Is that a real issue? Well our salvation in Christ is not dependent on it but it is worthy of discussion. Unfortunately, there is little room here to explore the nuances of such a question, so I will just dump on the answer and suggest a few elements of consideration.
First blush at a response: probably not. Elders are always described in the context of being married and managing their own homes (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). The stipulation is that he is married and has children. In fact, Titus even suggests that the children should be believing kids. Timothy says they need to be “under control”, not just kids, but a certain kind of kid – you know what I mean. The questions are numerous and the reasons a matter of common sense. The obvious are numerous: if a married man does not have kids does that disqualify him? How well behaved do kids need to be? Why is being married a requirement? You know how it goes, this can be endless.
It is easier to start with the rationale: if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God – 1 Timothy 3:5. When you think about it there is some common sense here. Being married and having children is a huge challenge and certainly will expose areas of growth. After all, is there is any better, more ideal way to vet the character of a man than to see how he cares for and oversees his family? If you are single, the disadvantage is that there is no spouse and family to really see how one behaves with real situations where life has to be lived together. The same statement is made(v. 6) when indicating another standard: he should not be a new convert because there is greater vulnerability for temptations and distractions that he may not bear up under well.
None of this means that a single person cannot learn to manage, oversee, and deal with intense conflicts between people. That being said, it does give me reason to pause that the one relational criteria for an Elder is grounded in the context of family and not couched in the workplace, community or any other collection of human interaction. It is not that single people do not know what it means to deal with family; they had to come from somewhere. There is just something about being in a relationship that you cannot walk away from, where you must learn to act in loving ways, where even in the most irrational circumstances one must learn to resolve things, that makes this profoundly unique. These “locked in” relationships demand a unique sense of character and commitment that is rarely found in any other aspect of life. There is also something about being the dad and the husband and feeling the weight of the responsibility of family that might be different from just being part of a family.
Having said all of this, I am willing to theorize and speculate for a moment. I am reminded that having a single man who is an Elder gives a unique insight and perspective to other singles. I do believe that being an Elder is not one dimensional even though the general responsibility is about overseeing the flock. I can see a single certainly functioning as an Elder ministering to others in a way that can bring a unique perspective to those who are single. The shepherding and disciple-making aspect of being an Elder is about moving alongside someone and helping them become a dynamic follower of Christ, so as to make disciples. I suppose the question that would have to be addressed: can a single person be engaged in this same kind of ministry without being an Elder? I think so.
Is there biblical precedent and leading to make single people Elders, or can they do the same ministry without having to becoming an Elder?
Something to contemplate on…sorry, it may seem a little trite.