The Bible tells us what qualifies someone to be a pastor or elder in the church. One of these qualifications, the apostle Paul says, is caring well for one’s family (1 Tim. 3:4). Does that mean that a man without children can’t be a pastor?
It’s very important to understand what qualifies someone to be a leader in the church. Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Tim. 3:1–3). These character traits are essential for someone entrusted with the care of the Christ’s church.
Then Paul continues, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4). Paul talks about this same idea of caring for one’s family in his letter to Titus. He says that “if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination” (Titus 1:6), then that person can become an elder.
But Paul isn’t saying that you can’t be a pastor unless you have a wife and kids. He’s saying that for those men who are called and have a family, you can gauge their qualification for the ministry by how they care for their family.
If an individual is not caring for his family, if he’s not shepherding his own children, then how will he be able to shepherd the flock of God? How can you entrust him with the church? But Paul himself, as an apostle, was a shepherd and pastor, and he wasn’t married. In fact, when Paul writes to the Corinthian church about marriage, he encourages people to stay single if they can (1 Cor. 7:8, 32–33).
So there shouldn’t be any rule either way. The Bible doesn’t call for priests who can’t get married or have kids. But it also doesn’t say you must have a family and kids in order to qualify for ministry.
The takeaway for us is that we need to carefully think about the character and integrity of any potential pastor or elder. And one indicator of a person’s character is how he has cared for and stewarded the gifts that God has already given to him. If he has a family, is he watching over his family? Is he shepherding them well? If not, then he’s not qualified to shepherd the flock of God.
Just having lots of kids doesn’t make you qualified to lead the church. What matters is that you love them and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That’s what churches need to observe and consider when evaluating potential pastors.