What is the qualification for elders and deacons to have children?

Group of cute little prescool kids drawing with colorful pencils
Group of cute little prescool kids drawing with colorful pencils

What is the qualification for elders and deacons to have children?  Does the Greek word for “having” bear any significance in this regard?

There are two places in the New Testament that discuss the qualification of having children in order to hold the office of an elder, and one place that discusses having children to hold the office of a deacon.  Titus 1:5-9 discusses the qualifications of elders, and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 discusses the qualifications of elders and deacons.  Let’s consider what these passages teach along those lines for a moment.

First, it seems clear that elders and deacons must have children to be qualified to serve in either office.  Titus 1:6 specifically mentions that elders must have children as does 1 Timothy 3:4.  First Timothy 3:12 mentions the qualification in regard to deacons.  Thus the qualification begins with this, that in order to hold the office of elder, or deacon, the individual in question must have children.

Second, for an elder, Titus tells us that these children must be faithful.  What does this mean?  The word faithful means possessing or having the qualities of loyalty or trustworthiness.  A faithful person is someone on whom you can depend.  He is also someone who is not going to quit when things get tough, but shows an amount of perseverance.  In the context of Christianity, someone who is faithful is a person who has committed his or her life to Christ, is loyal to Christ, and is persevering in that commitment.  The implication is that for someone to be an elder, he must have children who are Christians.

Third, there has been some controversy as to whether an elder must have more than one child in order to be qualified.  The word “children” in these passages is plural.  However, some have suggested that just because it is plural does not mean that it must be plural because sometimes the word “children” when used in a generic sense can refer to one child as in the question, “Do you have any children?”  While languages have exceptions to all rules, we have additional information in the text.  First Timothy 3:4-5 says, “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).”  Hence, the qualification for having children has a reason, namely, so that one might gain experience governing several people.  It has been my belief for many years that this implies that elders need more than one child to be qualified, and that is what I preach and teach today.  I know of no good reason why the word “children” in this context should refer to a single child, but I take it to mean a plural number of children as the text says.  I believe the same would hold true for deacons.  Having said that, I would not consider this an issue over which we ought to divide.  Whether an elder or deacon has one child or more does not directly threaten my salvation, nor does it entail a circumstance that would directly involve me in sin.  I can maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace under such circumstances.

Finally, in response to the question asked, I did not find any special significance to the word “having” in the Greek language here.  This word could refer to couples having children naturally, but it could also refer to couples having children through the process of adoption.  The word does not entail any special circumstance regarding the manner in which children enter into one’s family.