I promise, I am not writing this as an expert. I am no expert. But a friend suggested the other day that I write a post on fathering and being a husband. A practical post. A post filled with some specifics.
And I didn’t have a sermon to work on this week, so I spent my lunch break on this.
Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’ve been married about 8 years. I have 3 children already born, 1 who’s in Heaven, and 1 due, Lord willing, in November. I’ve also been shaped by being a pastor/elder for about 5 years. So there we are.
I hope these can be of help and be adapted to your situation.
Some tips on leading your family in Christ:
- Say Sorry When You’ve Sinned Against Them
It kind of surprised me that this was a novel concept to some of my acquaintances and co-workers. When in passing I’ve mentioned that I’ve apologized to my children for sinful anger towards them and asked their forgiveness, it’s at times seemed to take them aback. I would’ve thought that adult human beings would understand that if we can do wrong to our neighbors or friends then we can do wrong to our children (and wives). Sin is sin, and Scripture is clear that it needs to be confessed to God and to the party that we’ve sinned against.
Plus, if I want my kids to confess and repent of their sins, I need to do it, too.
- Worship God As A Family Daily
Have family worship. Have family worship. Please, please, please have family worship.
My kids are 5, 3, and 1, so this is a season of worship being fairly short. But the fact that it’s daily, rain or shine, busy day or not, has yielded tremendous fruit. Seriously. As a family, we’ve gone through Jude, Revelation, Mark, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, and now Leviticus, and my two older ones have a pretty good understanding of the story God is telling in creation, history, and Jesus. Just because of that. There’s no magic. It’s just because they hear the Bible and its stories in context every day.
The way it works for us is very simple:
- 3-5 minutes of reading or summarizing a section of the book of the Bible we’re in (usually about a chapter).
- Singing a song together.
- One or more of the kids praying to God for a family request as I lead and nudge them in the right direction.
- We’ll typically end with a little bit of a Christian fictional book (we finished Pilgrim’s Progress last year and are reading through The Chronicles of Narnia now) or a short animation or video of the Bible story we’re in. The Bible Project videos have been helpful for that second option.
That’s it. Bible, song, prayer, story/video. The whole thing is 10-15 minutes tops. And we’re flexible. I often lead it at the dinner table, but not always. At least once a week we end up doing it on the van, on the way to the store or small group or Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house.
Again, what I’d commend to you with all my heart, if you hear nothing else I’m saying, is that you do worship God as a family daily. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how bad the day is. 5 minutes every day for 2 years adds up. We know this with exercise, and I believe it’s no less true for taming our family’s hearts. I’ve witnessed it. I wholeheartedly encourage you to have short (or long, if you can handle it) family worship every single day. It’ll yield precious fruit if it’s regular, even if it’s not always breathtaking or particularly moving in the individual moment or instance.
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
This kind of goes along with family worship being daily, but for kids this is so key that it deserves its own point. Repeat truth in your home. Find phrasing that is Biblically faithful and then use it as often as you can. Here are a few examples of phrases my kids can say in their sleep, now, just because of my repeating them for 2-3 years:
“Sin brings death, Jesus brings life!”
“God saves bad people.”
“God will throw Satan in the deep, deep hole” (from when we read through Revelation).
“We honor mother and father, because it keeps us safe and makes God happy.”
“Jesus teaches people, Jesus helps people, Jesus heals people, and Jesus loves people.”
“The church has a story to tell, and that story is about Jesus!”
We make it fun. We say them loud and smiling and sometimes in silly voices, but above all my kids know that those things they’re saying are true and good and important. And they know that those are the 3 reasons Daddy repeats them to them and to himself.
- Don’t Fear Saying “I Don’t Know”
God already knows you’re a human, Dad/Husband. He knows that you have ignorances. Yes, you’re the head of your wife and of your family as a whole, but you’re also frail and sinful and growing in grace and truth.
I have to fight this fear all the time. I want people to think I’m the perfect husband or father or pastor, that I know the most or am the Godliest. I’m often terrified of having myself doubted in any of those capacities. So I have to remind myself (like right now) that God already knows my weaknesses, and has called me to this family anyway. I can be transparent about the things I don’t know or can’t do, and in the process teach my kids to rely on the One who does know all things.
- Keep Your Wife First
I am one flesh with her, not my children.
I made vows to her that I made to no one else, including my children.
Men, our kids will leave us someday and, Lord willing, cling to their own spouses. That’s His design. And it’s therefore it’s also His design that in marriage, and not in parenthood, we have promised to care for another human being into old age and until we die.
I pledged before God to cherish this woman in a very special way, a way unique to her and a way that is made, by its very nature, to be exclusive.
My marriage is glorious and deserves to be prized above all other human relationships He forms for me. That’s the design.
- Have Fun
This is the one I struggle with the most, but it’s so key. These are blessings, these wives and children we’ve been given. We should enjoy them to His glory!
So specifics. Right.
Take them to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Even on a school night, once in a while. Don’t be afraid to break an unspoken rule from some hidden curriculum in your mind. Go get ice cream at 9 o’clock on a school night once in a blue moon. These are children given to you to raise in fear and love of God, to cherish and enjoy and give memories to. They weren’t given to the local school board or to your neighbor or to that judgmental relative you want to impress.
And if it’s not rules that keep you from having fun but your own silly hobbies or pleasures, then throw them out. Seriously. If Call of Duty or BW3’s or golf is standing between you and ever playing Uno with your daughter or ever wrestling with your little boy or ever having playful and flirtatious conversations with your wife, toss the hobby aside. Pare it back or quit it altogether. These are souls given as blessings to you, little eternal people He has populated your life with, or in the case of your wife, a friend and lover He has united you to for life. They are more important than video games or fantasy football leagues, and having fun with them is more valuable than having fun with a work buddy you won’t know in 12 years.
- Love Jesus
I’m ending here. Christian husbands and dads, stay personally connected to your God. The more you love Christ, the more you’ll love what He loves. Those who truly love Him walk in obedience to Him, and the more you love the more you obey. Being a good husband and a good father best flow from a love we’ve already tasted.
Read at least a chapter of the Bible daily by yourself. Pray by yourself every single day. Ask God to help you love His Son. Pray daily for your children’s salvations, or if they’re already born again, then pray daily for their spiritual growth.
But however you apply this, walk daily in worship of King Jesus. The days I am a deficient father and husband are the days I am a legalist or an unrepentant, hardhearted man or a doubter in my Savior. Worship is the wellspring that good fatherhood and good love for my wife come from, and idolatry and sin are the poison that make the bad days insufferable. For them and for me.
All right, that’s it for today.
I hope this helps your family, or, if you are single, helps to frame some of your thinking about family. The friend who texted me to write this is himself single, so I suppose all different stripes of Christian (and non-Christian) are curious about this sort of thing. And that’s healthy, I think.
We worship a good God. And He is a Father. And a Husband.
And He is the best of both.
So I want to live in that light.