Being the Spiritual Leader of Your Family



Husbands and wives have played tug of war over the issue of spiritual leadership in the home for hundreds of years. The bible tells us the husband is the spiritual leader, yet some wives feel that their husband doesn’t take the role serious enough. Being the spiritual leader in your home is more than choosing the church you attend or being the one who offers prayer at mealtime.

It is a Holy calling.

A man knows when he ‘misses the mark’ each time he is in church and hears the word of God telling him exactly what is right and what is wrong, yet he still may struggle getting it right in between church and home. It is a personal step he must realize himself, and commit himself in taking on this calling with determination.

His wife must do her part, by not ridiculing him or discouraging him, but go in private to pray for him. Praying for his spirit to be convicted. Pray that he will sense that something he is doing or allowing his family to do is against what God has for them or does not help them be closer to the Lord. Pray that he will have confidence in his faith and taking a stand for Christ – even when no one is around. Pray for him to be sold out for Christ, because he knows he can nothing in himself. Pray that he acknowledges his daily need for Jesus. That he recognizes the need to have alone time with God and have bible study. Pray that he put away the things of this world that are unGodly and do what will feed his spirit.

And then she is to leave it with God, trusting Him with her heartfelt desire and He will see her obedience as she is looking to her husband for leadership.

If a man is serious about being the spiritual leader, he must be committed and to be aware of what his actions say to his family – and what his actions say to God. Here is an excerpt from an article by Focus on the Family, with a guideline to help you be aware of what it means to be the spiritual leader in your household.


From Focus on the Family


If we are looking to Jesus Christ as our model, this can only mean one thing: the man is supposed to follow the path of a servant-leader. Jesus put it this way: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

A spiritual servant-leader, then, imitates Christ. He’s tuned in to his family’s needs and concerned for its spiritual welfare. He looks for ways to help its members grow in their relationship with God. He provides physical support, grace, and encouragement. He is ready to protect, help, and defend. In hard times and good times, in season and out of season, he’s ready to lay down his life for those who have been entrusted to his care.

What kinds of qualities are required in a husband who desires to fulfill this high and holy calling? First, he must have a strong connection with his Heavenly Father, finding his happiness in Christ first, realizing that he can lead effectively only if he maintains an intimate relationship with the Lord. He must be balanced in his commitments and nurturing in his concern for the mental and emotional needs of each family member. He must be proactive, spotting potential challenges to the welfare of his wife and children and coming up with workable solutions to problems. And he must be characterized by integrity, seeking to be the safest, wisest, and most respected man his family has ever known.


Guideline for the spiritual leader when you aren’t sure if something is wrong for you or your family

Ask yourself these questions before you make the decision to do what is in question:

  1. How does this affect my family’s welfare?
  2. Does it help them to grow in their relationship with God?
  3. Am I providing physical support, grace and encouragement?
  4. Am I protecting my family if I do this?
  5. Am I proactive in spotting the challenges my family faces?
  6. Am I providing solutions?
  7. Do I understand that God has entrusted my family to my care and am I giving them my best?

7 thoughts on “Being the Spiritual Leader of Your Family

    • Jamie, I am so sorry that I am just now seeing this. I put my keyboard away for a while and now that I am starting to do a little more writing, I checked this site and had quite a few comments to respond to. Of course I have no ‘right answer’ … but when I was single, of course I was my spiritual leader. BUT – I wasn’t ‘in charge’. God was. I had to learn to let Him lead. When I tried to do things without prayer, and listening to His gentle nudging, I failed. But when I trusted Him to provide for me, and guide me – I had peace and kept believing His promise to give me the desires of my heart – but He made sure my heart was exactly where it needed to be for me to be ready. It’s a journey. Those who do not desire to have a spouse, I believe God uses in many ways and it’s a relationship there too – we are never alone, even when it feels that way at times. 🙂

      • The scary thing is that too many times Christianity would say that a single daughter is under the headship of her father or else, must be represented at church meetings by an deacon or the pastor while single sons are their own spiritual leader. I wonder, do these spiritual leader traits in women vanish the moment they say “I do”? Do they forget how to read the Bible? How to pray? It’s a curious teaching that one.

