Should Women Be Pastors or Elders of a Church? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What does the Bible say about women being ordained as pastors?  What about having women as elders of a church?  What does the Bible tell us?

Biblical Qualifications for a Pastor

This is one of the most controversial subjects in the church today.  Should women be pastors or is this relegated only to men?  What does the Bible tell us?  This article is not going to be based upon human opinion or my own personal opinion. Let the Bible speak for itself, for the Bible is God speaking directly to us (2 Tim 3:16).  The qualifications for a pastor are listed in several places but one place in particular goes into more depth than others. It is Paul’s instructions to 1st Timothy in 3:1-7:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;  not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence  (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);  not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Notice in verse one it says, if a man, meaning that Paul was clearly indicating this office was for a man.  The position of bishop is the same word as “overseer” which is also the definition of a pastor.  Paul continues by saying he desires a good work meaning “he” is a male.  Especially sincehe must be blameless, [and] the husband of one wife.” Every single reference refers to a male: his children…his own house…how he will take care of the church…he must have a good testimony…lest he fall into reproach.  There is no other way to translate the original Greek than that of a male.  The qualifications therefore include that the pastor must be a “he.”

Deacon Qualifications

Many churches have deacons and elders but many have deaconesses as well.  The qualifications for a deacon are also found in 1st Timothy 3 but specifically in verses 8-13:

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given too much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.  But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Again we see Paul addressing the qualifications of deacons as primarily men but it should also be noted that there were deaconesses mentioned in Romans 16:1-2.  The office of a deacon is clearly defined as men who have no duplicity (not double-tongued) and as having only one wife (1 Tim 3:12) but deaconesses can not be ruled out biblically speaking.  There are differing beliefs in different denominations as to whether or not there are deaconesses but there are almost always deacons.

Can Women Be Pastors?

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

We have seen Paul’s clear instruction to Timothy to select overseers (bishops or pastors) among men who qualify. Since a pastor must also be apt to teach, Paul addresses the role of women in the church and says,But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet.  For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression (1 Tim 2:12-14).  A pastor has authority over the church and so no woman, according to Scripture, is to be over a man in authority in the church or at home (Eph 5:24).  This does not mean that the church board can not discipline a pastor and the church board may well be composed of some women members.

Even in the Old Testament there was not one single woman that was ever a priest in the 700 times this office was mentioned.  In the New Testament, both elders and pastors are mentioned in the masculine, saying he must be blameless (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6-7), he must be the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6), he must be apt to teach (1 Tim 3:2, 1 Tim 2:24), he must rule his own household well (1 Tim 3:4), he must have his children in subjection (1 Tim 3:4, Titus 1:6), he must not be a novice (new Christian) lest he be filled with pride (1 Tim 3:6), he must have a good reputation (1 Tim 3:7), and hold fast to the faith that he was taught (Titus 1:9)

Can Women Be Elders?

The very description of an elder is that of an older man.  I could not find one single Scripture where it mentioned the qualifications of an elder to be anything but a male; one not new to the faith (1 Tim 3:6).  Some denominations have teaching elders. Any one designated as a pastor is already an elder but these can be separate offices.  Paul writes to Titus that An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient (Titus 1:6). Since the elder is to be the husband of one wife, we can naturally conclude that he is a male.

Paul also instructed Titus in appointing elders in the Crete church writing, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.  For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward (Titus 1:5-7).   The fact that pastors are also elders is found in these verses as he uses the words “elders” and “overseer” interchangeably and includes the fact that elders must be a man above reproach and the husband of one wife.  What is obviously missing is any reference to a woman being an overseer or an elder.


According to Scripture, men are designated to be the pastors and elders. This does not mean that women are inferior to men because Jesus was and is God and He is co-equal to the Father in His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.  Even so, Jesus voluntarily put Himself under the authority of the Father while on earth.  Was Jesus inferior to the Father just because He was in subjection to and followed the will of the Father?  No!  Jesus is God just as much as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are.  Women are co-heirs, co-equals, and co-inheritors and God considers women, not to be inferior to men, but the equals of men.  It is only in authority that they have differences in roles but not in an inferior sense at all.  Women are to be in subjection to their husbands (Eph 5:24) and not to teach or have authority in the church (1 Cor 14:34-35) but they are not any less important or valued to God than men are.  In heaven, they will still be equal to men but they will no longer be in subjection to them…but only to Christ Who is the head of the Church.  He has designed the Church to be set up in this way.  This is not based upon personal opinion but from the Word of God, which is our final authority.

Interested in learning more Bible answers to questions?

Take a look at these articles and resources:


New International Version Bible (NIV)
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