Elders And Their Families

by David Padfield

Those who serve as elders in the church of our Lord watch out for our souls "as those who must give account" (Hebrews 13:17). Long before being given this awesome responsibility, they must "first be proved" (1 Tim. 3:10). This "proving" or "testing" of elders and deacons can take place in many ways. I submit that their home is one of the best "proving grounds" available.

When some Christians think of the qualifications for elders, they sum it up somewhat like this: "Elders must be married and have children who were baptized." While this is certainly true, there is far more involved than this.

Let us notice those qualifications for elders which deal with the home and family relationship.

The Elder And His Wife

In 1 Timothy 3:2, Paul said, "A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife" There has been much written as to whether a man who has been divorced could serve as an elder. Many translations of this verse simply use the phrase "the husband of one wife" (King James, New King James, Revised Standard, New American Standard, and King James II).

About half of the translations I checked made it plain that the elder could only have been married one time. Notice these:

The wife of an elder or deacon must be above reproach. They must be "reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things" (1 Tim. 3:11). Notice a few translations:

Ruling His Own House Well

The elder must be one who "rules his own house well" (1 Tim. 3:4, NKJ). The primary meaning of "rule" is to "govern" or "manage." This thought is brought out by most translations:

The Elder And His Children

Two verses deal specifically with the character of the elder's children. In 1 Timothy 3:4, we find he is to have "his children in submission with all reverence" (NKJ). These words are rich with meaning. Various translations treat these words in different ways. Notice these:

In Titus 1:6, we find the elder's children are to be "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (NKJ). Many translations use the words "profligate," which means, "recklessly wasteful" or "given over to self-indulgence." Please note to these translations:


In 1 Timothy 3:5, Paul explained why elders have to "rule their own house well." He said, "For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" It is not enough for a man to have children who have been baptized, they be "submissive and respectful in every way."

The father of unruly children is not fit to shepherd and lead the people of God in any way. For him to do so would subject the church to the ridicule of the community and the disdain of God.

Those who desire to serve as elders need to start making preparation while their children are still in the cradle. A man can not wait till his children leave his house to make it on their own and then decide to have a godly home.

For further study