      • I guess I have never heard of that teaching. I would like to think that the only thing that changes if the daughter marries, is that she respect her husband and be of encouragement. Too many women try to take control because sometimes, we may discern something before our husband. But instead of allowing God to bring Him along in His time and be our husband’s helpmate – we try to take over. It really is a partnership in my opinion, yet with giving my husband the ‘final say’ as in me never ‘going over his head’ on big decisions or something he as the leader, needs to lead on. I’m not an emotional basket case by any means, but God did create me with a heart and mind to be more emotional than my husband. So, where a man, thinks pragmatically – I would put my heart into something and sometimes, the head should rule over the heart. At the same time, I have seen many cases where the heart should. I think our best hope for answers to life’s debateable issues is that we all are individuals following the path that God has for us alone. No one else will walk the exact same path, or hear God tell them the exact same things. To me, even though the word of God is a plumbline for our lives – it is our by own individual hearts that God will tell us when we are right or wrong. Sometimes using His word, sometimes another Christian, sometimes a message or a song… God speaks in many ways. And our heart knows His voice. I have had many well-meaning people try to tell me what they thought was right, preachers of different denominations tell me different things and I had to make the call myself – with what my heart told me. The beauty is that if we ever get it wrong – God knew already that we would – yet still protects and guides us and gets us to where we need to be – and we learn through our mistakes. I used to regret certain wrong turns I have made in life … but they taught me so much. I learned instead to thank God for the wisdom, and help me to hear His still voice and listen to it when I would doubt myself. Sometimes I was my own worst enemy. I have a heart for singles, because I had years where I felt so out of place as a single and God taught me how to embrace my time being single and that even though I was a 1 and not a 2 – that 1 was still a whole number. I gained an identity for myself before I became 2. That was important. But even as I was just ‘1’ … God was my companion and He still is.

      • It just seems so strange that God arbitrarily decided that only husbands may lead wives and never the other way around. When I looked at my family history, I saw a woman like Scarlett O’hara who remarried as many times as it took to keep her eight children alive. I saw another who was left to fend for herself in wartime while raising twelve. I saw generations of the wives of coal miners who were widowed too soon with too many children to care for. I come from a long line of proud and independent mostly-Irish women who could never accept being their husbands helpmate without their husbands being their own helpmates. They were the equal and yet opposite reaction to every stunt the men pulled and the only ones who could keep them in line. The concept of “helpmate” is an inadequate one to describe them. I know I’ve inherited that nature and it makes it all the more difficult to accept this teaching. I see so many flaws with it. What about abusive husbands? What about guys who gamble away or drink away their paychecks living their wives precious little to live off of? What about guys who decide what they want to do without considering their wife’s opinion? I read that this teaching can turn good men into bad ones and bad men into worse ones because it doesn’t provide proper checks and balances.

      • Oh believe me Jamie, I am with you on this. I am a very strong independent woman (now). I even had lived in a previous marriage that was abusive (and I think quite a bit came from my early teachings from church). Church’s really miss the mark when they preach about this and make it so absolute – which can be harmful. Yes, we need to try to be without sin and follow the guidance of God’s word… but HE KNEW from the beginning – we are going to sin and we are not perfect – the whole reason for sending His son as our savior. So instead of church’s preaching what God’s word says and leave it at that, I wish they would go deeper into what is going on in today’s world and give a disclaimer if you will – not to say that God’s word is conditional, but each individual must listen to their heart because God’s timing is different for everyone in how they will receive His teaching. God knows when we are not going to do exactly what the bible says if we are in a situation that we really can’t – but He also will provide wisdom from life’s lessons on ‘how we got to that place’. For the life of me, I could not ever see me in the place I was years ago, when I allowed a man to control me so much, that I feared him and he even caused me to doubt my faith. He belittled me and talked down to me until I believed the things he would say about me. But back then, I was searching for the wrong thing in my life. I wanted a man to love me and I wanted to give him my love … BEFORE I loved myself. Before I trusted completely in God to be my companion and provider — I looked to a man for those things in between the times of being a single mom and working hard to make it in this world. And so, my desire was to be married and to have love. When I didn’t seek God’s approval with that man and I did what I wanted to do, God allowed me to go through a lot of pain, so that when I finally had enough, that I learned what I did NOT want for my life. I had to go against what the bible teaches about divorce, and honoring our husband … because he was not a Godly man to begin with. This wasn’t God’s fault and His word is not wrong… but I was wrong to choose a man who was not after God’s own heart. I was wrong to let that man disrespect me the very first time. After I had the courage to leave, I spent the next year pleading with God to show my why I was going through so much pain while my ex husband was getting away with lies and manipulating our divorce. Little by little, God showed me things and I became so hungry to hear more from HIM. I practiced listening to even the small, gentle voice in my head – call it my conscience or the Holy Spirit, but I could hear my heart telling me that my first mistake was not loving me. Not having an identity, not being a whole person on my own before I began a relationship. Even though I was strong, intelligent and ambitious – my heart still wanted a man to love and that always won over taking the time to get to know ME and fill my life with MY passions. That second year, I had gone through much prayerful healing and I shook off that chain from my ankle that was called ‘victim’. I stopped blaming ‘the jerks’ out there who mistreated me. I accepted responsibility of what got me in that situation and I started loving me, respecting me and with baby steps, I practiced setting boundaries with those same type of men who wanted to rescue me and be my knight in shining armor. They want to rescue a woman for themselves to feel more like a man. They prey on women who do not stand up for themselves, do not put boundaries out there and who ‘have a good heart’. Well, it was my Christian nature to have a good heart, but God did NOT want me to be a doormat or put up with things that I did. This is what I wish the church taught more of. I am all for women being empowered. I just see it from a Christian point of view – and only because I have lived it both ways… with God and without Him. And the ‘without Him’ part was the worse part of my life. Since I trusted Him fully, I began to see His gifts to me, so small and loving at first and then the more I trusted Him, and took care of myself as the woman of God that He created me to be… He gave me the desires of my heart. My soul mate husband I am with now. Maybe I would have other Christians disagree with me, but I know that God knew it was necessary for me to go through that divorce and He knew that I would make the choices I made. He also knew every mistake in my life was how He would teach me and prepare my heart for what HE has for me. I am so grateful to Him for loving me like that. BECAUSE of Jesus, we are forgiven. Not to say we should go against God’s word on purpose, but it is from my experience, that I went away from his word before I got myself into the mess I was in that resulted in divorce and that was the part I had to go all the way back to. Not focus the ‘divorce is wrong’ part in the bible… but the part of who I am in Christ. And to see myself the way HE sees me. Once I saw myself through God’s eyes, I stopped kicking myself and living a defeated life with the church saying one thing and my life taking me another direction or having several ‘grey’ areas when the church preached ‘black or white’. God was with me in those grey areas of my life – not that He wanted me there, but He knew they were there for my benefit. I don’t regret my past decisions because it changed so much in my heart and gave me wisdom I needed that I could not ever have by just listening to someone tell me. I could not know with my mind or ears, I had to know it with my heart. And it was THEN, that God revealed to me, the Godly man who does respect me, who treats me as his partner, who is a good leader – yet listens to my every word and he truly loves me. It is only with this kind of man, that I could stop trying to control, and I am actually grateful for his leadership of our family. But no, I am not a doormat nor does my opinion or voice go unheard. But that is the difference. It takes two. A Godly man who respects and loves his wife, and a Godly woman who loves and respects her husband. If someone doesn’t have that, then I don’t see how a woman could follow what we are taught in God’s word… but like I said, I didn’t follow many other things God wanted for me, or else I would have not put myself in that position. But God was there for me regardless of my poor decisions and once I was truly listening to Him, He slowly revealed His plan. Sometimes God won’t reveal something to us because He knows we won’t receive it with our heart. That’s why when I listen to a preacher preach, I go to God’s word and challenge what ‘man’ says with what God tells me in His word and in my heart … and what is right for me. There are too many preachers, too many religions out there for me not to trust my heart for my life. When I look back at trusting my heart when I chose the abusive man — I actually betrayed my heart. I didn’t listen closely to the red flags I saw ahead of time. People could argue that I followed my heart, but I think my heart told me the smart thing, but I still tried to fit the square peg in the round hole anyway. God speaks to our heart and that is what I listen to.

