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The 5 Temptations of a Church Leader, Husband & Dad

Almost all of us lead in at least two areas of our lives: at work and at home.

Personally, I’ve been a husband to Toni for 24 years, a dad for 22 years (raising two pretty amazing sons (ages 22 and 18)), and a church leader for 19 years (this week!).

All of them have been incredibly rewarding. And each of them has had its challenges. And each area has had its temptations.

But if you’re a church leader, you probably also realize there are unique challenges to leading at church and leading at home. And some unique temptations.


holding hands


Orange—The Colour of Leaders and Families

No organization has helped me navigate the complexity of family better than Orange. They call it Orange because red+yellow is a far more vibrant colour than just red or yellow, just like family+church is a far more powerful combination than just church or family.

Reggie Joiner, who leads Orange, is not only one of my best friends, but also someone who understands the leadership issues in church and the leadership/relational issues at home better than anyone I know. He has helped me navigate so many of the tensions I talk about in this post.

This week also happens to be Orange Conference week, when over 5000 leaders from across North America and around the world will gather in Atlanta to talk church and family. If you’ve never been, you have no idea what an incredible time of fun, challenge, strategy and personal growth you might be missing.

To Orange conference week started, I thought I’d offer a personal post on 5 temptations I’ve experienced being a church leader, husband and dad.

5 Temptations of a Church Leader, Dad and Husband

I could probably list a lot more than five temptations, but these are the five I either find myself talking to church leaders about most, or think I should talk to church leaders about more. And they’re the five I’ve felt or experienced.

Church leadership is emotional. It’s personal. It combines what you believe with who you are and what you do, and throws your family and community into the mix, which is why it can seem so complicated at times. (I wrote more about the emotional side of ministry here.)

So what do you do about it? Just keep your thinking and your heart clear. Keep praying. Keep getting wise counsel around you. Stay humble. Stay transparent. Stay as obedient as possible in every moment.

Here are 5 temptations I’ve experienced being a church leader, dad and a husband:


1. You’ll be tempted to lead better at work than at home.

I know lots of people talk about how important is to lead at home, but let’s be honest. It’s just easier to lead at church.

I think this is especially true for male leaders. There is some truth to the fact that men crave respect, and it’s generally easy to get respect at work. Easier, at least, than it is to earn respect.

When you come home drained at the end of the day, it’s easy to think you can just coast or even receive.

But you can’t.

Love is about giving more than it is about getting. It’s about serving, not being served. And key to a healthy marriage and family life are spouses and parents who serve, who love, who give.

I think many church leaders are tempted to work harder on leadership at church than they are on their leadership at home. And yet if your homelife dissolves, you lose so much. In ministry, it often means you step back from what you’ve worked so hard to create.

One day you will retire from work. But you will never retire from family.

If you want to start leading better around the house (it’s a constant-improvement goal of mine), I wrote this post outlining 5 surprisingly easy ways to lead better at home to get you started.


2. You’ll be tempted to engineer your child’s life.

In the same way that almost every parent is tempted to engineer their child’s life from choosing a career, As a church leader, there’s pressure to want to engineer your child’s faith life.

I have said it many times over. I want nothing more than for my children to be in a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.

And you can be tempted to try to make that happen. You certainly can and should influence their decision. After all, you are the greatest influence in your child’s life. But you can’t make them love God.

Think back to your own journey. There was a point at which you believed, and then didn’t and then believed again. A time where you questioned anything. But at the end of the journey, you embraced your heavenly father freely.

Sometimes God seems more okay with letting people taking their own journey than we do.

Your kids have their own journey. Help them take it. But don’t try to take it for them.


3. You’ll be tempted to give your kids no private space to make mistakes.

Your kids aren’t perfect (neither are you for that matter). They’re going to make mistakes.

But when they do, you won’t know what to do. In fact you might start telling people about it.

Please don’t. I mean maybe talk to your best friend or trusted advisor. But please give your kids space make mistakes privately.

