"Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, 'Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?' It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it." (Titus 1:6-9)
Today, I'd like to apply these qualities of a good leader in the church to good leadership in the home. How can we use this list to be better husbands and wives? To be a better team? To be better team leaders over our children? Well, let's look at Paul's questions in order to answer our own.
1. Is this man well-thought-of? Do you care about your reputation? Because Paul is saying here that you should. A good reputation is important. What others think of you is important. Whether we like it or not, our reputation precedes us as we go through life. What others think of us helps to determine in some way how they will receive what we have to say to them. If you have a reputation in the here and now for being a jerk, for example, how well will your message of loving others be received?
Think about Paul's reputation before he became the Paul that we all know and love. He was a pharisee intent on destroying new Christians. He wanted them dead and gone. He stood by and watched as their beloved Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). How difficult was it, then, for him to spread Jesus' message with that reputation after he changed? It took him a good while to get past it and be embraced for the newly transformed man that he was. In fact, if you think about it, it took a good partner in the faith being on his side and lifting him up as a believer for the difference to happen (Barnabas).
As a spouse, what we say and think of our significant other matters too. If all you ever tell your best friend about your husband is the bad stuff, how can you expect her to like him when your families hang out together? And a related but definitely important question: Are you believing the best of your spouse? When he's late getting home, do you imagine that he's out drinking with his friends or being flirty with a girl in his office? Or do you know that he longs to be home just as much as you wish he were, that if it were his choice, he would choose to be home with you? When you hear something about him from others, do you automatically believe it or do you give him the benefit of the doubt?
2. Is he committed to his wife? It's hard to be an active and effective team when you aren't sure that all the players are totally committed to the game you're playing or on the team of which you are a part. Total commitment is vital to the success of a good marriage. Show your spouse your commitment every day. Send texts saying how much you love one another. Do chores around the house that make life easier for the other person. Hold hands in public. Wear your wedding rings always. Consult each other on big events before committing to them. Listen to one another when you're talking. Make time for just each other. Be best friends. Actively love each other daily. Pray together and for one another all the time.
And wives, honestly, put your husband above your kids. He is the God-ordained head of your house. Prioritize him above them. Be on his team, not theirs, if it comes down to it. Present a united front to the kids. Don't let them see any cracks anywhere, because they'll pick at those in order to get their own way. If you have young kids, you probably won't be seeing this stuff yet. Trust me, it's coming. Practice being a solid united front now so that when you have teenagers in the house, it's a lot easier to handle. Is it easy to do? Absolutely not, but it's worth the effort.
*Before anyone says it, I am not talking about unhealthy relationships here. Abuse in any form isn't acceptable period. If there are substance abuse issues present in the house, that requires a whole new set of rules that you need to get from a professional as well. My thoughts on this are my own and apply only to couples with Christ as the center of their relationship where both sides are actively loving Jesus and one another, who seek to make their good relationship great or their struggling relationship better.*
3. Are his children believers? As the team leaders in your family, it's the parents' responsibility to share Jesus with the family. While it is the husband that God is ultimately holding responsible for the teaching of His Word, it's the wife who is supposed to be backing him up and supporting him as he does it. Sometimes that means some "atta boys" and "well dones," while other times it might mean taking that baton for awhile as he is tired out from his leg of the race at the moment. Either way, work together. It may be on the parents to share Jesus and what he has done, but it's on each individual to accept it.
There are lots of things you can do to make sure that Jesus is a daily part of your life. Read your Bible on your own and as a family. Let them see you studying God's word and praying for guidance. Pray with your kids in good times and bad ones. Go to church. Don't make excuses or prioritize other things above it. Just go. Talk about what Jesus would do. Your husband can demonstrate God's love in your home by loving you the way Christ loves the church. Demonstrate true respect by respecting your husband the way that God calls us to. And make sure that your children are witnessing the mutual submission between you! Ephesians 5 makes it clear that isn't all about wives submitting to husbands, but about mutual submission to one another.
4. Do they [the children] respect him and stay out of trouble? This one is tough in my opinion. In a perfect world, we would tell our kids to do or not do something and they'd do it, right? Without arguments or complaints. But we don't live in a perfect world. So how do we apply that to leading in the home?
One thing that I think inspires respect from one's children is establishing rules and then following through on consequences for breaking those rules each and every time. Kids are pushers. They push the boundaries. They push the limits. They push you. They push each other. They push against every single barrier that they come across because they need to know where "yes" ends and "no" begins. It makes them feel safer. They know what to expect in a world where the parents say no sometimes.
You want your kids to respect you? Tell them no when you need to and be willing to die on the important hills. Don't die on every stupid hill that you come across though. That's just begging for trouble. Pick the big ones and then go for it. They need to know that you- together and united- are making and keeping the rules. Is a regular bedtime a big hill for you? Then be willing to die on it. Enforce it. Send them back a hundred times if necessary. Take no excuses. Maybe for you, limited screentime is the hill worth dying on. Then do it. Set timers. Take screens away. Maybe it's bigger than that. Maybe it's the friends they've picked or the curfew they miss too often or the locked bedroom door (behind which you wonder what is happening).
Do what you need to do (I am clearly not advocating abuse here), but do it every single time. You can't let it go half of the time and then be surprised when the kids don't listen. You have effectively taught them that you only mean what you say 50% of the time. So half of the time, they can just ignore you. What kid wouldn't take that bet? I know mine do. I'm working on this myself around here!
And I think I need to add something. Sometimes, no matter how many rules you put into place, no matter how consistent you are, no matter how many open door policies you try out, your kids don't listen. They rebel. They do things their own way. They make choices that go against everything you taught them. That doesn't mean you're a failure or that your kid is evil. It means that you're both human. Keep praying. Get some close family members and friends together to pray for your child. Do NOT give up. Keep showing them that you love them and that you care about them. They are worth it. Jesus did it for us on the cross and continues to chase after us every single day. We can at least attempt to love our kids like that.
From there, Paul goes on to list out positive and negative characteristics to watch out for. Here's the list again:
"It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it." (Titus 1:7-9)
Essentially Paul is saying that if you want to be a good and effective leader, you need to cut out all of the negatives and embrace all of those positives. There is no room for drunken bullies on a good family team. You can't be money-hungry and expect to lead your family well. It says in Matthew that a man can't serve two masters (in reference to money vs God). You have to pick one and if you want a great family, then God is the one you need to choose here.
Take a look at the list of positive traits that Paul gave in the verses above. Which ones are you already great at? Which ones is your spouse good at? Which ones do you need to work on? Which ones would your spouse say you need to work on? Once you have your list, take a minute and talk to God about what you can do to start changing some of the things you're doing in your family today. Every single person in the world can work on making themselves better for Jesus. I pray that we can all come together as family teams, starting today, and be better leaders.