Questions From Readers
● If children in the household of elders or ministerial servants come under a “charge of debauchery,” what determines whether the family head can continue to serve the congregation in an appointed capacity?
The Scriptures are very clear that married men serving in the congregation should be exemplary family heads. We read: “The overseer should therefore be . . . a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness; (if indeed any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?).” (1 Tim. 3:2, 4, 5) “Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife, presiding in a fine manner over children and their own households.”—1 Tim. 3:12.
The congregation rightly expects elders, ministerial servants and their families to be fine examples in Christian living. (Compare 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3.) If that should cease to be the case, this can have a damaging effect on the spiritual welfare of the congregation. For example, if the children of elders and ministerial servants are lax about applying Scriptural principles, this can embolden other children in the congregation to do likewise and to excuse their wrong conduct. (Compare 1 Corinthians 8:9-13; 10:31, 32.) The situation becomes even more serious when children of elders and ministerial servants engage in gross wrongdoing.
So, when such children bring disgrace upon the family and the congregation, the body of elders should determine whether the father qualifies to continue serving as an elder or as a ministerial servant. His feeling personally that he qualifies to serve despite developments in his household should not determine the decision reached by the body of elders.
For a man to continue serving, there should be clear evidence that he is capable of giving needed spiritual help to his household and that he has not been seriously negligent in this regard. An alert father usually can detect problems in his family before they get out of hand. As a man who knows how to preside over his household, he is able to take steps to control undesirable situations in his family. While his children may commit wrongs, he should be able to give them the needed guidance and discipline so that they do not become ‘debauched’ persons.—Titus 1:6.
Of course, there may be times when a child departs from the way of the truth or slips into wrongdoing despite a father’s commendable efforts to help the family spiritually. His other children may well be fine examples in Christian living, testifying to their having received good parental training. On the other hand, if one minor child after another when residing at home gets into deep spiritual difficulty upon reaching a certain age, and brings reproach on the family and the congregation, there is serious question as to whether the father is ‘presiding over his household in a fine way.’ Care must then be exercised not to excuse the situation simply by pointing to Scriptural examples of those who did not turn out well, including Esau, the sons of Samuel and the like. (Gen. 25:27-34; 26:34, 35; 1 Sam. 8:2, 3, 5) It should be kept in mind that most of those referred to in the Bible as going astray were adults, fully capable of making their own decisions. They were not subject to the same kind of authority and guidance as are minor children in a household, and it is such ones we are here considering.
In view of the spiritual danger that can result to the congregation when the children of elders or ministerial servants engage in wrongdoing that is truly gross, men whose children are involved should cooperate fully with the body of elders in ascertaining the facts. They should not minimize such gross wrongdoing of their children or try to conceal it so as to retain their position. Also, they should avoid undue harshness toward the children. (Eph. 6:4) These fathers should be sincerely interested in helping their wayward children spiritually to the extent circumstances allow. Of first concern should be the spiritual condition of their family and not whether they can continue serving in an appointed capacity.—Compare 1 Timothy 5:8.
Hence, if gross wrongdoing by children in the household does raise serious questions in the congregation about a man’s presiding in a fine way over his family, he should not continue serving as an elder or as a ministerial servant. When the man serves as an elder and his fellow elders allow their judgment and decision to be swayed by friendship or sentimentality to the point of sidestepping Scriptural principles, then especially can his continuing to serve as an elder, though unqualified, be spiritually hurtful to the congregation. This is because it can undermine respect for the entire body of elders. It can provide an excuse for other children in the congregation to engage in wrongdoing. So, it is good to keep in mind that the man’s abilities as a speaker or an organizer or his likable personality are really not the point at issue. The determining factor is whether he is fulfilling his role as a father in a fine way. Only if he is may he continue to serve. Of course, when that is so, the body of elders should avoid being unduly critical and faultfinding in reviewing his family situation.