Who is the Spiritual Leader in a Mismatched Marriage?



Today we have a guest writer!!!

Lynn Donovan

Lynn Donovan is a speaker, author, and an ordinary woman who shares with audiences her everyday adventures of walking in the Presence of God. Her delight is igniting women’s hearts with Holy Spirit fire, inspiring wives and mothers to step fully into their high and holy calling of marriage and motherhood with joy, laughter and God’s favor. She has been featured guest on the 700 Club Interactive, Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk and FamilyLife Today. She coauthored the award winning book, Winning Him Without Words and also Not Alone, Trusting God to Help You Raise Godly Kids In a Spiritually Mismatched Marriage. She has a son and a daughter and a granddaughter. She lives with her husband in Temecula, California. Visit Lynn online at MismatchedAndThriving.com

Who Is the Spiritual Leader?

Our online community at www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com often tackles many of the unique and challenging areas of living in a spiritually mismatched union. One of the common struggles we face has to do with spiritual leadership.

The spiritual direction of our home is monumentally important. We all wrestle with how to handle this issue well. In my own marriage this was an area of great confusion for me. Many difficult questions troubled my mind, such as,

•          Do I wait for my husband to become a believer before setting the tone in our home for prayer and Bible reading?

•          If I take any initiative to teach my kids about faith, will my actions be perceived as disrespecting my husband?

•          Can I be the spiritual leader of our home and yet follow my husband’s lead in other areas of our marriage?

•          Will my kids listen to me if I’m not the head of the household?

•          Does leading spiritually make me the head of the household?

•          Am I up to the task of spiritual leadership all on my own?

Tell me that I haven’t been alone in this! If you, like I have been, are in the midst of this kind of confusion, today I want to set your feet on a path to freedom.

Many years ago I heard this statement:

If your husband is unwilling to lead spiritually or has abdicated his position as the spiritual leader of your home, then God expects you, the believing wife, to step into this role.

Upon hearing this single sentence, I felt the cloud of confusion lift from my soul, and freedom flooded my heart. I will add that if you are raising children as a single parent, God looks to you to step into this role as well. Somehow I guess I needed permission to become the leader for my kids, and it came with those words. What a relief. But how do we step into this role and do it well?

It begins with our motives. The effectiveness of our parenting and successful navigation of our marriage greatly increases when we consistently check our motives. I had to ask myself, “Does my desire for my husband to lead our home come from a place that is me-centered or Christ-centered?”

Let me be specific. Here are some of my thoughts from years past:

•          If only he would believe, he would help me get the kids ready for church.

•          My life would be so much easier if only he was a believer.

•          If he believed, I wouldn’t have to sit with each of the children tonight and pray with them. I wish he’d help.

•          Going to church alone is so embarrassing.

Okay, I know I’m not the only one to have had these kinds of thoughts. But there comes a time when we must move past ourselves and truly focus on what is Christlike. Motives born out of love and humility will move us to wake the kids on Sunday morning and take them to church, even if we must do it alone. Out of a loving heart, you can say to your husband, “Sweetie, watch the television without me for an hour. I’m going to go tuck the kids into bed and say bedtime prayers.”

There are many ways you can build respect for your man and still quietly lead your family closer to Christ. More than anything, I go back to the truth of 1 Peter 3:1: win them over without words. Win your kids, your husband, your friends, your neighbor and a world that is lost and broken. Win them over with your boundless, crazy, passionate, fervent, zealous and adoring love for Jesus.

When you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, over time it is irresistible to people.

And that’s a promise.


CONVERSATION: Have you struggled, wondering do I lead my kids in faith or do I wait?

See you in the comments. Have an amazing day.


Congratulations to Gina M – our winner of Monday’s giveaway (I emailed you)!

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. I have never waited for my husband to lead my children in worship or in their faith walk with God. I am always praying and asking God to guide me on how to raise my children. My husband and I are both christian, but I stay home with the children so I lead them in morning and evening worship, whether my husband is home or not.

    Peace to you and thanks for another wonderful giveaway.

  2. Wonderful Lynn! I never think about the “me” factor, I just want our family to be LED spiritually by the head of the home in God’s eyes. I also do not want my husband to stand accountable to God for what he didn’t do. I also know and believe that if my boys saw a greater faith and a bigger love for God in their Fathers life it would great influence them…much more than seeing it from me would I fear. 🙁 But this has told me what I too was seeking to find out…if he won’t do it, I will! I will lead prayer at the dinner table with my boys, and I will fight the battle of encouraging these young men to go to church with me again. Thanks for putting some wind back in my sails!

