Questions From Readers
▪ Is there a minimum age for a Christian man to be recommended as a ministerial servant in the congregation?
No, the Bible does not set any minimum age.
In ancient Israel, God did specify ages in some cases. Males registered for military service had to be 20 years old; mere boys were not sent to battle, as occurs in places today. Age was also a factor for Levites. The Kohathites serving at the tabernacle were to be from 30 to 50 years of age. Why? This limitation was mentioned in connection with “the laborious service and the service of carrying loads in the tent of meeting.” (Numbers 4:3, 47) It seems that Levites could begin doing lighter tasks at 25, but they had to be 30 before sharing in the heavier tasks and more responsible privileges of dismantling, hauling, and assembling the tabernacle. (Numbers 8:24-26) Such heavy work would not be needed later at the temple, so Levites then began serving at the age of 20.—1 Chronicles 23:24.
But when Jehovah ceased using fleshly Israel and began to use spiritual Israel, did he stipulate a minimum age for ministerial servants (deacons) in the Christian congregation?
One might think so, based on the record of later centuries. In the Roman Catholic Church, a deacon is “an ordained minister, immediately below the rank of priest, in the divinely instituted hierarchy of orders in the Church.” Bingham’s Antiquities of the Christian Church observes: “Bishops and presbyters [elders] . . . might not ordinarily be ordained before thirty; but deacons were allowed to be ordained at twenty-five, and not before. This is the term fixed both by the civil and canon law . . . We scarce meet with an instance of any one that was ordained before the age of twenty-five, in all the history of the Church.”
What, though, are the qualifications found in the Bible? The only ones given are those mentioned at 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12, 13: “Ministerial servants should likewise be serious, not double-tongued, not giving themselves to a lot of wine, not greedy of dishonest gain, holding the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience. Also, let these be tested as to fitness first, then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation. Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife, presiding in a fine manner over children and their own households. For the men who minister in a fine manner are acquiring for themselves a fine standing and great freeness of speech in the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”
We can see here that no minimum age for appointment as a ministerial servant is stipulated. So when the elders meet to discuss the qualifications of males in the congregation, they can bear in mind that there is no Biblical basis for requiring that a Christian man be 20, 25, or 30 years of age before he can be recommended and serve. The Bible refers to those who hold this office as being “men who minister,” so we would hardly expect them to be in their early or middle teenage years. Bearing this out, the Bible says that such ministerial servants might be married and have children themselves.
Furthermore, men recommended as ministerial servants should have been “tested as to fitness,” giving evidence of having a sense of responsibility. That is not to say that they serve a probational term. Rather, they must have shown Christian maturity over a reasonable period of time (having been baptized at least one year), being men who are willing and able to attend to matters assigned to them. If a “serious” young man demonstrates these qualities, and he is humble and meets the other qualifications, the elders might recommend him for appointment even if he is not yet 20 years old. Other men may be much older when they show clearly that they meet the qualifications for ‘ministering in a fine manner, acquiring for themselves a fine standing and great freeness of speech.’