Does unbelief in a pastor’s children disqualify him?

Does unbelief in a pastor’s children disqualify him? September 11, 2013

20130911-093649.jpgI was reading 1 Samuel 8:1-3 this morning where it speaks of Samuel’s children not following his ways.

Many modern pastors have experienced a similar problem when their children walk away from The Lord. Some over the years have been asked to resign as a result. The reason for this comes from Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:4. These two verses speak of the need for children of elders to not be rebellious, and in many english translations, that they be believers.

Some have argued that no matter what age they are, unbelieving children should disqualify their father from being a pastor.

What struck me this morning was that taken literally this view would have disqualified Samuel early in his ministry.

What is interesting is that unlike Eli earlier in the same book Samuel is not criticised for the actions of his children. Perhaps the reality is that there are some situations where the parents should indeed be blamed for their children’s waywardness and some where they shouldn’t.

Another verse which is cited in these matters is found in Proverbs 22:6 which many have assumed means that good parenting always leads to good results. I strongly believe that we have to realise that all proverbs are statements of principles not unconditional promises. Thus it is a general principle that good parents raise good children. But bad parents sometimes raise good children who do well despite their upbringing. Good parents also sometimes raise bad children who don’t take advantage of what is offered to them.

Perhaps then the verses in the pastoral epistles refer to a general principle. Either pastors should be examined on the results of their parenthood in general (assuming they have more than one child) or perhaps it should more be that we in general should expect pastors children to be obedient.

“How bad does Johnny need to be before dad gets fired?” is not specifically stated in the bible. This is particularly the case if you believe as many do that the Titus verse should really be translated as requiring pastors children be “faithful” instead of Christians or in other words “trustworthy” ie good members of society who stick by their word.

The pressure a more absolute view of this could put on pastors kids can be unbearable. It can also lead to hypocrisy in pastoral families as there is too much fear to seek out help when it is needed.

I can see why, however, a pastor who is facing a situation where his children don’t follow him might consider quitting. It is a heart wrenching thing to see children reject the faith and rebel. John Piper came close to resigning for this very reason. There seems to be a growing consensus that pastors can continue in such circumstances (see for example an article by Justin Taylor)

But what about you and I? We may not be struggling with whether or not we can continue in ministry with integrity because a child has gone totally off the rails. But surely we can feel empathy with those in such a position. And surely we are deeply concerned about our own children, worried at times about things they do or say, and eager that they will come to a clear saving knowledge of Jesus that leads to an enduring faith of their own.

For me, I am not a pastor, but it would break my heart if after serving on the leadership team my own children walked away from the faith.

Today, please join me in praying for all our children. May we become better parents and do our own part better. May grace cover our many mistakes. May our children grow up to be better than our parenting should produce. May we set a better example in day to day life, and in our relationship with God. May our children go further in their walk with God than we have gone.

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  • Thanks, Adrian.

    I also agree that ‘Train up a child…..’ is a proverb, that like other proverbs is not meant to be taken as an absolute truth, but, rather, expresses a general principle. (Like ‘A stitch in time saves nine’) It is really unfortunate when Scripture is misused to whip parents who are already suffering. “Your kid have turned out this way because you did not train them well.” The church needs a lot more compassion!

  • Herman Grobler

    Thank you Adrian for this important post.

    I’d however like to share my opinion.

    We have four children, and the youngest went astray, even to the point of joining a satanist cult, blaspheming the Lord, indulging in drugs and swearing like no sailor could ever imagine. It was a terrible painful period in our lives, and lasted many years!

    The Lord called my wife to found a ministry, helping families in the same position, called Act-up Support. (

    But during that time I also heard a little song with words more or less like this: “If you look at me, and you don’t like what you see, don’t forget, God is not finished with me yet!” And my wife and me kept on pleading with the Lord, and trying to represent Jesus to our child with the same attributes we ourselves so desperately rely on every day; like forgiveness, a second chance, turning the other cheek, and pure unconditional love. After eight years God overturned our son’s life. Today he serves the Lord, and leads many lost children back to the Lord, for they cannot take him for a ride – he had been there!

    When should a pastor quit?

    I say only when he gives up on his own child and the possibility that God can change everything. Only when he believes the lie that God had finished with his child! For then He disqualifies himself for not believing the omnipotence of God to save lost sheep!

    “God is not finished with me yet!”

    God bless.

    Herman of

  • Takwirira Rinomhota


  • Why should mere human parents expect to raise children who do not rebel? God, as the only perfect parent, has only one perfect child. All the rest of his children have, and continue to, rebel against Him. Every one of us is engaged in an ongoing battle for our souls, and with every decision we make, we head in either the direction of life or death. None of us have perfect earthly parents, and we cannot expect to parent perfectly, nor to raise perfect children. We are called to simply love our children unconditionally – while living out lives of surrendered allegiance to Jesus, in obedience to the precepts set forth in God’s Holy Word – through the many trials and sufferings with which they challenge us.