  3. My husband and I are both Christians. He went to church several times a week and went to a private Christian school as a child. My parents did raise me to believe in God at all. As I grew up, I became closer and closer to Him – more curious about the Word. As of now, my husband doesn’t lead our spiritual and faith walk as a family. He is extremely busy with work. I am a stay at home homeschool mom so I took the lead. I couldn’t wait. I wanted my daughter to know about God and begin her faith journey at a young age. I pray that I am doing what I need to be doing. I question myself at times. I still feel like I am unqualified to teach her about the Bible, because I am still learning myself. We learn together. Thank you for sharing this post.

    1. Alicia – thank you for this question. Tomorrow’s post will be addressing this very question – so please come back for her final post tomorrow.

      Lots of Love,

  4. Please answer Alicia’s question as I have the same question – What do you do when the kids say “why do I have to go to church when daddy doesn’t”? And thanks for the invent your own option on the giveaway. Those of us who don’t use facebook, twitter, pinterest, or any other social media appreciate the chance to be included.

    1. I don’t know if this helps at all, but I have been asked that question by my son. Actually, it was my stepson who is only with us on weekends. What I told him was, “My job as your stepmother is to help your mom make sure that you are healthy, happy and that you grow up to be a good person. Part of taking care of you means that I show you your prayers and teach you about God. If I don’t take you to church with me, I’m not being fair to you and I’m not doing my job.” My then-8yo just gave me a funny look and then we finished getting ready.

      It also helps me tremendously that my own parents are church-goers so my children know that their grandfather goes to church every Sunday and when they are with them on vacation they go every Sunday as well.

    2. Susan – Lynn will be answering this very question tomorrow in her final blog post – so please stop back tomorrow and I pray it encourages you.
      Lots of Love,

  5. My house is spiritually mismatched in a different way. My husband was never raised with religion, but has always wanted to know about God and to learn the Bible. I was raised Lutheran, being baptized and confirmed in a Lutheran church and attending a Lutheran school for 6 years. So when my husband and I first met and chose to explore churches together, it was natural for us to find a Lutheran church based on our religious experiences. We found a church we loved, became members, he was baptized there, we were married there, and our two children were baptized there. Last fall, my husband blindsided me (and our family and many others) and left the church and immediately became a member of a local non-denominational church. He asked me and the children to follow him, actually it was more like he insisted we do so, and became frustrated when I told him we were not going to be following him. We had a complete downfall in our marriage as he began putting this church and studying the Bible before his family, or at least that’s how it seemed. He threw out scripture every chance he got about our flaws, and even admitted he feared I would not be saved because my heart was not given to the Lord like he felt it should be. In the 6 years we’ve been parents, he has never prayed with the children or even helped get them ready for church, but then all of a sudden he wanted to become the spiritual leader of our home. However, he was to be the leader 100%, which meant following his lead to this new church, believing the Bible in the way he is being taught, and changing to the faithful family he wants us to be. Obviously our marriage is strained by our differences in religion, faith, and beliefs, and although it’s gotten better as we’ve learned to live with him at one church and the kids and I at another, I know our problems are far from over.

    1. Alicia, do you ‘hear’ what you’re saying? “..as he began putting this church and studying the Bible before his family…” In Luke 14:26-33, Jesus himself tells us how to be a disciple. It appears that your husband is obeying scripture, but because this has upset the status quo (your “religious experiences”) you are kicking against the goads. Acts 9:5 What is the spiritual authority in your life? Is it the word of God, or is it religious tradition? If it is the latter, you are standing on shifting sand. The word of God is a solid rock, based on God. Religious tradition, on the other hand, is based on man. Your husband may not be doing everything “right,” but it appears he’s doing what some of us greatly long for — husbands who take the spiritual lead. God is more than able to teach him and correct him, especially if he has a wife who supports him through prayer and godly living. Don’t be so stuck in your religious tradition that you miss this great blessing. Your rebellion is teaching your kids volumes.

