August 4


What to Do When Your Husband Refuses to Lead Your Family Spiritually

By Anna Joy

August 4, 2016

What can you do if your husband refuses to lead your family spiritually?

Now, obviously this is going to be an issue if your husband is unsaved. And, many women are raising their children by themselves and do not have a husband to look to for spiritual leadership. In these cases, the wife must assume this role herself.

But, what about the wife who is married to a Christian man who is refusing to “step up”?

What can you do if your husband refuses to lead your family spiritually? Here are 6 Biblical responses for the Christian wife when this occurs.| Path Through the Narrow Gate

Here’s the scenario: You have been convicted about the importance of family devotions. So you approach your husband. Since he’s a Christian, you’re sure that he will feel just as strongly about family devotions as you do.

I mean, after all, you want to start teaching your kids God’s Word. How could he disagree?

So, you approach him and ask him if he will start leading your family in devotions. And he brushes you off.

Maybe he scoffs at the idea or uses a feeble excuse to explain why he can’t lead in family devotions.

Maybe he agrees to lead family devotions – but never follows through.

Maybe he agrees and reads from the devotional that you purchased, but does so in a completely begrudging way that clearly communicates to you and your kids that he doesn’t want to be doing this right now.

Dear sister-in-Christ whose husband is refusing to be a spiritual leader in your home, I want you to know that you are not alone.

Not only did this issue surface over and over again on a recent survey, I have also experienced these struggles in my own home. And I know how easy it is for us to become frustrated, bitter, and disillusioned with our husbands in this area.

I also firmly believe that there is only one thing that Satan would prefer more than to see our husbands not leading our families spiritually – and that is to see our husbands not leading and us wives becoming bitter, angry, self-righteous, and resentful about it.

Satan would love to use something like family devotions as a starting block for tearing apart our marriages and families.

Please don’t allow that to happen!

6 Things to Do When Your Husband Refuses to Be a Spiritual Leader in Your Family

1. Pray about it.

Before you do anything else, bring this matter to God in prayer.

God alone can change hearts. He can change your heart and He can change your husband’s heart. So, pray and ask God for wisdom and grace as you discuss this sensitive issue with your husband.

3 Ways to Pray for Your children's spiritual leaders 1

2. Re-evaluate your definition of “Spiritual Leader”

Before you pass judgement on your husband, slow down and look for the ways that he IS being a spiritual leader in your home. 

Recognize that men teach children differently than women. Many men are not comfortable sitting on a couch and talking about the Bible. They just don’t operate that way as naturally as most women do.

Most men are not going to spend thirty minutes online reading reviews in order to find the perfect toddler storybook Bible.

Many men are not going to feel comfortable singing hymns with their kids.

Men are much more likely to teach as they work and play.

Is your husband talking to your son about spiritual things while they are running an errand to the hardware store? Is he discussing the pros and cons of life choices, and what the Bible has to say about them, as he jogs with your teenage daughter? Is he leading your family in prayer each evening before dinner?

If so, he is being a spiritual leader in your home.

Recognize this, and thank him for his faithfulness in teaching your kids God’s Word.

What can you do if your husband refuses to lead your family spiritually? Here are 6 Biblical responses for the Christian wife when this occurs.| Path Through the Narrow Gate

3. Examine your expectations

What are your expectations of a “spiritual leader”? What do you wish your husband would do? Are your expectations realistic?

For example, if you want him to come up with a 30 minute devotional each night after a long day at work, your expectations may be a bit too high. Put yourself in his shoes, and examine your expectations.

4. Talk About It

Many times, our husbands don’t know what we are asking them to do when we ask them to “lead” in family devotions. And, when they don’t know what we want of them, they have a tendency to shut down.

After you have defined your own expectations, bring them to your husband in a submissive and gentle way. Ask him if he would be interested in leading your family in devotions and explain to him exactly what you think that might look like. 

Ask him if that format or time is good for him – and be willing to change if it is not. Ask him if he would like you to find a devotional, and what his criteria for a good devotional is. Ask him if he would like you to choose a Bible passage each day so that he doesn’t have to do that in the evening.

Be willing to help him in any way that you can.

Recognize that, as you approach your husband with this request, he may already be feeling convicted about family devotions. And, if he is, he may hear your request as a verbalization of his failure in this area and may immediately go on the defensive.

Be extremely sensitive and careful to approach him in a way that does not make him feel like a failure.

What can you do if your husband refuses to lead your family spiritually? Here are 6 Biblical responses for the Christian wife when this occurs.| Path Through the Narrow Gate

5. Let it Go

If your husband is completely uninterested in family devotions, let it go.

I know that this is difficult! I know that you feel that you are on the spiritual high ground here and that you need to press this issue for the good of your family.

But, if you have gently approached your husband about this, if he knows that this is important to you, and yet he does not want to be involved in any way, let it go.

I know, I KNOW, that you feel that family Bible study is important to your family. I couldn’t agree more!

But, your husband doesn’t share your conviction at this point. And, dear sister, you cannot change his heart.

At the end of the day, this is a heart issue between your husband and God. And, while you are affected by his decisions, you are not the mediator between him and God.

So, let it go. Find a way that you can teach your kids about the Bible by yourself.

You DO NOT have the responsibility to force your husband into a “spiritual leadership” role. You DO have the responsibility to protect your own heart from anger, disappointment, and bitterness.

