Many of us desire to bring spiritual leadership to our homes, but the topic often heaps on guilt or can be paralyzing. We have a gnawing sense that we can never live up to what we think we should be. We get these expectations of ourselves—or maybe a spouse or somebody else—or we compare ourselves to another person who is hyper-disciplined and always has the perfect thing to share.

As a recovering perfectionist who used to live with rigid and almost oppressive organization, I’ve embraced and learned (thanks largely to my patient wife) how to flex and adapt to opportunities each new day brings. I often find myself in the messy middle when trying to be an intentional spiritual leader. To say the least, I’ve got major weaknesses. 

But if helping our family depend on God is one of the primary aims of being a spiritual leader for our families, then our weakness is actually an advantage.

As spouses and parents, we should care about being good at the job, but being the spiritual leaders of our families goes a little deeper than our performance. When we pursue having genuinely great relationships with our families, God can use us to enable our spouses and kids to live more fully in the worth they have as being uniquely created in the image of God. In this way, your spiritual leadership will ripple into your family’s future for generations to come.

Let me be the first to call out that Meg and I don’t do this perfectly—we’re having to fight for it—but compassionately raising followers of Jesus in our home is a fight worth fighting for. 

Being the spiritual leader of your family

I’d love to share seven of my favorite areas to help you be the spiritual leader of your family.

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

A strong mentor, Crawford Loritts, once said  to me, “Look, God called you. Ride the horse God gave you.” 

That’s a huge lesson for us all. I think a lot of us struggle being the leaders we want to be because of the weight of comparison to others or the nonexistent “ideal” leader. Comparison weighs us down. Though God calls us for His specific purpose, He uniquely created each of us to lead with the shoes He designed for us. Comparing our walk with Christ to another’s only gets us off track and out of focus. We are each wonderfully made for God’s plan as we lead our families. Let’s lean into that (see Psalm 139:14).  You are the only husband your wife has, and you have been created and hand-picked by God to be the father of your kids. You are called to be you in Christ and not someone else.

What could your family do with 500 Hours? Take the challenge.

2. Actively participate. 

Who doesn’t like a good 3D movie with surround sound? It allows each scene to come alive as if you’re actually in the movie. 

Similarly, when we transparently participate and engage in spiritual growth with our families, they are seeing and hearing us draw closer to Jesus. Whether it’s being the first to apologize, asking your kids to pray with you on something you’re struggling with, or simply letting them see you spend time with Jesus somewhere consistent in your house, genuinely reflecting Christ in our home through participation is powerful.

3. Don’t stop. 

  • Don’t stop believing in the power of Jesus and His promises. 
  • Don’t stop your obedience to Jesus. 
  • Don’t stop listening to God’s Spirit and trusting His promptings.
  • Don’t stop pursuing the relationships that matter and spiritually leading your family. 
  • Don’t quit. God is alive and faithful (Isaiah 40:31).
  • It’s never too late. Get back up. Get back in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

4. Release the push for control.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to check all the boxes of what it looks like to be the spiritual leader of your family. Though being intentional is key, release the push for control. If not, you’re going to try to do way too much, and you’re going to burn out after a few days or weeks. And perhaps worse, you will push away those you are desiring to pursue. 

An important factor to embrace is that we can only live life one moment at a time, one season at a time. With the goal to be the spiritual leader in our families, we must also be spiritually led and ask the Holy Spirit, “What in this season/moment does God want me to step into?” From family dinner devotionals to small moments of compassion, allow God to lead you every step of the way to avoid relying on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6; John 14:26). Resist the urge to do it all and do it perfectly. Release your expectations and just do what God is inviting you to do in this unique season.

5. Be able to laugh at yourself.

While hiking this spiritual leadership journey, we will all trip and fall on our selfishness and sinfulness. Often, we need to be the first to laugh at ourselves. Ask yourself, “Do I have the security and humility, and my identity in the source of Jesus, to laugh at my own mistakes?” 

Though it sounds silly, a leader’s response to their own humanity is a rich opportunity to minister to others because God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

6. Celebrate wins. 

When you see your spouse or child thrive, be the first to call it out and be their biggest cheerleader. 

As leaders, it’s easy for us to get caught up in our own worlds. I challenge us all to stop living like the world revolves around us, and take notice when the joy of the Lord is coming alive in our loved ones through their character and accomplishments. This enables us to lead with encouragement as the spiritual leaders of our homes.

7. Be a lover of God.

Aiming to be the spiritual leader in your home won’t come without challenge. At times, hurdles pile so high you might find yourself wondering, How do I even lead in our home, in this space? What else do I even try? I’ve done all I know to do. I’ve definitely had those thoughts, and I’ve certainly come to places I feel utterly stuck. 

In one of those valleys, God revealed it needed to start with me and my pursuit of Him—more than anything I did for Him. It came down to me not just being a believer of God, but being a lover of God, because lovers naturally show and tell of the things they love. Being a spiritual leader in a home best starts—and continues—by being a man who keeps and cultivates Jesus as his “first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Lovers are willing to leap over many obstacles to show who they love. When we are lovers of God, His ways pour through every bit of who we are, and His presence is on display for everyone in our family to experience. In that space, God is always shining a light to lead our family through us even when we are unaware. The best thing you can do to be a spiritual leader in your home is to pursue God with everything you’ve got.

A spiritual leader: stepping out to encounter Jesus

Many of these efforts may feel uncomfortable, but I encourage you to welcome that feeling. Being a spiritual leader often means stepping in faith out of your comfort zone to lead your family into a worthwhile place. That includes addressing our own relationship with Jesus. 

These practical steps I’ve shared matter for all of us. However, since we’re all wired differently, these seven things will appear and play out differently in each person’s life. I believe with all my heart, soul, and mind that spiritual leadership abilities are rooted in our encounter with Jesus. If complete dependence on God is the goal, then our weaknesses are an advantage. Each shortcoming is yet another way to allow Him to shine through our lives and into our family as we spiritually lead them closer to Jesus. 

Copyright © 2023 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

David Robbins is the President and CEO of FamilyLife. David and his wife, Meg, are 17-year veterans of Cru. Prior to joining FamilyLife, they helped launch Cru’s Millenials Ministry in 2012. The Robbins married in 2001 and have four children.