      • I appreciate that you told me this side of your story. It can’t have been easy to talk about. It shares many similarities with the story of a dear friend of mine. She was ever the submissive helpmeet of her husband, who was a gentleman while they were dating, but a year into marriage he got into headship teachings and he became a controlling monster who demanded that she always call him to tell him where she was when she was out and had all communications copied to him even if it was an e-mail with just one sentence like: “I hope you have a good day!”The elders of his church encouraged him to make all the decisions and to have the final say because it was when Adam listened to Eve that he sinned. My friend was told to read books like: “Created to be his helpmeet” and similar books which told her to do whatever her husband instructed without question. In instances where her husband wanted to take out a loan to buy a boat, she was supposed to sign on the dot even if she disagreed or wanted to spend the money on school supplies or knew that they just couldn’t afford it. He also had something of a temper that escalated into physical violence. She was convinced that divorce wasn’t an option. It wasn’t until I was able to explain to her that the divorce the Bible talks about was called “putting away” in ancient Israel, men would marry women just for the dowry and then divorce them claiming that they were disqualified from having the money returned because they went out with a head covering, was unfaithful, or was a bad cook who burnt dinner. This was the divorce that God hated and Jesus spoke of when he was asked if it was okay for a man to divorce a woman for any and every reason – it was a famous debate between two rabbis Hillel and Shammai. Because we just apply the Bible literally without regard for it’s own cultural context, it gives us the tendency to fill in the gaps with our own cultural ideas that don’t always match with what the Bible teaches. That’s one of the problems with the idea that men ought to be spiritual leaders of the home, we assume that’s so because that’s what the Bible literally says – but we discount the fact that it says that because it was written in a patriarchal culture that did not hold women in high regard and did not believe that women could lead anything which we know not to be the case today. There’s a saying that power corrupts, doesn’t making men spiritual leaders give them spiritual power over the family? Doesn’t that put them at risk of being corrupted by that power? Some men do not need more power, sometimes it is better that some men have less power because it’s not in them to not abuse the power that’s given to them. Take a moment to read through the bad reviews for Created to be His Helpmeet and you’ll see how they use the same Bible verses and words, submit, helpmeet, headship, authority in a dark and twisted way that results in wanton destruction all in an effort to be Biblical. I just don’t know how to speak against the misuse of these verses without speaking against the proper use of these verses because there’s such a fine line between the two.

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