If you find yourself becoming bitter toward your husband because he refuses to be involved, change your family devotions time to a time when your husband is not present.

Then, let it go.

prayer journal fea

6. Pray and pray some more.

If your husband is refusing to be a spiritual leader in your family, you have only one recourse. But, it is the most powerful recourse in the universe.


Bring your husband and your family before God in prayer. Pray that God would convict your husband and change his heart.

Pray that God would protect you from anger, bitterness, and self-righteousness in your marriage relationship.

Pray that God would give you a quiet, submissive heart that would refrain from nagging or rubbing in your husband’s faults.

Pray that God would help you to see and focus on your husband’s strengths and accomplishments rather than his weaknesses and failures.

Pray that God would work in your children’s hearts and help them to value the Bible and God above anything else in this world.

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer!

How about you? Have you struggled in this area? Do you have any thoughts, ideas, or questions? I would love to hear from you! Please scroll down to comment.

And, if you liked this post, please help me by sharing it. Scroll down and click on the share bar below. I really appreciate it!

May God bless you!

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  1. I very much appreciated this post from a few years ago. In our case, my husband was a minister to students and had no problem reading the Bible to and with the kids he worked with, praying for and with them, listening to their struggles, or letting them know how God was dealing with him and speaking to him personally. But he blatantly refused to do anything more than pray with me. He would not speak to me about anything going on in his spiritual life, and angrily refused to read the Bible with me when I came to him in brokenness and humility. The bewilderment I felt because of his negligence is absolutely indescribable. I cannot relay the depth of hurt and betrayal I felt with his rejection of this relationship. It would be unquestionably understandable if he had no prior training and no experience, but he had years of experience before I met him and had friendships with godly men he openly admired. I begged God to set me free of wishing for this kind of relationship between us, and He has. Sometimes my husband shares written devotions with me and asks for prayer about his health, work or our children. But we have never had the oneness I had so longed for, and I can honestly say that it’s okay. God is now my Leader in every way. I still pray for my husband and hope he has a gloriously close and intimate relationship with God, but whether he does or not, it no longer breaks my heart. He is God’s, and he is God’s to grow. I have Jesus. I have everything!

  2. Thank you for this article! It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this struggle. I like the idea of doing the family worship with the kids when the husband is not home, if you want him to lead but he is not leading. I find that it minimizes the bitterness towards my husband. And thank you for the reminder to pray and bring this issue up to God.

  3. I appreciated this article! It was a great reminder that men do things differently. Not WRONG, just different. I remember holding this truth close to my heart when we had our first child–daddies to things differently, and had forgotten it over the years. Thanks for the good reminder!

  4. Thank you for this. My heart is hurting as my husband and I have been married for 12 years and still are not on the same spiritual walk. He goes to church and read God’s word, and I have seen change in him. However, I desperately want him to lead me and our boys. I don’t know what else to do but pray for God to lay this on his heart and to guard my heart against bitterness and resentment.

  5. Thank you so much for this post Anna Joy. I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear this. I love my husband very much and he is a Christian. But when I told him about how I wanted to start doing family devotionals he pretty much told me that it didn’t sound like something he wanted to do at all.

    I was pretty taken back by that because it’s another way that we can help our children learn about God. But I also was starting to feel resentful and bitter towards him. I don’t get it. It still really hurts and I am still sad about it. But, I do realize that I just need to let it go and maybe do family devotionals with just me and my kids. I just pray he will come around one day.

    Do you have any good family devotional recommendations for families with littles? I have a 3 year old and an 8 month old. I know my youngest isn’t going to get much out of it yet, but mostly something that would be great for a preschooler? Thanks for your suggestions and for this encouraging article. I really appreciate it. 🙂 God bless!

    1. Sarah, my kids enjoyed Susan Hunt’s My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts and The Beginner’s Bible at that age. We would just read the short little lessons, which is perfect for short attention spans. We also enjoyed The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyed Jones, but that is better for ages six and up (in my opinion). The Beginner’s Bible also has some fun sticker and activity books. My son loved doing those in the morning while I had my own quiet time in God’s Word. I hope that helps. May God bless you!

  6. Anna Joy, thank you for publishing this. I appreciate your kindness in saying that in the end it may be a heart issue between my husband and God. My responsibility has been to teach and model for my children about loving and following God, pray for my husband, and care for my own heart. You gave a good reminder to weed out the anger, bitterness, and disappointment that have gone along with the failed promises of spiritual leadership. God bless!

  7. Great post! I would also add…do the Bible study and devotions with your children anyway! Our husband’s unwillingness doesn’t absolve us of the God given responsibility we have to teach our children of God and His ways. Ive seen so many instances of this where the women didn’t end up doing the devotions either, almost as if dictating orders to her husband was more the motivation than actually doing the Bible studies. Many times when our husbands aren’t leading, it’s because we wives aren’t letting them, but instead want things done our own way.

  8. soo powerful, pray that we have more who will assume their responsibility of spiritual leadership in the homes. I’m encouraged to continue to lead my family.

  9. Great advice & perfectly timed! Thank you!

    Years back when I first read, ‘ created to be his help meet’ by debi pearl, she wrote on this prevalent problem. One thing she said that stuck with me was that it’s better to have a husband & father to your kids that doesn’t lead spiritually than to push him away with your bitterness & self righteousness & become a single mom, lonely who realizes the good man she really had. Time for more gratitude & praying & less complaining!

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