would have protected the man from making any decisions (e.g. divorce) that would later disqualify him. I think this is a strange way to look at what God’s forgiveness and gift of new life is all about. It seems to say that some sins are not able to be forgiven, but others are. What about the man who sleeps around before becoming a believer, but never gets married. He is still able to be a leader, but a divorced man who was faithful to the one woman he was ever with is not? How does that make sense? It does not unless we understand the passage as being about the PRESENT character of the man.

    As far as preaching things that are not true, the church leaders are responsible to make sure that false teaching does not come into the church. If someone is in leadership and holds unbiblcal beliefs, the other leaders of the church must remove them. If the entire leadership is teaching untruths it is time to find a new church.

    Thanks for your comments.

  20. Ranita says:

    I found this interesting….…What do Lay People Want in Pastors?

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