Head of the Home: How Dads Can Lead Effectively
- Monday, March 26, 2007
"David" is a computer programmer who is called in to solve problems only when no one else can figure them out. He is also one of the most knowledgeable men I know about the content and meaning of Scripture. But David has admitted to me, "I really don’t know how to be a spiritual leader in my home."
Any dad who has attended church for longer than a few months has been told: "Take your children to church, pray with them regularly, and have family devotions." Most fathers accomplish only the "taking-them-to-church" goal on a regular basis. And when it comes to family devotions, most dads fall down on this duty not because of the lack of desire but because they simply don’t know what to do.
The "church-prayer-devotions" trilogy is admirable ... as far as it goes. But perhaps the reason that so many of us have been mystified about spiritual leadership is because we have started with this list of activities as if this were the totality of our duties as spiritual leaders.
Let’s analyze spiritual leadership from a completely different perspective. Rather than starting with a list of activities, let’s ask, "What is a spiritual leader supposed to accomplish?" The answer is simple and challenging: A spiritual leader leads his wife and children toward maturity in Christ Jesus.
If we want to lead our daughters toward maturity in Christ, then we have to do
three fundamental things:
• set spiritual goals for our daughters;
• design training and activities that will help them reach these goals;
• periodically assess how our daughters are progressing toward the stated goals.
At first glance, this resembles the mechanics of leadership we utilize in our careers. When a person knows where they are headed and they chart a course to get there, normally they are more successful than a person who simply wanders about engaging in random activities and opportunities.
If we want a spiritually fuzzy result, then spiritually random activity will work nicely. But if we want precise spiritual results in our daughters, then we need to formulate precise spiritual goals and create activities and training designed to reach these goals.
Setting Spiritual Goals
No army general would ever try to train soldiers in the haphazard way many of us try to train our daughters to serve our Lord. An army has an organized plan and a training course of increasing rigor designed to produce soldiers capable of winning the battle. Our duty to train our children is no less important. It is equally necessary for us to develop goals and plans for the training of the spiritual warriors whom God has entrusted to us.
Years ago I taught an adult Sunday school class where we considered the following question: What spiritual goals do we want our children to achieve before they are grown and ready to leave home? We came up with a long list. With some editing, we ended up with the following goals:
1. My child will be sure of his or her salvation.
2. My child will love and understand God’s Word.
3. My child will know and willingly obey God’s rules of right and wrong.
4. My child will know his or her individual spiritual gift(s) and call from
5. My child will be able to teach spiritual truths to others.
6. My child will be an effective witness.
7. My child will spend daily time with God.
8. My child will do acts of service for the good of others.
9. My child will exercise self-discipline.
10. My child will be in fellowship and under the authority of a local church.
11. My child will understand the power of prayer.
12. My child will be maturely walking with God.
These goals are of a general nature that most Bible-believing dads will want for their daughters. These are a good starting point in the goal-setting process. You may want to modify these initial twelve goals or simply choose three as top priorities. You will certainly want to add other goals that are designed specifically for your church background, your family’s priorities, and your daughter’s individual talents, gifts, needs, and desires.
Spiritual goal-setting should be led by you as the father, but your wife should be intimately involved if she is also a committed Christian. And as your daughter reaches the age of eleven or twelve, and certainly by the time she is in her teens, she should also be integrally involved in creating the personal list of spiritual goals you want to see accomplished in her life.
The twelve goals listed here are essentially behavioral in nature—that is, you can look at your daughter’s actions and make a fairly accurate determination of her progress. Many of the additional goals you design for your daughter should also be stated in objective, behavioral terms. However, there is an additional category of goals that you will want to develop. These goals could be called "character qualities." There are several sources of lists of character qualities that we should desire for our daughters. Consider the following list of character quality goals based on the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians
1. A mature believer demonstrates love to God and others.
2. A mature believer experiences joy in the midst of life’s sorrows.
3. A mature believer experiences peace in the midst of the turmoil of life.
4. A mature believer is patient with difficult people and in difficult circumstances.
5. A mature believer is kind to friends and foes alike.
6. A mature believer consistently demonstrates genuine goodness of heart in all of his or her actions.
7. A mature believer is faithful to God, his or her spouse, family, and to other believers.
8. A mature believer is gentle to those under his or her authority.
9. A mature believer exercises self-control when people or circumstances evoke an unrestrained response.
Both the statement of these goals and the assessment of your daughter’s progress will be very subjective. You would have good reason to be upset if a public school assessed your daughter’s progress on matters of subjective values. However, subjectivity is quite appropriate within the setting of the family. You are perfectly entitled to assess your daughter’s attitudes.
You can find a number of character (and some behavioral) goals for your daughter in the famous description of the godly woman in Proverbs 31. You should also consider the qualities for elders’ and deacons’ wives listed in 1 Timothy 3. Even if your church has a doctrinal position of male-only elders (as mine does), there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that it would be inappropriate for our daughters to strive for the character qualities that are mandated for elders and deacons. Good character is always appropriate for everyone.
Both of these lists contain very important goals, but there is something even more fundamental that we need to remember as we work with our daughters. Consider the question asked of Jesus in John 6:28–29:
Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
Our most important spiritual goal with our daughters is to ensure that they believe in God and His Son. They need to know that God is both our nurturer and our corrector. That is what Paul is saying in Ephesians 6:4 when he tells fathers to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A nurturing father feeds and encourages his children in growth. An admonishing father corrects his children when they stray from the way. As earthly fathers we need to do both, and we need to help our daughters understand that their heavenly Father wants to play both roles in their lives as well.
What a Daughter Needs From Her Dad by Michael Farris
Copyright © 1996, 2004 ISBN 0764227806
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
Michael Farris has the experience needed for a book of this kind--he's the father of six daughters and four sons! President of Patrick Henry College, a constitutional lawyer, and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, he counsels men and women across the nation on parenting issues. Michael was named one of the top 100 influencers in education of the 20th century by Education Week.
Read a Crosswalk interview with Michael Farris to learn more about his new book and for insights on being a Christian father today.
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