Good leadership requires clear communication. Can you imagine a general leading his troops into battle and not giving them clear marching orders? Or the plan of attack? Or intel that would help them be successful completing their mission? When Jesus ascends to reign at the right hand of the Father, he gives a clear mission: “Go teach—making disciples and baptizing all nations.”
As leaders in our home, we must not fail to do the same. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way—by not communicating clearly—and it’s something I still must intentionally put effort into. Because all that God has done for us, we are “in Christ Jesus” and so have his mindset (Phil. 2:5). That, not guilt or shame, is our fuel for leading our home and don’t underestimate the transformative power of sacrificial love. It never leaves you the same. It always overflows its banks.
In my own quest to lead my family well, I’ve found four types of communication key to strong leadership. Think of them as techniques used by a master artist seeking to create a beautiful mosaic. There are horizontal and vertical aspects to each. There are general and personal. And when integrated together in your home, they cultivate love and sacrifice.
FIRST, WE MUST REGULARLY REPENT.
Martin Luther penned the 95 Theses in response to the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. Famously, theses number one states, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” The entire life of believers to be one of repentance. Not part of life. Not just for pastors. Not just at work. All of life. That includes our home. A good leader will have consistent and clear communication with those he is leading and a major part of that communication must include repentance.
The extent to which we repent to our wife and children will directly set the stage for the tone of our leadership and for the rest of the communication. Getting used to repenting requires a good measure of humility. Something few of us have naturally. Thankfully as I noted earlier from Philippians, Paul says the humility and servant-mindset of Jesus is ours because of our unbreakable union with Him. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore doesn’t expel Harry and Ron after they break school rules to save Ron’s sister Ginny even though he threatened to after an earlier infraction. Dumbledore says, “‘Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words’” (“Dobby’s Reward”). Men, don’t be afraid to eat your words when you are wrong. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to tell my daughter’s, “Dad, was a jerk. I was wrong.” Or “My discipline was off. My attitude was way off. Will you forgive me?”
SECOND, WE CENTER OUR HOMES ON SCRIPTURE.
You might have expected this, but you cannot lead your home well without placing Scripture at the core of your communication. God speaks and we must listen. God speaks and we must share that with our families. We must encourage them to read His words on their own. We must encourage them to fill their heart with his words and the Word.
This communication should include reading Scripture. That cannot be substituted; on the other hand, reading Scripture once a day with our family does not fulfill our duties. We must include Scripture in our daily liturgy (routine)—as we walk, talk, eat, etc. This may include answering questions our family has. It may include telling or reading a good story. It may include formal or informal catechesis. There are a variety of ways Scripture can be communicated in our home. It should start with basic reading and explaining and flower into the other areas mentioned.
THIRD, WE EXPRESS DEPENDANCE ON GOD THROUGH PRAYER.
There is nothing on this list more difficult for me than prayer. Pride is the root of not praying. We feel as though we don’t need God. We have our house, wife, two point five children, and dog. However, that point of view fails to acknowledge how much we need God for even our very breath.
I’ve just finished Timothy Keller’s new book Prayer which means this topic is fresh on my mind. I recommend this book for encouragement and further guidance. Keller roots his how-to in the historical methods of men like Augustine, John Owen, Calvin, and Luther and ultimately on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I want to make two points that will hopefully encourage you as you pursue God through prayer with your family. Riffing off John Calvin, Keller notes that our prayer will reflect our sense of God. We will not prayer rightly without a proper knowledge of God. That’s not meant to discourage us. We all pray wrongly in some sense which is why Paul’s words in Romans 8 are so encouraging. The Spirit comes alongside of us in our weakness and brings our prayers sanctified to our mediator Jesus Christ and He to the Father. However, this should also fuel our pursuit of knowing God. The better we know him the better we can pray. When you were dating your wife, you found out everything you could about her so that you could carry on a conversation with her. How difficult is it to get past the pleasantries and generalities when conversing with someone if you don’t know anything about them?
Second, Jesus exemplifies the Spirit-dependent life and yet he spends a great deal of time in prayer. In the Gospel narratives, Jesus stops to pray regularly. Now we don’t get to hear all his prayers, but the ones we do hear we should take note of. What’s striking to me is the way Jesus prays with simplicity (Lord’s prayer) and straightforwardness (the Garden prayer). The one is a simple prayer rooted in knowledge of God as our Father and the second is a frank prayer reminiscent of the Psalms where Jesus pours his heart out to the Father, but also ends with “Not my will, but yours.” May these basic truths encourage you as you pray and also as you study Scripture to seek to know more and more about our God—Father, Son, and Spirit.
FOURTH, CONSISTENT, ORDINARY COMMUNICATION MUST NOT BE NEGLECTED.
As I said to start, all of these communication create a beautiful mosaic. The consistent, ordinary communications must include repentance and Scripture and may often lead into times of prayer. However, I have found it wise to spend intentional time communicating our families values, goals, and plans for the week, month, and year ahead. Spend fifteen to thirty minutes at dinner and intentionally discuss what is coming ahead. Find out what’s happening with every member of the family. Once a month, lay out the game plan for that month. Let everyone know clearly what’s expected and what part they play. Encourage your children to participate in decision making and brainstorming. Treat them like image bearers who can contribute to the family’s creating and cultivating. Share the needs of the family and allow time for prayer. This time may or may not be connected with your more formal family worship. I think they naturally fit together. These times of consistent, ordinary communication prepare our children to lead their families well and show them the nuts and bolts of how that’s done. I’ve also found that my wife appreciates these times of communication and that when we do this well it prevents miscommunications and lessens arguments and hurt feelings due to poor communication. This isn’t a strict prescription; it’s a general guideline and help to provide grace for your family.
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These communications are work we do fueled by the Spirit, overflowed from the sacrificial love of Jesus, and rooted to the gift of faith given by the Father. And when you fail (and you will fail), don’t hesitant to repent and do so to God and to your family. Your failure and willingness to acknowledge that will do more for your family than you realize. It will point them to Jesus Christ as their only hope in life and death. They will see you for what you really are—a sinner saved by grace, someone striving to love God and their family in reliance on God.
Assistant Editor, Manual
Mathew is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He’s the Managing Editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He’s married to LeAnn and they have three daughters. They enjoy traveling, relaxing at the beach, and wandering in the woods. Mathew regularly blogs at Grace for Sinners and contributes to a number of other publications. The Sims are members at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.
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