      1. You may long for what I’m experiencing, until you experience it. When I say he put the church and Bible before his family, I wasn’t expressing anger at his wanting to know the Word. However, when Wednesday night comes and your husband walks out the door because it’s Bible study time and you’re home with two children, or when your husband is actually home but has locked himself in his room to read Scripture while you’re doing homework with your 6-year-old and trying to entertain your 2-year-old, or when he goes to church Sunday mornings and then still has to have a Skype session with his pastor on Sunday night, I’m guessing you would find anger as well. (Let me also mention that my husband works 40 hours a week and goes to school 4 nights a week, and I work weekends, so our family time is very, very limited.) When this began, my husband would’ve stopped the world to make sure he didn’t miss a thing going on at his church. It has gotten better, but there are still moments it’s frustrating. Not to mention the hurt that we are no longer worshiping as a family. I’m not rebelling against him finding the word, but to up and leave what we had as a family, without any type of warning or discussion, created an ultimate distrust for my husband. I know the Word of the Lord is our authority, and I don’t believe any denomination or non-denomination is correct, but I also believe the Word of the Lord is interpreted in many various ways and not agreeing to believe in something because “that’s how Pastor explained it” or “because that’s how it’s written” shouldn’t make me any less of a Christian. Yes, I may be wanting religious tradition by wanting my children to be raised in the Lutheran faith, as what was chosen for them by me and my husband when they were baptized. I don’t feel I should be expected to give up all I believe in because he has decided to now be a spiritual leader. I am continuing to lead my children to the Lord as I have been doing since they were born and I will prepare them for the day when they will make their own decision of how to believe and how to worship.

        1. Alicia, you sound like a devoted wife and mother. I hear your frustration and I do understand. Actually, my kids are 15 and 18, so I have to remind myself of your season of life and how overwhelming it is most of the time. Your husband does have a responsibility to you and his family, but first to God. Marriage is ultimately a testimony to those outside the church of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride, the body of believers. When you married your husband, you covenanted to “leave and cleave.” This means, you follow his spiritual leadership. According to your words, he’s in a Christian church. Not Islam, not Mormon, etc. So even though it’s not familiar to you or comfortable for you, as his wife, you need to follow his spiritual leading. I don’t suggest that it will be easy, but I hope you will pray about this and follow his lead. I will be praying for your family!

        2. Alicia,

          I agree with Susan. You should follow your husband’s leadership as head of the family and go where it is he would like you all to worship together. According to you, he is a part of the Christian faith and not something that is anti-Christ. He sounds like he is super hungry and thirsty for spiritual nourishment and perhaps he felt he wasn’t receiving what he needed at your first place of worship. He may not have taken on the spiritual leadership in the home the way you envisioned, in fact, how he went about it may seem to be all “wrong,” especially since you began your journey together as Lutherans.
          However, as Christian wives, we still have an obligation to God’s Word to submit to our husbands in everything as unto the Lord (Eph. 5:22). It isn’t easy, it won’t always seem fair, many times it feels like there is just no possible way to do this. But, none of those feelings mean that we still shouldn’t follow God’s Word to submit to our husbands, even when they are incredibly frustrating. I once read somewhere that when God called the Christian wife to submit to her husband, He knew her husband was flawed. God knows and He is ultimately in control, if only we would trust Him.
          I would encourage you to pray about this as well, casting aside your stance that since you started as Lutherans, that is how you must remain. I encourage you to pray about the message you both are sending your children. You may feel like your husband is in error and that it is clear to your children. But what is also clear to them is that you have a choice in this matter as well: to either dig your heels in the opposite direction of your husband, or to yield to him, or at least give it an honest try. Pray that God would work on your heart, that He would open your heart and your eyes to understand how your husband is leading. It doesn’t mean you will agree or see eye-to-eye right away. But sometimes an understand of “why” and “how” make all the difference. God is able to bring you clarity in the midst of what you may see as confusion. And also, pray for your husband, not that God would change his mind, but the God would lead Him and show him how to be the husband and father that is best for your family. Be encouraged! God is able!

          1. I understand both you and your husband. I was not a God-follower when I first met my husband; my husband introduced me to my one true love and I haven’t left His side since. I experienced much of what your husband is experiencing. I experienced the never-ending thirst for the Word. I wanted to find leadership wherever I could find it, especially because my husband could not provide it. He was a church-goer but didn’t have that personal relationship with the Lord that I was starting to experience.

            This connection that I felt, I couldn’t explain to anybody. I simply kept feeling Him call me closer and closer, higher and higer, deeper and deeper. My husband thought I was demon-possessed. I am not, I assure you. Have you ever hungered for the Lord that much? Have you had an endless thirst for His Word and understanding? I pray that for you because then you may stop using the measuring stick against your husband and look inward. Your jealousy is not about the time he is spending away. Aren’t you really jealous of God?

            I did much of what your husband has done to you. I’m not saying it was right but it was such a strong conviction of God’s Word that I just could not hold it in. That is called the work of the Holy Spirit within Him. The Word, as you already know, changes you as you “renew your mind” with it. It changes who you are, what you are, how you approach things, and how you treat everyone around you. Suddenly, you can’t stand the sight of sin. He may not be going about it the right way but I recognize all the signs of a man in love. He is in love with the Lord. I recognize it because I am still in it to win it. I will follow the Lord even if my husband doesn’t agree. Jesus said it best in Matthew 10:34-36 –
            Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.

