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What it Means for Men

to Lead Their Families

by

Earl & Diane Rodd








This pamphlet examines a Biblical approach to the meaning of leadership in the family. It then discusses practical ways for home schooling fathers to follow the Biblical model and definition of leadership in their families. We attempt to break away from cultural definitions of "leadership" which do not apply to all men and instead find the Biblical definition of leadership which God provides for all men.




What it Means for Men

to Lead Their Families


Families Honoring Christ
Earl & Diane Rodd 6044 Pine Creek St. N.W. North Canton, OH 44720

Phone: (330) 305-9318

2nd edition - June 1996

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal sharing
but not for sale or other commercial purposes.

FHC is an Ohio based ministry providing encouragement
and fellowship to Christian parents who are training their children at home.



This pamphlet examines a Biblical approach to the meaning of leadership in the family. It then discusses practical ways for home schooling fathers to follow the Biblical model and definition of leadership in their families.

First of all, we need to remind ourselves of the priority of fathers in families in the Kingdom of God. The final prophecy of the Old Testament says, concerning John the Baptist:

Malachi 4:5
5. "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the \Lord.\
6. "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to {their} children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."

The Angel who spoke to Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, told him the importance of this child,

Luke 1:17
17. "And it is he who will go {as a forerunner} before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, \to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children\, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

This shows us that fathers whose hearts are turned to the children is the way in which a people are prepared for the Lord Jesus!

Definition of Leadership

Much has been written about "leadership" in our day. Most of us are trained to think of leadership in terms of the charismatic sports coach, business manager, or organizational head (e.g. pastors). Applying this leadership picture to being the head of the home causes many men to fear that they cannot lead their own families because they are aware that they do not fit the picture. However, in the Bible, the primary method of leadership is leadership by example. All men can lead their families by example. Men who lead by example will indeed be good leaders in sports, business, and organizations, but many men live under a cloud of inferiority because they do not think they measure up to a worldly standard. God gives us a definition of leadership which every man can apply in his home and sphere of influence. We will begin our study in II Thessalonians,

II Thessalonians 3:7
7. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example , because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,
8. nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we {kept} working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you;
9. not because we do not have the right {to this,} but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example .

Here, Paul clearly tells the Thessolonians to learn from his example. He does not just tell them what to do, but tells them to do what they saw him doing. Paul was willing to work with his own hands to support his own ministry. he did not "take" support from those who were not financially able to support him.

Next, we will go to I Peter 5.

I Peter 5:1
1. Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as {your} fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
2. shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily , according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
3. nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Peter exhorts the elders to be examples to the flock. He furthermore exhorts them to exercise oversight (not authority) voluntarily. We think very much in terms of exercising authority . We never read of Jesus exercising authority. Rather we see that Jesus had authority . Jesus allowed the rich young ruler to walk away from him because Jesus never violates a person's free will with abuse of authority.

Mark 1:22
22. And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 7:29
29. for He was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus had authority because of His life and example. He did not have to tell anyone He had authority. His example showed that He had authority, casting out demons, healing the sick, and confounding the Pharisees.

In II Corinthians and Philippians, Paul again urges his readers to follow his example, saying,

II Corinthians 12:6
6. For if I do wish to boast I shall not be foolish, for I shall be speaking the truth; but I refrain {from this,} so that no one may credit me with more than he sees {in} me or hears from me.

Philippians 4:9
9. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

Hebrews 13 :17 is sometimes quoted as an example of the authoritarian definition of leadership,

Hebrews 13:17
17. Obey your leaders, and submit {to them}; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

However, let us look back earlier in the chapter to see what sort of leaders the writer is speaking of,

Hebrews 13:7
7. Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Hebrews is not talking about leaders who must enforce their authority. Instead, they are men whose conduct is such that we are urged to imitate their faith!

In I Timothy, Paul describes desirable traits for elders in the Body of Christ including,

I Timothy 3:4
4. {He must be} one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5. (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?);

Pauls description emphasizes leadership in the church by the example of men who manage their own households well. Notice that "keeping his children under control with all dignity " is made a crucial part of managing a household well.

Finally, we cannot neglect one other critical Biblical aspect of leadership. Listen carefully to Jesus' words:

Luke 22:26
26. "But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.

