Learning to Lead Spiritually

I learned a lot about this community yesterday.  Here is what I learned: A lot of us guys really want to lead our family spiritually, we just have no clue how to do it. I also realized that I am not alone and I’m not crazy. Spiritual leadership is hard.

I want to say upfront that I don’t have all the answers. I am very much in process and I get this wrong as much as I get it right. I also want to say that as a man and as the spiritual leader of your house, if you choose to engage in this area, it will change the entire climate and culture of your home. I’ve seen it happen in my family and God blows me away with His faithfulness and I lean into His leadership.

Here are some things I’m learning about leading spiritually:

1. Understand that leading is a calling.

If you are a Christ-follower and you are a husband and/or a dad, being a leader spiritually isn’t something you are asked to do, it is something that God has called you to do. That always sounded intimidating to me…until I realized this: God has never called anyone to do anything and not been with them and provided for them along the way. God cares more about your family than you do and yet He called you to lead…how cool is that. He longs to partner with you in that process. When I saw God as a partner in leading my family and not as a disappointed supervisor, it changed everything.

2. Be intentional.

There is a huge difference between good intentions and being intentional. For the first 10 years of my marriage, I had good intentions. I intended to be a good leader. It wasn’t until I became as intentional about leading my family as I am about leading at work that anything changed. For me, this has to do with time. I set aside time to be with my boys. We go to breakfast. I read books with them and discuss the books. (Sometimes the discussion questions at the end of the chapter give us something to talk about that we wouldn’t have otherwise.) My wife and I go on date nights. Nothing good usually happens by accident. We have to choose it.

3. Lead Relationally.

My friend Pete and I were talking the other day about how the greatest leaders we know have an ability to lead through a relationship. You follow them not because they make you follow, but because you have such a deep relationship, you want to follow. This principle applies to our spiritual leadership in our home. We’ve said for years, “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” As I invest in my relationships with my wife and kids, they follow naturally, not just because I quote some verse of the Bible that says I’m the leader.

4. Be Vulnerable.

Admit when you don’t know the answer. Allow your kids to see you struggle to make a decision. Tell your wife that you don’t know which decision you should make but your greatest desire is to do what is right, not what is easy. When we pretend like we always have it together, we don’t allow our family to see our relationship with God grow and develop. We come off like we don’t need God to lead us because we always know the answer. For me, nothing is further from the truth. Being vulnerable makes you a better leader because it reveals your ultimate dependance on God.

5. Be a Servant.

Nothing earns more credibility for me as a leader with my wife and my boys more than when I serve. It is sad to admit how many opportunities I’ve missed to lead my family because I was unwilling to serve or so disengaged that I didn’t see the need they had to be served. Jesus was the master model of this. It is as we serve that we truly understand what it means to be a leader.

6. Get over it being uncomfortable.

Two nights ago our family had a really rough day. We went out to eat and as we were leaving the parking lot, I put the car in park and turned around and asked for everyone’s hand. I said, “I want to pray.” One of my boys pointed out how awkward it was praying in the middle of a parking lot. I did feel awkward. But I felt God prompt me to pray so I did it…despite it feeling uncomfortable…despite my kids rolling their eyes. It wasn’t a 20 minute prayer it was a 1 minute prayer, but it was listening to God’s voice and obeying, even when it feels uncomfortable.

This is a really long blog post and there are five other things I could say. I’m still learning everyday what spiritual leadership looks like. As the man in your home, as you go, so goes your family. We’re in this together.

What would you add to this list of being an effective leader?

3 Responses to Learning to Lead Spiritually

  1. cshell

    Agree with the others, we need a friday follow-up 🙂

    Thanks Justin.

  2. Once again thanks for sharing the follow up. I have always been considered the “White Sheep” of the family and as so I feel I have always been the one everyone looked to have it “all together”. Obviously that is impossible and I have to intentionally be open with my wife about my doubts and struggles or else I will just keep it all bottled in and deal with it myself. It is definitely a process. You should do part two of this and share the 5 additional things you have on your heart to say. By the way this blog post was not long at all, lol. 

  3. Thanks for following up with this! I’d love to read the other things that you mentioned but didn’t type.