Is a person responsible for their children’s personal relationship with God after they leave the home? What does this do to the qualifications of the elder?
The answer to the first part of this question is clearly related to us in the scriptures. We read in Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Each person is responsible for his or her own relationship with God when the person reaches the age where they can be held responsible for their sins before God whether the child is still in the home or not. So the answer to the first part of this question is, “No, a person is not responsible for their children’s personal relationship with God after they leave the home.” Is a person responsible to teach their children? Yes. Is a person responsible to train up their children? Yes. Is a person responsible to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)? Yes. However, these are things that are done by the adult, not by the child. One may influence a child in the right direction and hope to teach that child to become a Christian one day, but that decision belongs to the child and not to the adult. The relationship is a personal relationship between God and the individual person.
In regard to the second part of the question, the qualification for an elder of having believing children is found in Titus 1:6. It merely says, “having believing children” or “having children that believe.” The qualification does not state whether these children are in the home or not in this passage. However, if we look back to 1 Timothy 3:4, 5 there we find a little more information. We see here that the elder is to be one who “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?).” Is this describing children who are in the home or out of the home? I believe that it is describing children who are in the home, literally, in “his own house.” So, when we put these two things together, we find that an elder must at least have had believing children who are in his own house.
Having these things in mind, the question is really this, “Can an elder become disqualified from being an elder if his child stops being faithful to God?” If we were to answer “Yes” to this question, then we must also say that the children have to be in the house. The answer to this question is, “No.” The qualification for the elder is an examination of the person who is to become an elder. Has he trained his children in such a way that they believed the gospel while living in his house? Yes, he has. He is qualified. Once the children leave the house and go their own ways, and fall away from the faith, one can still answer this question in the same way. Has he trained his children in such a way that they believed the gospel while living in his house? Well, yes, he did train them this way. They did, while they were in his house, believe the gospel. He remains qualified, though the child, of his own will, leaves the faith. So the qualification is not one of the ongoing faith of the child, but rather, it is a qualification of the man who would become an elder. He met that qualification at the time that he was appointed to the eldership. He continues to meet that qualification because at the time he was appointed, he had believing children. He will always be one, of whom it can be said that he raised his children to be believers.