This principle is easily applied to families where fathers and husbands can lead by becoming servants of all, whether teaching the difficult child, grocery shopping, or reading to children. The specific way in which a man leads by serving is not dictated by the Scriptures. The first change required is a change of attitude to accept what Jesus says about being greatest by becoming the servant of all. The Holy Spirit is more than willing to show each father how he can best serve his family.

Contemporary Problems

Contemporary American (or Western) life presents challenges to the Biblical definition of leadership for men. Some problems are:

1. American culture is full of romantic non-Biblical ideals for both men and women. For men, the romantic ideal is an emotionally insulated, athletic (preferably nearly professional caliber), money manager who can charm women into submission. The romantic ideal, unfortunately, seems to exclude how to deal with children except that some versions of the ideal show that a man must spend "quality" time with his children. Specific manifestations of the false romantic ideal include a misconception of fellowship and the feminization of homes.

Churches often define "men's fellowship" as eating or sports or both. These are poor substitutes for Biblical fellowship. Below we list activities in order of Biblical effectiveness. Those at the bottom of the list may be nearly worthless activities which do little except keep men from their families.

  1. The most important meeting in the church (the Body of Christ) for a man is with his wife. Men can lead so easily by example in setting a time to review family needs and pray. Wives may contribute crucial aspects of spiritual discernment or prayer, but men provide the necessary leadership by setting the priority that this activity takes place! In our society, husbands and wives usually have a bedroom to themselves which may be the perfect place for such meeting. So many of us are corrupted by our sinful past into a "sex is dirty" mentality that we cannot think of praying in the bedroom. Let us follow Romans 12 and "renew our minds" knowing the forgiveness that comes with being new creations in Christ.
  2. Prayer together with other families and other informal meetings of groups of families. When whole families pray together, there is the most opportunity for men to learn from the example of each other and to be sufficiently involved to lead their own families by example. The "cell group" which has arisen in the last 20 years sometimes performs this function, but has more often become another church meeting with a formal program which squelches any opportunity for learning by example from each other's lives. Also, many cell group functions exclude children by having too many families in the group and thus become meetings with either wives or husbands, but not both.
  3. Prayer meetings. Men's prayer meetings can be an essential way for men to learn from the example of each other. Such meetings are best when there is a minimum of travel/organizing time and a maximum of time in prayer and sharing. Thus meetings in homes of a small number who live nearby may be better than a larger meeting. Prayer meetings allow men to see the example of others and can provide opportunity for men to share their own needs, both spiritual and natural.
  4. Meals with meetings. Sometimes, fellowship meals add various kinds of meetings. At worst, these are simply another one-way communication session little different from watching TV in that there is no actual two-way communication which is vital to fellowship.
  5. Meals. Fellowship meals take a lot of effort with generally very little true fellowship.
  6. Sports (without whole families). We are drowning in sports - the church does not need to add more. There is a place for recreation and exercise, but let us recognize the intense idolatry of sports in our day.

Because of a combination of the desertion of the home and family by men and the cultural "house perfect" expectations for women, most homes are feminized houses. This contrasts with God's desire that the husband and wife be partners in spiritual warfare acting as one flesh. Because of our "house perfect" cultural pressure, we think of the home in terms of feminine (meaning modern romantic feminine, not Biblical womanly) lace and colors for the house instead of a house as a base for spiritual warfare and service in the Kingdom of God. Lace and colors are not evil; however, we must break our cultural idols by first planning how our house is to be a base in God's Kingdom used for home education (with whatever specialization God gives your family), family prayer, group prayer and fellowship, caring for orphans or others in need etc.

2. Modern America is overrun with "authority without relationship". This begins with our political system which was originally built for a much smaller nation in which most citizens actually knew those they sent off to legislatures and other positions of governmental authority. Today, we are all accustomed to living under governmental authorities with whom we have no relationship. We then easily allow this error to creep into the church where there is talk about spiritual authority but where there is no relationship. This can then creep into the family where men listen to teaching and preaching saying they must be heads of their homes and then emulate what they see in the nation and church and declare themselves in authority without having any relationship with those they are supposed to lead (by example).

