I have one daughter who is one and a half years old. That being said, you can take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt because my experiences are quite limited thus far. One thing I do know however, is that God has called dads to be the primary shepherds of their children. I hope the following content may serve to encourage you and at least start as a jumping off point for you (if you're a dad) to assume the role of shepherd or for you (if you're a mom) to lovingly encourage your husband to lead.
It All Starts With Joy
First thing's first men. To lead, we must know where we're going. We have to have vision before we can go anywhere. That vision has to be one worth following. For us to have a vision worth following in shepherding our children, we need a bigger vision than we can obtain on our own. We must first have the vision God has for our family.
I'm becoming ever convinced that what John Piper has based his entire ministry on is where our focus should lie. "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever" (Piper, Desiring God, pg. 18). That's the secret. It's all about joy in God. If we are finding our ultimate fulfillment in God and our ultimate source of joy comes from God then out of us will flow into our families joy, delight, and fulfillment in God.
We first must be filled though. If we have nothing to pour out then we are dry. We have nothing to offer. This means that you, as a man, as the shepherd of your family, must first be meeting with, learning about, being filled by the Good Shepherd. He must fill you with joy and you must pursue Him with all you've got. If you need more instruction here then I'd suggest meeting with your pastor and asking him for help. He's also your shepherd and can give you good advice for knowing God more.
Start Small, But Spread Like a Virus
When it comes to taking on the role as shepherd, you have to start somewhere. If your kids are young like mine then it's going to feel easier. If you already have teens, then it may feel strange or odd, but you've got to embrace it! This is God's command for you to lead your family!
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21
The verses above show us this command from the Lord. We first see the command to glorify God by enjoying Him forever as we lay up His words in our hearts and souls. Then out of that flows the teaching to our children. When should we teach them? All the time. We talk with them when we're sitting in the house, walking (driving), when we're preparing for bed, and when we're having breakfast! This is so crucial because the government gets to pour into our kids the majority of week days, the church gets them for maybe 3-4 hours a week in comparison, and you as parents get them somewhere in between the school and the church. It's imperative we are always teaching our kids to glorify God by enjoying Him forever and God calls us as shepherd dads to be the primary person to do just that!
So you've not been doing it and your kid is a teen and it's awkward. Start small. Bring God up in a conversation one day and expect your kid not to talk back much. That's ok because this is new and they're not sure what to expect. As a youth pastor, there are times in my middle/high school guys small group where it's awkward. They can talk about sports all day, but they have to be trained to talk about God and His ways. As you do it once, it will get easier and they will learn that this is something you're going to do now. Please push through dad! It's worth it when we think about our children's eternities.
Then, start to spread it like a virus. If God is truly your joy then talking about Him will begin to come naturally. We talk about what we're passionate about. What do you talk about most often with your buddies? That's what you're most passionate about. I'll say it again, spread it like a virus. Everything is a spiritual conversation or can be.
Here are some examples:
"Did you know this athlete says he's a Christian? Do you think his life says that? What does the way you live your life say?"
If you happen to be under the stars one night. "Those stars are incredible aren't they? What does your science class teach you about how all these stars came to be? It seems pretty far fetched that all of this could be by chance, doesn't it?"
At a good meal: "Have you ever considered that this amazing food is a gift from God? Why do you think He would give us such good gifts? Have you ever considered that He gave us food to show us how good He is and that we're supposed to enjoy Him when we eat?"
We All Need Help
I would venture to say that none of us are perfect at this and it probably can feel a little awkward to all of us at least when starting out. I promise that the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. We have to start somewhere men! God will judge us for how we lead our families. That is a sobering realization.
Maybe this short article has convinced you. Here's an idea. Grab a friend and do it together! Not literally, but hold one another accountable, brainstorm ideas together, talk through struggles and failures together, and encourage one another. We need each other and the beauty of the church is that God hasn't put us on an island, but given us a community of like minded believers to spur one another toward good works.
Get Help in Good Books
My last encouragement for you is to read good books. Read good books that teach you more about who God is and what He desires. Read good books that help you with a biblical perspective on parenting. Read good books that show you what a godly shepherd looks like.
I've included a few books below as jumping off points, but definitely ask your pastor for good, biblical, trustworthy authors that you can dive more into. I know that as men, we desire to lead our families. God has wired us this way. Let's start now.
A Few Good Books:
Radical by David Platt
Desiring God by John Piper
Parenting by Paul Tripp
When I Don't Desire God by John Piper
This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe (especially good for teens)
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul