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15 Ways for Dads to Spiritually Lead Their Families

May 22, 2024

Over the past few months, I have been approached by a handful of dads who have asked me how to spiritually lead their kids. These are dads that recognize the importance of intentional family discipleship, but either do not have the time due to busy schedules and life commitments, or they have never witnessed practical family discipleship in action.

Though God gave me a specific word to speak to a few of them, in general, my guidance remains the same. The principles below are some practical ways that every dad, regardless of their spiritual education or experience, can lead their family in pursuing Christ-likeness and encouraging a Bible-centric spiritual formation.

Dads Want to Lead

Before I share the list, allow me to speak quickly to the wives and moms. It is important that wives and moms understand that godly husbands and dads truly want to lead—it is their utmost desire to be a good spiritual leader in the home. However, there are many reasons why their first inclination is to shy away from this responsibility. They may feel inadequate, they may have suppressed shame, they may have their own scars that need healing, or they may be paralyzed by fear of failure. I know many men who are strong leaders of multi-million dollar corporations but feel incapable of spiritually nurturing their families. Therefore, they end up relinquishing their responsibility to the local church.

Wives, your primary responsibility as a Christian helpmate is to be just that—a helpmate. It is not your responsibility to criticize, complain, or correct. Your husband is well aware of all his shortcomings. Trust me. What he and, ultimately, your family need is for you to recognize his attempts to be a shepherd of you and your kids and encourage him in the process as he figures it out. Pray for him. Give him grace. Know that he deeply desires to spiritually lead you, and be joyfully patient as he learns how.

Basic Truths to Leading Your Family

As a dad, you have an incredible opportunity to influence and safeguard the hearts of your children. A major part of that influence is not only teaching them God’s commands, but how to obey them. That is also what Christ told us to do when we make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Deuteronomy 6:6-8 tells us to teach God’s commands diligently to our children. It then outlines what that means—as we sit, walk, lie down, and rise. Notice that it’s more than simply making sure your children are attending church once or twice a week. Below are five basic truths to being the spiritual leader that your family needs.

1. It's a Command

From Deuteronomy, we see that dads are commanded to teach God’s words to their children—it’s not optional. You don’t get to choose if it’s absolutely necessary. Furthermore, Malachi 2:14-15 tells us that one thing God seeks in a Christ-centered relationship is godly offspring. In other words, there is an expectation of you as a dad (and mom) to lead your children to worshiping and obeying God. This is more than taking them to church and having them memorize Bible verses. It is teaching them how to practically live out and apply God’s Word in their daily lives. And much of this comes from watching your life versus hearing you (or a pastor, youth director, etc.) teach.

2. It's a Priority

Quite a bit of time is spent on ensuring that our kids perform well in school, on the court/field, or on the stage. There is tremendous effort concentrated on “giving our child the life we never had.” We want them to experience life and maximize the excitement of their childhood. These are great aspirations, but like everything else, too much of a good thing can turn out badly. The Bible teaches us to consider that our lives are nothing but a breath—they are fleeting (Psalm 39:4-14, 90:12; Ecclesiastes 1:2; James 4:14). While excelling at a skill or craft is a noble desire, what good is it to lead the scoreboard, but fail before Jesus (Matthew 16:26)? As a dad, you must re-evaluate the priorities of your family. So much valuable time to prepare them for standing before Jesus is lost on things that are fading. Prioritize your family around knowing God and pursuing him.

3. It Takes Effort

As noted above, making disciples in your family must be done diligently, not occasionally. Following Jesus doesn’t just happen by accident. Furthermore, it’s a deliberate decision between you and your wife. Some of the items below can be done spur of the moment, while others require a small amount of coordination (none of them are difficult). However, all of them will require effort because the world and its rulers, powers, and principalities are against you. If you thought it would be easy, you were lied to. You are in a battle, and you must remember that. Therefore, you and your wife will need to maintain a prayerful vigilance over the spiritual condition of your kids. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many parents surrender their kids to the world because, though they ensured their kids attended every church service and youth event, they neglected to fight for their kids in prayer and safeguard their kids within the home.

4. It Doesn't Have to be Complicated

None of the ideas listed below are terribly complicated. That’s intentional. The goal is to provide you with ideas that are simple to implement but have a cosmic impact. You don’t have to have a seminary degree or possess an exhausted library of theological resources. Spiritually leading your kids is a matter of personal investment and influence. Your investment of time directly impacts your influence over their lives. Finding ways to nurture your relationship with your kids, praying fervently, and regularly injecting Jesus into your daily conversations is the foundation upon which you build a godly home.

5. It's Not All on You

As I’ve already stated, it’s not all on you to figure this out. First, while you are the priest of your home and the primary spiritual leader, the spiritual formation of your kids is a shared responsibility between you and your wife. You must make sure that you are both on the same page and aiming for the same goals and objectives. You are not in competition with each other; you must lead together. Otherwise, you will suffer from burnout and your kids will grow discouraged, if not frustrated. Second, find other dads who are passionate about leading their families to Jesus. Share ideas with each other, hold each other accountable, and pray together. Finally, there is a huge number of resources that you can leverage to study the Bible. There are videos, podcasts, and books that you can read and discuss together. Find some. Ask your pastor for guidance, or reach out to us. We’d be happy to recommend a few resources based on the age and stage of your family.

Practical Ways to Lead

The ideas below are just that—ideas. These are not meant to be read or interpreted as steps or even a prescription. They are suggestions of basic, practical ways to serve as a spiritual shepherd of your family. Pick and choose a few with which to get started, build on them, and incorporate the ones that make sense for your family.

1. Pray in Front of Your Family

Lead by praying in front of your family while in public places and social environments, including church. Prayers do not have to be elaborate or fancy. However, your kids should see you leading in prayer. Many men feel inadequate or embarrassed by their prayers. Don’t be. The highest aspiration that you should have as a parent is for your kids to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Prayer is one way to naturally model that relationship. The next time someone asks for a volunteer to pray, be the first to raise your hand.

2. Pray with Your Family

Public prayer is important, but so is private prayer. Your family will forever be your greatest ministry, and they need to see you model prayer within your home. Furthermore, this goes beyond praying before meals and bedtime. Start a prayer list or a journal. Encourage your wife and kids to add prayer requests to it. Make sure you do the same. Having such a list reduces pressure on finding things to pray about. Instead, everyone is contributing to it. Then, find time to pray through the list. This time doesn’t have to be extensive. It could be 5-10 minutes a week, praying through a handful of items at a time. What’s most important is that your family sees you initiating this practice. Also, when God answers your prayers, make sure you capture that in your family’s prayer journal so that everyone can continue to see God’s faithfulness.

3. Pray Over Your Family

Satan won’t just attack you; he will likely come after your entire family, as well. As the shepherd and priest of your home, it is your responsibility to guard them and lead them to safety. One way to do that is to constantly pray over them. To be clear, praying over your family doesn’t just happen privately in your closet. It also involves occasionally praying over them in their presence, and it can include laying hands on them. Praying over your family is different than praying for them in that praying for your family encompasses praying for their needs. On the other hand, praying over your family is praying specifically for their spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical protection.

4. Ask Your Family to Pray Over You

Quality prayer with your family requires you to do something that most men aren’t naturally wired to do—be vulnerable. You must. It’s vitally important. Your kids look up to you. You may feel like you have it all together or at least have convinced them that you do, but your kids know better. Instead of seeing someone who is perfect, your kids actually see someone who is pretending. Share your shortcomings; confess where you have made mistakes. Tell them how you are being challenged and how you are growing in your pursuit of Jesus. Modeling vulnerability relieves a great deal of pressure that they may be feeling to have it all together. It will strengthen your relationship.

5. Tuck Your Kids into Bed

Like many other suggestions on this list, this may seem like a very little or insignificant gesture. However, seeing you in their last moments before falling asleep assures them of your constant presence. It means that you’ve stepped away from everything else competing for your attention and, for a brief moment, they have been made the priority. In my home, it’s typically my wife who is actually doing the literal tucking in. That’s her special time to be with each child without the others present. However, I still give each of them a hug and wish them goodnight. The tuck-ins don’t have to be long or in-depth. A simple “Goodnight” spoken with direct eye contact communicates safety, acceptance, and affection.

