By Bev and Phil Haas
I’m considering resigning as a leader in our church because our teenage daughter has become rebellious. I know the biblical qualifications for church leadership include the ability to manage one’s household well. I’m writing to ask for your insights before I decide what to do.
It’s true that 1 Timothy 3:4, 5, 12 and Titus 1:6 make a strong connection between parenting and church leadership. These Scriptures make it clear that how a Christian handles his leadership responsibilities at home has strong bearing on how he will lead at church, so we want to commend you for taking God’s Word and your situation at home seriously.
Rebellious is a broad term and is most generally defined as being defiant toward authority and resisting control. It’s normal for a teen to show some rebellion now and again. Rebellion is a method teens frequently use to help them assert their independence and individuality. If every church leader dealing with some form of rebellion at home were to resign, we would be shocked by the sheer number of resignations and by those who were included in the mass exodus. On the other hand, rebellion that is constant, that interferes with normal daily functioning, and is destructive to the teen and others is much more serious and calls for more attention. This may require that a parent reconsider his commitments beyond the home.
As you contemplate your next step, keep in mind that parents have dealt with rebellious children from the beginning. The first parents, Adam and Eve, had Cain who killed his brother Abel. The biblical books of Kings and Chronicles are filled with examples of bad kings who had good kids and good kings who had bad kids. To some strict Jewish parents, even John the Baptist might have seemed like a rebellious son. While his father served as a priest in the synagogue, John lived in the desert, ate grasshoppers, and wore clothes made out of camel hair. How did Zechariah explain that to his fellow priests? The point we are making is that even the best parenting strategies can’t guarantee that our children will not do things that are contrary to how we have raised them. Proverbs 22:6 is often read as a promise, but deeper study reveals that this passage is more correctly viewed as a principle to live by—one that raises the probability of success but doesn’t guarantee it.
A Parent’s Response
As all parents discover, there are principles to follow but no single formula for raising “perfect” kids. We used the word perfect on purpose. You probably caught that because we know that all of us fall short (Romans 3:23). So the question is not “Will our children fall short?” but “How far will they fall?” Usually the first place we look when a child becomes rebellious is at the parents. That’s because, like it or not, we know that the behavior of our children reflects upon us. We might go even further and say that a child’s behavior is a reflection of his or her parents’ leadership. That’s a sobering thought that certainly causes us to pause and reflect. Let us give you another angle from which to look at your situation. We suggest that you look not only at your child’s rebellious behavior, but also at your response to her. In the words of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, “My response is my responsibility.” How are you responding to your daughter’s rebellious behavior? This may be a better way to measure your ability as a parent and leader. With this thought in mind, whether you stay on as a leader at church might hinge more on your response than your daughter’s rebellion.
Hold on to Hope
Hope involves believing that God is good, loving, and active in your child’s life, even when you cannot see evidence of it. Hope allows us to look forward to better days. Kenneth Haugk, founder of Stephen Ministries, writes, “The responsibility for Christian hope is not ours, but God’s. Christian hope comes from and rests securely in God.” When rebellious children seem to be growing farther away, only God can bring them back. Even with the best intentions and the best parenting strategies, we often forget that we have a powerful enemy at work in our homes. Satan wants to tear down everything we work so hard to build up. Others can step up and serve as leaders at church, but only you can lead your family! Whatever you decide, don’t forget that your primary role in leadership is to lead your family.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.