5 Simple Ways Dads Can Lead Their Families
Fatherhood is a high calling. Scripture places the responsibility to lead a family on the shoulders of the husband and father of a household, and therefore all men who desire to see their family flourish and grow in faith must take their assignment seriously. It can be a daunting task, but in reality, being a good leader in the home is less about being a superstar Christian or great theologian and more about doing the basics of being a faithful follower of Jesus. Our task may be hard, but it is not complex. Here are five simple steps every man can take to lead his family well.
1. Take your family to church.
God has designed people to grow in relationships with one another, and the Church is a primary place for that growth to happen in believers. It is not enough for a man to declare himself a Christian but be too preoccupied to attend church; that is a dangerous precedent to set and a surefire way to teach kids that church is optional.
A godly man must not allow his wife to be the driving force in bringing the family to church. He should assume that responsibility. As the appointed leader, it is his job to “rally the troops” on Sundays and get everyone ready to go. If mom is left to drag dad out of bed and must coax him to get moving in order to be ready on time, he is sending a clear message to the family: church just isn’t a big deal, and it’s not worth being excited about.
Men must also not just attend church, but be involved in it. Far too many guys are content with just showing up as if they have done their duty. But to set an example, one must demonstrate that engaging with God’s people and serving in the church is important. It is hard for every man to be a regular attender and participant—often times work obligations will get in the way—but we must find ways to demonstrate by example that God comes first. This may mean less overtime, less sleep, less hobbies, and less tv, but it really is no sacrifice to make when God is glorified and your family follows your lead in making church a priority.
2. Lead family devotions.
Family devotions sound weird to some and scary to others, but they really are neither of those things. All I mean by family devotions is setting aside regular times to make Christ the centre of your home. In our house, we do this at dinner time. After supper is done and the kids are enjoying dessert (a strategic way to keep them from getting too fidgety), we break out our kids Bible and take 5 or 10 minutes at most to read a story, briefly discuss it, and pray together. This should be initiated by the dad, whether he is the one who reads the story or not. He can delegate such responsibilities, which often is the better choice, especially as kids get older and can pray and read on their own.
Family devotions need not be overly complicated. In fact, the simpler, the better. The Bible and prayer are really all that is needed, and some families like to add in a time to sing together also. The measure of success when it comes to family devotions is not whether the time went particularly well or if the kids seemed to be soaking it all in. Those moments come and go. Instead, the measure of success with family devotions is, did we do it? Faithfulness alone is success and shows our kids that God is central and that we are doing this Christian thing together as a family.
3. Pray with your kids.
In addition to a family prayer time, men need to pray with their children individually. For me, this happens most frequently at bed time. Dads should definitely be involved in bed-time routines when their schedule allows for it. Some of my fondest memories as a child are of my parents putting me to be at night, especially when my dad would let us stay up late so long as we asked him questions about God and the Bible.
Prayer is a form of love. When we pray with our children, we show them we love them and that we believe God does too. Prayer doesn’t just have to be at bedtime though, it can be any time throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll pray with my kids before they get on the school bus, before a scary dentist appointment, when they are feeling sad, when we get some bad news, or when they need to ask God for forgiveness. The point is that dads who initiate prayer with their children and do so throughout the routine of life as if it were a normal thing are showing their kids that God is not compartmentalized. He is woven throughout our day, and in this way we begin to show them what a relationship with God looks like.
4. Love your wife.
A goal for every dad is to live in such a way that their kids can’t possibly conceive of a life where mom and dad aren’t together. This is not meant to be a smack to those who have experienced divorce (the past is the past, might as well leave it there!), but it is a call to every man who is currently married to so love your wife that the children do not question it. There is great security in a child when they can see first-hand that dad loves mom. Men, this means we must speak of our wives well, be affectionate with them, kiss them, help them with tasks, and otherwise be the initiators in building a strong marriage as part of the family environment.
5. Say you are sorry.
Nothing kills your witness to your children like obvious hypocrisy. Dads should not be willing to demand repentance from their children if they are not willing to demonstrate repentance themselves. Pride is a struggle for many men, and so we often struggle with admitting our failures to anyone, especially to our children. But if a child observes that dad tells everyone else to follow God but does not always do so himself, that child will be put off towards Christianity. Dads must do the hard work of being honest with ourselves and our families, showing that we don’t always have it together, that we need the forgiveness of Christ, and sometimes even the forgiveness of our children. Few things could be as powerful as a father, who 20 minutes ago overreacted to something small, coming to their child afterward and asking them for forgiveness.
In the end, leading our families is a simple task but a hard one. It means we must do the basics, which are easy to know but hard to follow. What our families need is simply faithfulness. Going to church, leading family devotions, praying with our kids, loving our wives, and saying we are sorry when we need to are all relatively mundane things to do, but put them together over the course of many years and a man will have done a solid job at discipling his family and leading them to Christ. Men, this challenge is ours; let’s rise up and take it!