6. Identify One-on-One Times with Each Child

Each of my four kids is different. They have different personalities and different aspirations, and they respond differently to their environments. Two are more outgoing, while the other two are more reserved. Because I want to connect with each of them, I must be aware of the time and environment where they are most comfortable “opening up.” For my oldest, it’s sitting on the back porch. My second oldest and I enjoy working on a puzzle together. We will take a few weekends to work on one, and we’ll talk while we do so. My son and I enjoy playing video games together. We may not be playing the same game, but we are in the same room “ragging” each other. This allows us to build a relationship that opens doors for us to talk later. My littlest one is a bit more proactive. She recognizes my busy schedule, but she is undaunted. She will schedule time with me during the afternoon when I turn everything off and focus on her. Every child is different; each of our lives is different; dynamics are different. But find those special, one-on-one times with each of your kids and make them special.

7. Eat with Your Family

Unfortunately, I’m quite busy; I have a ton of obligations. I work from home, and my schedule during the week is typically 4 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a few late nights scattered throughout. Though I’m not always perfect, and sometimes I’m late to the table, I try to set aside two hours each weeknight (between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.) to eat with my family and play a game, read a book, watch TV, or just hang out. It’s a great time to take a break, decompress, and check how everyone’s day has been. It’s a time for you to share about your day. I cannot stress how important it is for your wife and kids to see you, not just know that you are there. It is also great accountability, especially in a season where husbands and wives struggle with infidelity. Being at home, eating together, and sharing about your day would go a long way in strengthening the relationships within your family.

8. Read to Them

While you may feel this is silly, reading to your family has a huge impact on their social, emotional, and mental well-being. They need to hear your voice. However, most fathers’ voices are heard given direction or making corrections. Very few children hear their fathers speaking to them in peace and gentleness. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that your book of choice is the Bible (which isn’t necessarily a bad choice). The book can be about anything. My kids enjoy fiction, historical non-fiction (as long as it doesn’t get buried in too many details), adventure, etc. Most of the time, they are sprawled out on the floor coloring, playing a quiet game with each other, or doing a craft. They don’t have to necessarily focus on you, but they are listening to you. Finally, you can read as little as a few pages or a few chapters; it doesn’t matter. But turn off the televisions and put media aside. Read to your kids.

9. Share Your Quiet Time (Devotional/Study)

So many dads falsely picture spiritually leading their families as everyone huddled in a circle around the dinner table or on the floor, and they are leading a deep Bible study. While this is one way, it’s certainly not the only way…and for many, it may not be the best way. There are some dads who have the time and resources to conduct the necessary research for delivering a rich Bible study, but this isn’t the case for most dads. However, every dad who desires to be the spiritual leader of their family should be spending personal time in the Word. No exception. You cannot give what you do not have. Then, during those times with your family (around the dinner table, after dinner, etc.), simply share with them something you learned. It doesn’t have to be deep; it could be very simple. But it demonstrates that you are seeking God, and it shows your kids how. Finally, ask them what they are learning in their own quiet times or classes at church. Regardless of what it looks like, you are performing a very simple act to inject Jesus into your family conversations.

10. Be Transparent

When I talk to most dads, many confess that they (and their wives) are not very transparent with their kids. While some discernment is certainly necessary when determining the depth of transparency, seek ways to share some of the decisions you are currently making as a couple. These could include decisions around family commitments and scheduling, finances and budget, major purchases, career, and elder care, just to name a few. Taking it one step deeper, if you are struggling to pay the bills, let your kids know that and then discuss with them how you decide which bills get paid. (This will also begin to increase their appreciation for your parenting.) Most often, kids only hear the outcomes. Practice sharing with them the decision-making process. Show them how you are applying biblical principles to your choices. Let them see the process modeled so that they will know how to do the same in the future. For most families, parents have eighteen years to teach their children life lessons. Dads should seek to take advantage of every opportunity.

11. Admit and Apologize When You Are Wrong

From the list, this is probably the hardest for men. It is not easy for most people to admit when they are wrong, much less apologizing. However, as a spiritual leader, this is a practice that you must model for your family. As of this post, my wife and I have been married for eighteen years…and we still get into arguments. While I realize what the Bible says about arguing, I’m going to play the fallen humanity card here and admit that we still do. We’re working on it. But here’s what we do to model the acts of seeking forgiveness and practicing restoration. On occasions that I respond in a harsh tone to my wife, I first have to understand why I responded the way I did—I have to identify the underlying trigger. Most often, it has nothing to do with her. I then apologize to both, my wife and our kids, collectively. I share with them what their mom said, what I actually heard, why I heard it the way I did (the real, underlying trigger), and why my response was inappropriate. I then ask her forgiveness first, followed by asking them for theirs. As much as I can, I seek to model humility, repentance, and the rebuilding/restoring of relationships. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes practice, but the results are worth the investment.

