Eldership: recent convert and child-rearing

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Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
Say one is 26, has been a Christian for 4.5 years and married for less than a year with a newborn baby. Assuming they meet all other requirements for eldership, would you say it’s possible for them to meet the requirements below? Please explain. Thanks!

1 Timothy 3:4–6 (CSB): He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
It's not impossible, but highly improbable (at least in a church like ours). A man would in all likelihood need more time to grow in grace and demonstrate his maturity both within the home and among the congregation. But while not normative, I could see a man that young being ready to enter the eldership. Of course, the elders of the church who know him best would have to judge.
 
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jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The critical question: does your church see this potential calling? It's hard to answer in the abstract. Age and maturity don't necessarily correlate which I suspect is why the scriptures don't give a specific number. I have supported younger men for office who showed an extraordinary level of piety and maturity. Again, it is a matter for the local church to discern. Here you'd go through about two years of training which extends the time for growth and observation.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
The critical question: does your church see this potential calling? It's hard to answer in the abstract. Age and maturity don't necessarily correlate which I suspect is why the scriptures don't give a specific number. I have supported younger men for office who showed an extraordinary level of piety and maturity. Again, it is a matter for the local church to discern. Here you'd go through about two years of training which extends the time for growth and observation.
The elders do see the calling. This is what has prompted my question. To be frank, I feel like it’s jumping the gun. Being a member for less than a year as well as being both newly married and a new father, there are a lot of areas where maturity would need demonstrated for an extended period. Or so I would think. I appreciate the insights.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Given the info you've provided, I would say wisdom leads strongly in favor of waiting. There is more potential harm in rushing than in being patient.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
I desire the office but at the same time it makes me sick to rush into things so quickly. I’d rather have a godly family and scrub the floors than pursue a position of double honor at the cost of their neglect. My wife, who obviously respects me, doesn’t believe I meet the qualifications considering how long I’ve been a Christian. I tend to agree with her. I would be delighted to serve, but in doing so now I fear it would stunt the growth of my young family. I’m already in seminary and teach a class at the church, I’m not twiddling my thumbs in my free time. This is weighing on me heavily. Prayers are appreciated.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
My wife, who obviously respects me, doesn’t believe I meet the qualifications considering how long I’ve been a Christian.
This is very significant. Our church has recently been through the process of training, approving, and installing ruling elders. One gentleman, after the process, spoke with the session, and they all mutually agreed that he should not pursue office at this time. The reason? His wife was not fully on board, not because she thought he wasn't qualified, but because she believed the family was not ready for this life change. This gentleman is a middle-aged man who has been a Presbyterian his entire life. He is eminently godly and well-versed in the Scriptures, and is highly respected by the church. He would make an excellent elder, but our session strongly believed that not having the wife on board was a big deal. He agreed (which, again, is a testament to his humility and godliness).
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
@Ethan, if you're in doubt, then that is your answer: wait and grow. The kingdom of God has not, to my knowledge, been harmed by people giving pause prior to taking on kingdom responsibilities.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
Wait does not necessarily mean "do nothing." If you and your church decide that that is the wisest course for now, there is nothing to stop them mentoring you with an eye to the future. You could perhaps attend some Session meetings as an observer, accompany the pastor or elders on home visits, read and discuss good books with your pastor, start (or continue) teaching Sunday school classes, etc. These things would grow you in your faith, whether or not you end up as an elder, aid in the process of discernment, and equip you if in the providence of God you do end up as an elder.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I didn't realize you were speaking of yourself. I would take your wife's assessment as wisdom from the Lord. Rejoice that you have a ministry at the church that you can grow and develop and enjoy in the process. Dr. Duguid's counsel is very wise and I affirm his recommendations. Wait and grow. Let your current ministry further refine and test you.

Eldership can be quite a burden depending on your congregation and what is going on. Adding that extra potential weight on top of your recent family changes as well as being young can be too much. Sometimes the burden is light and joyful. At other times it can absolutely shake you to your core. Trials can seem to come out of nowhere when everything "seems" to be going OK. The more you give your heart to the church the more potential there is for pain and suffering. You get to see the very best of what God is doing in the church (and beyond) but you also get an upfront view of the destructive nature of sin and when permitted, Satan's ferocity in attacking the church. Infighting and disunity with other leaders can be particularly painful. Criticism can be devestating - especially when you are serving in a volunteer capacity with your spare time and sacrificing in ways almost no one understands.
 
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