Father and Son: Both Elders? Bible Question.
“Is it scriptural for a father and his son both to be elders in the same congregation at the same time?”
While the Scriptures give clear standards for the lifestyle of an elder (1 Timothy 3:1 – 7; Titus 1:5 – 9), there is little in Scripture to indicate the composition of the men who make up a church’s eldership. We are not told how many elders to have in a church, only that there should be more than one (Acts 14:23). We are not told if some are to be older and others younger, or all about the same age. We are not told if they are to be retired, or still pursuing a career. I believe God left out such details on purpose to allow congregations to have freedom to exercise their collective wisdom in these matters.
All of this means the Bible is silent on your question. That makes the decision about having family members serve together a decision based on human wisdom and opinion. The Scriptures do tell us that family members can serve in positions of leadership together . . .
- The apostles Peter and Andrew were brothers (John 1:40).
- The apostles James and John were brothers (Mark 1:19).
- Barnabas and John Mark were cousins (Colossians 4:10) and they worked together on the first missionary journey with Paul.
There can be risks in having family members serve together; of that there can be little doubt. Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways over Barnabas’ cousin John Mark (Colossians 4:10). This relationship may have influenced the break up between Barnabas and Paul . . .
“Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.” – Acts 15:37 – 39 (New American Standard Bible)
We are not told that Barnabas’ relationship to Mark was part of the reason he defended him, but it is not hard to suppose that a cousin would give a relative the benefit of the doubt more readily than a non-relative.
So, it comes down to what is best for the local church. If both father and son are godly men with the qualities Paul lays down in the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, there is nothing to prohibit them from serving as elders together. There may be other reasons that make it unwise (such as nepotism, favoritism, etc.) but that is a human judgment that only the local church members can make and apply to their own situation.