12. Disconnect and Be Present

We live in a world that is constantly connected, and everyone, it seems, is only a double-click or pinch away, including ourselves. However, we must practice the discipline of disconnecting. First, it demonstrates the biblical discipline of the Sabbath in which we learn how to rest. Second, it demonstrates that those whom we are around are our present priority. Prioritize your wife and kids by turning off media and phones. For many dads, it may be learning how to play all over again. That’s okay; you have to start somewhere. Start practicing now. A simple rule is no phones at the table for the family. For you and your wife, it may be no phones in bed or on nightstands. Buy a $5 alarm clock and put your phone in another room so that you’re not tempted by your phone being the first thing you see in the morning or the last thing you see at night.

13. Show Affection

Your kids desperately need your affection. They need your hugs, and they need your kisses. Your affection tells them that they are accepted, that you approve of them, and that they are yours. While many dads may feel insecure about demonstrating affection and, unfortunately, it has been perverted in so many ways today, godly dads need to reset the standard and expectation for proper affection within the family. Showing affection to your wife and daughters sets a standard for your daughter of how her future husband should treat her. Additionally, it establishes an expectation for how your son should treat his future bride. Showing affection exemplifies the affection that Christ has for his bride, the Church. Demonstrate it regularly.

14. Show Up

You will only see your kids grow up once. If you miss it, you will live a life of regret. Your work will wait, and regardless of the amount of your paycheck, it will never come close to the potential return on investment that you make in being present with your kids. They have hopes and dreams. Part of figuring out what aspirations they should follow is getting involved in various activities, whether that is sports, drama, music, etc. Furthermore, they want to know that their dad supports their discovery. By showing up, you are showing your support for them in their spiritual formation. By not showing up, you are not teaching them independence. Instead, you are communicating to them that, no matter what they do, it will never be good enough to earn your time and attention. It will then take years to repair that father wound. Make their dreams your priority. The work can wait; they cannot.

15. Start a 'Thankful' Jar

This practice is one that was shared with me, but it’s another very simple one to incorporate into your family. Find a clear glass jar whose contents can be seen from the sides. Set the jar in a prominent place within your home—the mantle, a shelf, the entryway, etc. Then, have a stack of small sheets of paper, no bigger than an index card (index cards work, too). Now, instruct your kids and wife that whenever they experience something for which they are thankful, write it on the card and stick it in the jar. These could be for a great day together, a passing grade, a win on the sports team, or simply thankful for a memory that was created with each other. Finally, each year at Thanksgiving, dump the contents of the jar, and each member of the family takes turns reading cards. Through this time together, memories are refreshed, and stories are shared. It serves as a great time of laughs and giggles, and it reminds everyone of the blessings they experienced throughout the year.


Hopefully, a few characteristics of this list have stood out. First, notice the importance of prayer in the life of a godly family. Prayer, from one perspective, comprises one-third of the above list, and it is the single most important practice that a godly dad should be demonstrating. Prayer lays the foundation of a family pursuing Jesus, and it safeguards against the enemy destroying your spiritual investment. If you do nothing else but lead in prayer, you will see substantial transformations in your family.

Second, none of the items above involve any kind of financial investment. Being a spiritual leader of your family does not require you to sign your kids up for a sports team or even send them to a church camp or retreat. On the other hand, I have witnessed unhealthy families send their kids to camps because that was the only spiritual nourishment the kids were receiving. The parental sentiment was, “Oh well, at least they’re getting it somewhere.” That’s a dereliction of your duty as a dad. Spend less money; spend more time.

Finally, none of the items above require that you be a pastor, teacher, or biblical scholar. You aren’t requiring your kids to recite the Shorter Catechism or St. Augustine’s Confessions. There is no requirement to be spiritually astute at any level. The only requirement is that you be intentional with your time and energy.

Being a good dad is hard work. Being a spiritual leader is even harder. But you’ve got this. Hopefully, the tips above will help get you started.

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