You know you are supposed to lead spiritually, but how do you do that? What does that practically look like?
How do we spiritually lead at home?
Let’s face it: most of us don’t know. Many times, it’s because it wasn’t modeled for us. We have nothing to go on. And even for those with great role models, this isn’t the easiest thing to do. Oftentimes, the temptation is to sit back and rely on teachers or pastors or someone else to do this important but complex and hard work. We might not admit it, but an honest survey of our lives says as much.
We see this challenge going back to the original sin:
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” - Genesis 3:6, emphasis added.
Adam was right there. And from that moment and going forward, men often struggle with passivity. Sometimes we know what to do and don’t want to do it. Other times, we just don’t know what to do. Insecurity can add to the fog leading to the question: how on earth do I do this?
As I’ve studied, read, failed, prayed, tried things, failed some more, and then failed some more… There have been a few simple practices that have helped me lead my family. Out of my many mistakes, here are a few things God has been gracious to teach me.
1. Model a Spiritual Life
You can’t lead where you haven’t been, no matter how much you want to. For you to take your family there, you first have to go there yourself.
As a former student pastor, I often had parents express concern that their kid didn’t want to go to church. The conversation always got uncomfortable when I asked them about why they hadn’t attended church.
Church, devotional time, worship, and more can be taught, but it’s more often learned by seeing someone else do it. You decide what is normal for your home. Following Jesus is a seven-day-a-week endeavor.
2. Create Household Habits
Much of leadership isn’t doing new things but changing how you do what you’re already doing. Let’s be honest: most of us don’t have an abundance of time to add to our schedules. Instead, look for times and places where you can be intentional. Ancient Israel was commanded to talk about faith with our kids in the normal rhythms of life.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” - Deuteronomy 6:6-7
- What kinds of conversations do you have in the car?
- How do you use mornings and bedtime?
- Can you find a few minutes to gather as a family at home?
- What natural rhythms create consistent moments for conversation and love?
3. Ask Questions on Sunday
One practical habit I picked up as a newlywed is to write down one question during Sunday service to ask my wife. God would often prompt me into great conversations on the drive home or later that night. Research says that we remember way more when we discuss something rather than just hearing it.
Bethlehem Kids Ministry often has “take-home sheets” or other ways to get insight into what your kids learned on Sunday. Before they land in the trash can *wink wink nudge nudge*, grab a question and start a conversation.
4. Love Your Family (in the way they receive love)
Many people view God the Father in connection with their earthly father. The truth is God isn’t a reflection of our earthly father but a perfection of our earthly father. Still, as dad’s we model God’s love.
If you’re unfamiliar, it’s worth picking up Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it, he discusses five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, gifts, and acts of service. We all have a love language or two that we naturally receive well and give by default.
In the busyness of life, we default to what is most natural. But often, what we’re doing is communicating love in a way that the other can’t hear it. It’s going to take time, but isn’t it worth it to discover your spouse’s love language and act in that way? Isn’t it worth it to discover your kids as well?
5. Say Sorry (and point to Jesus)
Guess what! You’re imperfect. *Gasp* You won’t do this perfectly.
For many of us, deep wounds come not when someone hurts us but when they hurt us and never acknowledge it. We have an opportunity in our failures to say sorry and point our families to Jesus. We have a chance to apologize when we mess up, which we will. And then, we have the opportunity and privilege to point our families to the One who won’t ever fail them. Saying sorry is the Gospel playing out in your parenting life.
Leading spiritually at home matters. And often, it’s not doing new things, but changing how we do the things we’re already doing. As we change the little things, God will multiply our efforts beyond what we can do. Ultimately, God the Father loves our families more than we ever could.