He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4,5)
As we read through the Bible there are verses we come across that we quickly move past because they don't seem relevant. For young leaders starting out these verses probably fall into this category: "I'm not married and I don't have children, so... next!"
However, it's good to pause and look beyond the literal meaning and ask ourselves, what principle is being taught?
In these verses Paul is essentially saying, if you can't act responsibly toward your family, how can you expect to act responsibly toward the church when you're given opportunity to lead? Or, if you can't show leadership in your family, how can you expect to show leadership in the church?
In an earlier blog post (1 Timothy 2:2,3) I mentioned that the one thing I'd like to ask you if I wanted to determine your suitability for leadership was "Describe your relationship with your parents."
These verses take us back to this idea but I want to develop it slightly differently by suggesting that your family provides an amazing opportunity to develop your leadership ability and suitability.
Firstly, family teaches us about submission. When we're children we soon learn that parents are in control. We might not always like this, we might throw a tantrum on the supermarket floor and we might get sent to our room. Ultimately however, we have little choice. Our parents are bigger than us and hold all the cards. We have to obey, like it or not.
However, when we reach our teens things start to change. True, they can't pick us up and bundle us off to "time out" anymore, but more than that, we develop the ability to reason, to argue and even at times to outsmart! Yes, they still hold a lot of cards - they run you all over town, they buy your food, pay the electricity bill and have cool stuff they let you use.
But even given all this, you can still choose to disobey and make their lives unhappy, while creating tension and stress in the home for everyone.
That's where submission comes in. It's rare that anyone gets to lead without being accountable to someone else. Captains have coaches to answer to, CEO's have a board to report to, and the entrepreneur must give account to the tax man. Even the prime minister must submit to the speaker of the house during debates.
Through your family you can learn the indispensable leadership quality of being able to submit to authority, even (especially!) at those times when authority is wrong and you just have to suck it up and obey!
Secondly, family teaches us to serve. Let me ask you, what do you do to contribute to the running of your home? What tasks do you help with? Make a list and then cross off "keeping my room tidy". That should be a given and besides you're the only one who directly benefits from this (unless you share with a sibling). Then cross off anything you get paid an allowance for - true service receives no reward.
Now what are you left with on your list? If 'nothing" or "very little", now's the opportunity to develop your leadership ability by showing initiative and offering to do something to help out. Cook a meal, clean the whole house, mow the lawns, do the dishes; there will be no shortage of tasks!
"But I'm too busy!" And your parents are not? Do you have time for social media, Netflix, YouTube? We're not talking about running the whole household here; just sacrificing a little time to serve your family.
Finally, and in a similar vein, family teaches us to be selfless. There is a "me first" orientation in all of us that causes us to put our needs ahead of everyone else. Maybe you're the oldest child and you think that entitles you to certain privileges and so you use your seniority to pressure, manipulate and even bully your younger siblings.
To be selfless means to put their needs ahead of your own; to spend time with them doing something that they enjoy or something that benefits them, like helping them with their schoolwork or playing a board game they enjoy or kicking a ball around with them.
In short, learning to be a leader begins at home. As you learn to submit, to serve and to be selfless, God will give you greater responsibilities to lead outside the home because He'll see He can trust you.
What thoughts have come to mind as you've read this? How would you rate the way in which you treat your parents and your siblings? What in practical terms might you do to truly exercise leadership in your home?