Imagine the sad state of the local congregation if an aged eldership were to look out at the flock and see only men who were in need of training instead of men trained, only men who could stomach milk and none to chew on solid food, only men who should be taught instead of those who by reason of time had become teachers themselves. Such an eldership would have to concede that not a man of their congregation would be able to serve as an elder because not a man among them would be qualified. Herein lies the importance of training men to be leaders when they are young (cf. Judges 2:10). These men can do great good as preachers and teachers, servants and encouragers. And, if properly trained and later completely qualified (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-9), they can serve the local congregation as elders. The church can work diligently to train leaders (2 Tim. 2:2), and individuals have the burden of responsibility to grow (2 Pet. 3:18)–these two facts should not be debated. But we must realize that leadership training begins in our homes.
Parents are the first leaders that young people see and serve under. Parental leadership becomes a model, good or bad, for future leadership qualities, aptitude, and ability. Civic leaders are built in the home. Business leaders are built in the home. Spiritual leaders are built in the home. While there will be others who contribute to the success or failure of young men becoming leaders, that process, good or bad, begins in the home.
In light of this, parents must value the church and her leaders. The children who grow up under our roofs will see the high value of spiritual leadership only if parents show them by choosing to value spiritual leaders, themselves. Will our children see their parents respect local leadership in the church (Heb. 13:7, 17)? Will our children hear their parents compliment and praise those same leaders in public and in private? Will our children know that we live out the commands to know those who labor over us (1 Thess. 5:12-13) and communicate good to those who teach us (Gal. 6:6)? Or, will our children see that we constantly demean and criticize those who lead? If parents will not honor spiritual leaders (cf. Rom. 13:7), then children will not place value on leaders or leadership roles. Parents, especially fathers, need to speak honestly and highly of leaders and be willing to help shoulder their load. Children need to know that we desire to be leaders, that we value good, godly leaders, that future leadership is important to us, and that we want them, our children, to take on those leadership roles.
Additionally, parents must desire that their children, especially young men, contribute to the work of the church. High expectations should be set on the spiritual lives of our young people. It is not too much to ask that our children learn to lead singing, read and comprehend the Scriptures, prepare themselves to communicate what they learn, and more. Schools expect them to handle heavy work loads and parents encourage the challenge! Our young men need to know, from mother and father, that while their academic and athletic success may be important, their spiritual success is our utmost priority for them. Secular activities can be great springboards to leadership development, but they cannot be the only places we push our young people to lead. We would love for them to be class president or team captain, but leadership that endures will be their spiritual leadership. Our sons and grandsons and nephews need to know that we want them to qualify themselves to serve as deacons and elders someday.
Parents must be sure to involve their children in their service to the Lord and not neglect their children’s spiritual development in lieu of physical. Developing our children into future leaders means that we must invest in them. Specifically, we must invest one of our most precious resources, time, to developing our children in their leadership capacities. Our children should be included when we prepare sermons, classes, song service, public prayers, and devotional talks. Our children should serve as silent partners or helpers in our personal evangelism. Those children should be involved in our hospitality. It is amazing to see the abilities that children have to cook and clean and help entertain guests. Each parent can include their children in visiting the sick, wayward, or downtrodden. We must be available to our children (Pro. 23:22-25; Eph. 6:4). If the home will train young men for the Heavenly Father, then the father of the house plays an essential role. In order for our young men to grow up healthy, spiritually and mentally, fathers must serve as the family provider, serve as the leader of the household, provide spiritual direction to their wife and children, and provide protection for their families.
While leading in assemblies is important, the church must see that not all spiritual leadership occurs in the public assembly (Acts 6; 1 Cor. 11:3; Tit. 1:10-11, et al). When I say “the church needs spiritual leaders,” I am not confining that need to only the public gatherings of the church. Leadership occurs in many corners of the congregation and out front where we often see elders and deacons, teacher and preachers, and others leading. Since leadership is needed in every corner of the church, we should then encourage young people to lead in other areas as well. Brethren, we should start with our homes.