Remember the Biblical principle that the leader must be the servant of all. This is in stark contrast to the leader who demands the right to live a selfish life (sports, hobbies, big church buildings, places of power) while proclaiming his authority by decree.

3. Culturally, men are expected to be perfect and thus are taught by the culture to avoid disclosing weaknesses. In reality, men can lead their families by example when they openly reveal their weaknesses and demonstrate humility before God and men in revealing both the weaknesses and the way to work with them. For example, men who don't read well can learn phonics with their wives and/or children. While, our culture would try to teach men that such an approach is "sissy", the truth is that children would see their fathers as men who know how to reclaim what the devil has stolen from them earlier in life.

Roles

We can be trapped in romantic, cultural role expectations. Past articles have had more on this issue. Remember that in the Bible, not all men are alike and not all women are alike. Consider Mary and Martha and Deborah. Consider Elijah, Paul, and Amos. I Corinthians 12 :12-31 so clearly teaches us the importance of fulfilling our role in the Body of Christ, neither boasting that the others are not needed in the Kingdom of God nor feeling insecure because others are needed in the Kingdom of God.

Practical Aspects

In this section, we will attempt to apply the principles discussed above and suggest practical steps for men to become Biblical leaders of their families, leading by example. These practical steps are not checklist for successful fathering. We don't seek to condemn those who don't practice these ideas today; instead they are given as practical ideas for men to take and adapt to their lives.

Discipline

Remember I Timothy which says,

I Timothy 3:4
4. {He must be} one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity

When children are not disciplined, the entire household is out of order. Many men are reluctant to discipline at all leaving this matter to mothers. However, it is men who are commanded by the Bible to lead. Discipline is not punishment, but a crucial training process. In the Proverbs, where we read,

Proverbs 6:20
20. My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;

Proverbs 1:8
8. Hear, my son, your father's instruction , And do not forsake your mother's teaching;

the word for "instruction" or "commandment" is a strong word related to discipline and punishment. The word for "teaching" (for mothers) is softer, implying patient day by day teaching. We believe there are several reasons why men fail to discipline the children including:

What men need to do is to first make a decision that they will lead in discipline. Then they must learn the difference between simple punishment and true discipline which is a training process. We would recommend the FHC pamphlet "Dealing with Anger" which has a practical set of steps to lead a child and parent to repentance, forgiveness, and freedom. The process is time consuming and awkward, but so is a chaotic family.

One very practical step is for men to always do the disciplining when they are present, whether in their own home, a restaurant, church, or another family's home.

Planning

Fathers can lead their families by planning. If we don't plan, but just let our families drift, then we allow others, whether young children or friends or demonic powers, to decide what our families will spend their time doing. We need to make intentional plans for home education curriculum, daily schedules, use of free time, special family projects, and day to day work in the home. The Bible tells us many practical things about planning:

We read of the importance of planning using consultation,

Proverbs 20:18
18. Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance.

We learn that we are to prepare at the sensible time,

Proverbs 30:25
25. The ants are not a strong folk, But they prepare their food in the summer;

We learn that we are to know the conditions we live under. For home educators, this can mean knowing what our children are capable of and what they need help with.

Proverbs 27:23
23. Know well the condition of your flocks, {And} pay attention to your herds;

Finally, the Bible tells us take care of necessities first and then turn to the things which are nice to have or luxuries.

Proverbs 24:27
27. Prepare your work outside, And make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house.

We have five "P"s of planning for Christian fathers:

Prepare
plans and consult with others.
Pay attention
to conditions of wives, children, houses, and provisions.
Priority
must be set so that we intentionally decide what is important to our family.
Provide
the necessities first and then determine how to provide for other priorities.
Plans
can be made with the whole family.

Decision making
by family involvement

The FHC pamphlet "Temptations to Home Educating Families" has a discussion of this idea. In summary, we encourage men to lead their families by leading the whole family to prayer concerning decisions such as vacations, selection of curriculum, job changes, moves, etc. into family prayer projects. After praying together for God's wisdom, each family member can be encouraged to pray individually. Fathers can then ask each one if God has spoken. Fathers are not to ask children what they want , but to be prepared for God to speak to any one. Through this process, father can teach children (by example) how to seek the Lord in making decisions. The process also brings unity to the family when pressures arise (e.g. a vacation gone astray) because all can know that they are doing what God told the whole family to do and fight against the devil and not each other.