            God is the priority, not us. It is His will, not ours. I challenge you to yell at God if you have to but let the Lord lead you in opening your eyes to what you’re not seeing. You’re so busy looking inward that you are not looking up. My husband and I are still having challenges but I will tell you this, when I put the Lord first, He has worked out our differences little by little because after all, He is not after our happiness but first and foremost, our holiness. [Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.] It has not been easy but I believe Him when He says that He works everything out for our good. We’re not there yet but I will keep believing in the one who can’t lie. The sooner you submit to GOD, the faster you will start to see changes in your life.

            Is it right for your husband to ignore you? No. You are his first ministry. You have a right to feel like you should be a priority and that your family should be….just watch who you’re trying to compete against. This isn’t the neighbor down the street. It is the Creator of the Universe. Who do you think is going to win this fight for your husband?

            It looks like he wants to lead, he especially wants to do it the right way. It takes time to sort through all the stuff that you learn and it takes time to not make mistakes practicing it. Give him some of that patience God calls us all to have and try a little grace. Prayer does wonders, as does confession. I encourage you to yell and scream, cry and throw a tantrum in front of God…then listen to what He tells you and take it from there.

            He is not being led by a cult. He is not trying to be abusive. God does not do things how we expect. I will say a prayer for your family and hope that you both can look up to God and then prioritize the rest according to God’s Word.

            Blessings to you.

    2. It sounds like your husband has been drawn into a church-cult. Those who didn’t grow up in that environment assume that the cult members are simply making church & Bible study a priority, when in fact they are using what should be positive things to manipulate or condemn others.

      The Holy Spirit gives us discernment, and if you feel something is off or wrong about your husband’s sudden change, pay close attention to that.

      You may find your husband will try to assert more & more “spiritual authority” to the point of trying to micro-manage & control every detail of your life. It may even escalate to spiritual abuse (frankly, it sounds as if he’s already there), mental abuse, and/or physical abuse.

      Please take whatever precautions you need to in order to keep yourself & your children safe. Talk to your own pastor & let him or her know just how radical the changes in your husband are.

    3. Alicia,

      It sounds very much like your husband is seeking the Lord and his pastor’s guidance on how to be the spiritual leader of your home. The quick change, while a shock to you, may have actually be a while in the making. I encourage you to stay under the covering of your husband, as he stays under the covering of the Lord. I don’t usually respond to posts, but I strongly feel I am to tell you “You are being moved into a new season of peace and joy. Trust me. I will work all things together for your good. Rest in Me. I’ve got this. I’m raising up your husband into a position of leadership within my kingdom where my blessings will be abundant. Walk with him, daughter, and trust ME to hold your family.”

      Trust in the Lord, and lean not on your own understanding. Do not let a spirit of religion destroy your marriage and family. If there is strife and confusion, Satan is worming his way in. Stomp on that devil and don’t give him a stronghold in or over your family and marriage. You are angry about the perceived sudden changes, but I encourage you to support your husband’s lead and efforts to follow what God has willed for him and your family through his leadership.

  6. I struggled with this a long time, just waiting and praying that God would change him. I finally realized that the only person I could change is me. I started getting up and going to church without him (and man is that hard!). I stopped trying to convince him to go or make him feel guilty. The children have asked me before why he doesn’t go. I simply answer them with he is an adult and makes his own decisions. I tell them I pray for him and that I so enjoy going to church with them. I am very open in our home about Bible studies and teaching our children and he even adds to our discussions sometimes. He is proud that our kids go and that they have been saved but he doesn’t see the need to go to church. I will continue to pray that God will use me and that He will draw my husband closer to Him.

  7. I finally made up my mind this year that I wasn’t going to try to force my husband to go to church but I would get up on Sundays and take our children to church with me while he slept in. it is very difficult but my husband was not raised in a church and doesn’t think that he needs to go to church and seems very lost when it comes to what he actually believes. 1 Peter 3 was the verse our pastor told me about when he saw me starting to come to church continually without my husband. It is not easy to have to be the spiritual leader in our home, but I want to raise God honoring children because that is my most important job in this life and I know that Good expects me to teach them because my husband will not be doing that.

  8. This was such a blessing. This just cleared up so much worry for me and where I should stand on things. So I have decided to just go ahead with a family devotion. I ordered these books a while back thinking my hubby would lead us through the Psalms. Well now I know it is going to be me. Guess what we are going to start? yup, I am going to teach it to them. just thanks so much. for being here. God’s timing is so awesome

  9. I have definitely had similar thoughts…started early in my marriage determined to take my kids with me to church while all the while feeling alone…people cross our path for a purpose and most only for a season…have faith in God.

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