The gossip mill is terrible. The last thing your 14 year old needs is a hundred eyes staring at her on the Sunday after the Friday she messed up.  Protect your child’s dignity.

I wince inside when parents tell me they have three kids “two of whom are walking with the Lord and one of whom isn’t.”

First of all, do you really know that? And secondly, even if you did, why are you telling me that…or anyone outside of your inner circle?”

Sure, I understand those parents might be speaking out of their pain or out of their fear…but really, pray about it more than you talk about it.

And build a relational bridge to your kids. Talking about them like that when they are not in the room is not the best way to start that. Love them unconditionally.

Love attracts. Judgment alienates.


 4. You will be tempted to want your family to do well for your sake, not theirs.

The pressure we put on family can be too intense at times for everyone’s sake.

You will be tempted to want your kids to do well not for their sake, but for yours. Resist that.

When you’re tempted to want your kids and family to do well not just for their sake, but for yours, it’s almost always tied to pride. Your pride. My pride. It’s sinful, but easy, to be more concerned about your reputation than you are concerned for them.

This is true when your kids succeed as well as when they fail.

If you’re posting every single accomplishment of your kids to Facebook, you should eventually look in the mirror and ask whether that’s really about them or whether it’s about you.


5. You’ll be tempted to let your marriage slide…but at least you’re not divorced, right?

One of the best gifts you can give to your children is a great marriage.

I have heard it said numerous times (and believe) kids need you to know you love each other even more than they need to know you love them.  When you don’t love each other, it creates an insecurity in them.

Far too many couples today overfocus on their kids and underfocus on each other.

It’s just too easy to let your marriage slide and focus on the kids and on work, but that’s a mistake.

Why? You’ll drift apart. You’ll want to be served rather than to serve. And eventually, your spouse will no longer see Christ in you. You may not get divorced, but you have little to celebrate or enjoy. And everyone will suffer for it, including you. And especially your kids. Plus your church and community.

And please don’t go on about how awesome you are at church and how capable you are there (having tried that, I promise you it’s a dead end).

When your spouse can’t see Christ in you, it matters little what others think they can see in you.

And isn’t home the ultimate test anyway? It’s always hardest at home. Because people see through it all and see you really are.  Conversely, when you work on your character and faith at home, it will spill out into every other area of your life.

The good news is no matter where you’re at, there’s hope.

Toni and I went through a very difficult season in our marriage and talk about it together here. Having come through to the other side, there is so much to celebrate. Today, our marriage isn’t perfect, but it is amazing.

A great marriage is one of the best gifts you can give your kids, and your congregation. Not to mention yourself and each other.

Those are the five temptations I’ve experienced in ministry and life. What about you?

Any temptations you’ve experienced navigating church and home as a leader?

Leave a comment!


  1. on September 4, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    You could definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write.
    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to
    mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 5, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks Vicky!

  2. […] The 5 Temptations Of A Church, Leader, Husband & Dad by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  3. John Friesen on May 3, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Great one Carey! Painfully true in my own life… but hopeful that I can still learn and by God’s grace, lead at home and in ministry.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 3, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Me too John. Thanks. Hope you are well. —
      Sent from Mailbox

  4. Links I Like | on April 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    […] 5 temptations every church leader, dad and husband face. […]

  5. Lee A Snyder on April 29, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Ow! Have you been living my life? Hard to hear even harder to change patterns that have been well established.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Thanks. The best time to make a cuange is yesterday. The second best day to change is today. — Sent from Mailbox

  6. […] Carey Nieuwhof Almost all of us lead in at least two areas of our lives: at work and at home. Personally, […]

  7. Mark Weaver on April 28, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    guilty. guilty. guilty. guilty. guilty.

    Thanks for your tranpsarency, really allowed me to examine my life and family.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 28, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks for your transparency Mark.  Honest people have the greatest chance of being transformed people. — Sent from Mailbox

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