Taking one or more subjects

Home schooling fathers should take at least one subject for each child. This is the only way to understand how a child learns and how he reacts or rebels. Any subject can be used. Remember not to restrict the range of subjects to "school" subjects of math, English, history and so forth. Two criteria should be used for fathers to pick a subject (or subjects).

  1. Fathers should pick a subject(s) in which they have expertise. This might be math or it might be composition. It could also be brick laying, plumbing or business management. There are two common sources of subjects in which fathers have expertise, career skills and hobbies. These are easily and often overlooked.
  2. A subject(s) should be chosen which is not pure fun so that the father has the opportunity to learn how the child responds when the going gets difficult or when the assignments are not something the child wants to do. This allows the father to teach the child how to respond and work through difficult subject topics.

In our experience, if fathers do not take any subjects, they cannot understand either the way their children learn or the comments their wives make about the way the children learn and respond to instruction.

Entering Spiritual Warfare

Father's can lead their families by entering into spiritual warfare for their wives and children. This can take a number of forms depending upon the situation. For example:

Entering into spiritual warfare is more likely when fathers take at least one or more subjects or are otherwise closely involved in the day to day learning process because they will encounter the necessity to fight the spiritual battle, not just the natural one.

Always Learning

Fathers can lead their families by example by always learning. First and foremost, this means learning more of the things of God. Practical ways to keep learning are daily Bible reading, family discussions of Biblical principles and Christian life, and learning from others in the Body of Christ. In our culture, families and households are very isolated from each other, seldom having more than the most rudimentary understanding of how other families function. With the pressures of time on men, active initiative is required to learn from other men and families.

In our experience, most of us have vague misguided notions that all of our friends have daily home schooling lives which are models of peace, order, and contentment. The truth is that if we get closer to the daily challenges and joys of other families, we are in a better position to learn from them and to help them.

Men can encourage their wives to arrange to spend normal working days with other families from time to time in order to teach other mothers and to be taught. When men are with other home schooling fathers, they need be disciplined to talk about home schooling, character development, the spiritual life of their homes, and long term goals and plans. Men can be so trapped by the cultural norms of restricting conversation to sports, hobbies, work, or even politics, that we lose the blessing God has given us in the Body of Christ. Most men have a misguided notion that all other men are spiritual giants so far above them that they should not demonstrate their ignorance by entering into discussions about family and spiritual matters. This is obviously nonsense.

Long term Planning

Fathers can lead their families by considering long term planning. Long term planning means thinking about the direction of the family unit and each child in the next 5, 10, or 20 years. Fathers simply need to consider what steps today will be important for future years. This is a matter for serious prayer asking God for direction and plans.

Apprenticeship / Education

Fathers can lead their families by actively planning for apprenticeship and education for each child. When we don't think about apprenticeship or higher education until a child is 16 or 17, we suddenly have a difficult task ahead of us and little time to think about it. We can prepare better when we start thinking about long term apprenticeship or education goals when children are still young. This allows us to make many small decisions along the way which prepare the way. For example, if we believe that the direction a child will take is to start a business or work in a family business, we can start with small tasks or business ideas as they grow up so that by the time they are 16-18, they have experience and are ready to make clear and productive decisions about how to proceed.

Much of our cultural tradition prepares children to move far away from home, starting with going away to college and developing friendships and business contacts with people who live far away. We believe that we should try to part with this cultural separation of families. We must be prepared for God to instruct us or our children to go anywhere on earth in His service. We do want to avoid unnecessary separation of our families just because everyone else in our culture does so. When God initiates the separation, the whole family will be blessed.

Loving a wife as
Christ loved the church

Perhaps the most important way to lead a family by example and to instruct children by example is for a man to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, giving his life up for Her. Much has been written about this subject. Here we offer one simple way to think about it - men must give up their own desires and selfish wants. When we seek first the Kingdom of God, all these things are added to us.

Footnotes

  1. Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Copyright by Earl & Diane Rodd