The third major category of qualities has to do with the elder’s competencies. I could have included teaching abilities here, but since the distinguishing factor between elders and deacons is the ability to teach, I thought it warranted its own category.
The core competency that Paul enumerates is that the elder be a proven manager of people. “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (NIV). Likewise for deacons, they “must manage his children and his household well.” This requirement occurs in all three lists.
While any qualified elder will grow through “on the job training,” his managerial ability must be to some degree visible before appointment. And note that it is a manager of people; the ability to manage a business does not necessarily equate with being a qualified manager of people. There are many successful businesses in which the workers are abused and give no evidence of their boss being a qualified manager of people.
Under this heading of “Competencies” I place the requirements concerning the elder’s wife and children. The elder’s family could have been a fourth category, but the family shows the elder’s managerial ability and so I have included them here.
1 Tim 3:11 contains one of the most difficult exegetical decisions in all the Pastorals, and to my mind it is really a fifty-fifty situation. (1) If gynaikas, is translated “wives,” then Paul has moved into a discussion of the elder’s family, both his wife (v 11) and his children (v 12). “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (ESV). (2) If gynaikas is translated “women,” then Paul is listing some of the qualities of female deacons. “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect” (NIV). The word “deaconess” in Greek was not invented until the fourth century, and so it comes as no surprise to have a deaconess referred to with gynē. I opted for “wives,” but the issues are so difficult that I would not base any major church policy on v 11. A decision here has no effect on the issue of women in church leadership; Paul is discussing deacons, not elders.
There is a similarly difficult decision when it comes to children. The NIV translates 1 Tim 3:4 as, “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect (meta pasēs semnotētos).” The NIV sees the prepositional phrase modifying the father. The NRSV sees meta pasēs semnotētos modifying the children: “He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way.” I opted for the former.
A more difficult decision is in Titus 1:6. “His children are believers (pista) and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination” (ESV). However, pista can refer to the quality of being faithful, not specifically in connection with the Christian faith but rather speaking of their character in general. While in the commentary and during my time on the translation team for the ESV I opted for the former, since then I have changed my mind. The missionary journey in Crete was relatively recent, and I doubt if enough time had passed for fathers and their children to have become believers (hence, “faithful children,” HCSB, NET).
Having said this, if a man has children who are not walking with the Lord, he can hardly be a role model for the younger fathers in the church. And even if a man has most of his children living as Christians, if he has even one child who has wandered away from the faith, I suspect his time is much better spent nurturing the father-child relationship than trying to lead the church.