Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have no pastors or priests, because having pastors or priests would go against their theology. Instead, they have "elders". From an outsider's perspective, elders appear to function in the same way as the priests or pastors from other Christian denominations, namely because these elders do not include women. Women, however, are allowed and encouraged to become ministers and preach the gospel door to door.

What are the requirements for a person to become an elder? What type of training do elders have? And have elders ever been formally trained in Christian history, biblical studies, or theology? A related question: are Jehovah's Witnesses allowed to read a mainstream, scholarly bible?


4 Answers 4


I have been one of Jehovah's Witnesses my entire life, 35 years, and was recently appointed as an elder.

What are the requirements for a person to become an elder? - They have to fulfill the requirements mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

What type of training do elders have? - When they are first appointed as elders they usually have had the same training as all other members of the congregation; years of personal bible study and regular meeting attendance. After they are appointed they get ongoing training every few years at different seminars.

And have elders ever been formally trained in Christian history, biblical studies, or theology? - Christian history - yes. Biblical studies - I guess so (not sure what you mean). theology - no, unless they got that training when they were part of another religion.

A related question: are Jehovah's Witnesses allowed to read a mainstream, scholarly bible? - We are allowed to read any bible we choose. During our meetings it is preferred that we use the New World Translation so we can be on the same page (pun intended).


First of all, we are allowed to read any bible and most of us have a few different translations at home. Furthermore, every Jehovah's Witness is trained to become an ordained minister and publisher. An instrument for that training is our Theocratic Ministry School. Besides that we have several 'schools' that are specialized in training , elders, overseers, pioneers and missionaries. A well known facility we use for that purpose is the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson (google it to see some pics). Studying theology on a university does not qualify someone to become an elder or even a minister of our faith. For more information visit our official website, http://www.jw.org. Kindest regards from the Netherlands Europe


Jehovah's Witnesses are very well educated and we highly value divine education. (Isaiah 54:13) Any interested person must go through a Bible study program with another baptized member of the congregation as their personal teacher before getting baptized. Thereby every member is well taught. When we study the Bible, taking in accurate facts and knowledge is very important to us. (John 4:23, 24) However, we make sure that this never overshadows the purpose of this knowledge. Knowledge should deepen our faith in God, in his Word, and in his standards. Knowledge should be put into context and understood so that we can appreciate what we are learning and see how to apply it in our own life. Before someone gets baptized they would need to be able to demonstrate a reasonable understanding of the answers to a series of Bible questions. However more than head knowledge is required. The quality of Bible education we receive is so thorough and moving, that it becomes who we are, and changes the way we think, feel, and act. We focus on grasping the very principals underlying different parts of the Bible so that we can apply them in our lives. In fact, a person has to reasonably demonstrate that they are already living by Bible principals and living up to Jehovah's standards before they get baptized. They would also need enough faith and courage to already be engaging in door to door preaching (what we call an unbaptized publisher). (Romans 10:10) Not until they get baptized are they considered a member, and we are taught not to pressure anyone to get baptized because it represents a very personal dedication to Jehovah God.

Our education does not stop at baptism. We are continually educated week after week, day after day, throughout our entire life. (Psalms 1:1-3) We are taught that if we do not read and meditate on God's word daily, that our relationship with him will weaken over time. We also attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall where we worship God together. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We are encouraged to study the material covered at these weekly meetings in advance.

The information that we continually study covers the following types of things. We study Bible accounts of people who remained faithful to Jehovah and lived by Bible principals. We study background information about the history and way of life surrounding Bible accounts. We study supplementary information about the full and alternative meanings of Hebrew and Greek words beyond their simple translation that we read in the New World Translation including alternative renderings that are not necessarily wrong from other translations. We learn about modern day examples of people who apply Bible principals. We study things that give us more insight into Jehovah's personality.

Often times when commenting on the meaning of words or historical and background information, sources are sighted from known and learned scholars and historians that are not Jehovah's Witnesses. However we do not blindly put faith in what those with a worldly education say. Those producing our literature do extensive research to verify the information. We consider the ultimate authority to be the Bible itself. Sometimes a more accurate understanding of the true meaning of Hebrew and Greek words as used in the Bible is gained from comparing all the instances and contexts in which it is used in the Bible itself than by going off of the popularly accepted meaning for these words. In this way we are careful not to put human tradition and honor ahead of God's word. (John 17:17; Matthew 15:5-9)

There are several schools or Bible courses that Jehovah's Witnesses run for the benefit of their brothers and sisters. While these courses do help us to gain knowledge, the main focus is always to strengthen our relationship with Jehovah and to learn to rely on him and do his will. One of the schools is primarily attended by those who are already elders. Among other things, this helps them to become even more effective in this capacity.

The primary qualifications of an elder are their spiritual traits. They are examined to see if they are developing the fruits of the spirit that appear and grow when Jehovah is blessing your effort to apply what you learn. We go by the requirements for elders as outlined in the scriptures. You can read the requirements for elders and ministerial servants at 1 Timothy 3:1-10,12, and Titus 1:5-9. Elders are not a paid clergy class, but a group of humble men who freely volunteer their time to both teach and shepherd the flock. Instead of having one elder per congregation we have a body of elders for each congregation so that the needs of the flock can be well cared for.

For more information about the way we are organized, see the brochure "Who Are Doing Jehovah's Will Today?" available for reading online at jw.org. Specifically, you may want to read Lesson 15, "How Do the Elders Serve the Congregation?"


The requirements can be found in the bible. The traits looked for in an elder can be found in Titus chapter 1 verses 5-9. Another good one to look at is 1st Timothy chapter 3. It gives the requirements of overseers, elders, ministerial servants, and how women fit into the role of the congregation.

I'm not entirely sure what the function of a priest or pastor is as my time in other denominations was very brief. I do, however, perceive that they play the role of a leader. An elder is much the same to us. They lead in the teaching and preaching work as well as watch closely the congregations spiritual progress and health. They make sure everything is done in an orderly and fine way.

The elders are also there for anyone who needs help or advice and also help encourage us in personal study and for our work in the ministry.

What I truly appreciate about the witness arrangement is the use of scripture to back everything. Every paragraph found in our spiritual food has at least 1 scripture to support it, usually more.

As to the schools there are many. I know that there are schools for elders and overseers as well as pioneers in the ministry, school for christian couples, single brothers and sisters, etc...

As for what we are allowed to view spiritually anything really. Whatever we see fit to read. I have many bibles new and old that I study and compare. Though we find it proper to use our own bible at the meetings. I think its proper as it has the name of god restored to it. Psalm 83 verse 18 shows Jehovah want's his name known. In most places its easier to understand because you don't have to figure out which Lord is being referred to.

I am a member of the unified worldwide Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. I am currently an unbaptized publisher working towards baptism.

  • Another good answer! Again, it could be improved if you could cite some references. Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 21:44
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    Hmmm one of my first answers....I really should touch this up now that I know how to use more than bold. Actually tie my sources in....
    – Jeremy
    Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 14:04

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