Lead by Example

“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

– St. Francis of Assisi


Setting An Example

Recently my family went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants, Chipotle. (Just a side note: they have one of the least expensive kid’s meals around and it includes a drink. Plus my kids gobble up just about every bite, which makes it even more worth it.) While waiting for the kids to finish their food, I noticed two moms with strollers and toddlers waiting in line together. They placed their order and paid. Then they attempted to carry their trays full of food while juggling strollers, baby carriers and ankle biters. I quickly jumped up and grabbed two trays of their food so that they could handle the children and find a seat. They were so appreciative! As a mom who’s been there, it was the least I could do to lighten their load.

When I sat back down, my son asked why I had taken their food to their seat. I explained to him that the mommies had their hands full and needed some help. My daughter commented on how nice it was for us to help people like that. It made me smile that she acknowledged my gesture and it was a bonus that it was a teaching moment for my son.

So often I beat myself up for the ways that I’m not a model parent: I get impatient with my kids and I get angry at them more often than I’d like. I notice that they sometimes speak to me or to each other with a rude tone because they’ve seen me do that to them. (Ouch.)

But, like the Chipotle experience, there are positive ways that I lead by example and I’m sure you do too. I try to wake up and spend time in God’s Word every morning. Sometimes I get annoyed when the kids wake up earlier than I’d like and cut my time short. But I recently realized that they are walking in at just the right time—when they can see me with my Bible open. As time passes, I hope they will remember those mornings and how their mom loves to spend time with God, which will hopefully inspire them to follow my example.


Other ways that we can lead our families by example include:

  • Our Generosity: how generous are we with our time, talents and treasure? Do our kids see how we give to others?
  • Our Finances: does our family live within our means? Living on a budget and without debt are great practices to model for children. If you’re not there yet, work with your spouse to get there. (I recommend Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey.) Let your kids participate and share your goals and plans for the family’s finances.
  • Prayer: A lot of times people find it uncomfortable to pray out loud, but if you teach your kids while they’re young, it will be second-nature to them as adults. Even if you’re nervous, step out in faith to pray with your family. It will leave a lasting impression and legacy to your kids, which is so worth the initial discomfort!
  • Service to Others: How often do your kids see you serving others? Find opportunities for them to see you serving others and get them involved! Teach them the story of the Good Samaritan and talk about how you can practically live that out as a family.

Even when we don’t think our kids are quite getting it, we need to keep on leading by example. They may not know why we do what we do right now, but they’re always watching.

Andrea Fortenberry
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Andrea Fortenberry

Andrea lives near Phoenix, Arizona with her husband of 12 years and two children, ages eight and five. She writes and speaks on relationships, family and faith. Her recent work includes publication in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives. She has a journalism degree from Pepperdine University and is a graduate of She Speaks, a program of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Andrea enjoys wandering around bookstores and meeting friends for coffee, although she’s not a coffee drinker herself. (She prefers a good chai latte instead.) She loves traveling, has had her passport since age two, and has been to nearly 20 countries.

Connect with Andrea on her blog, www.andreafortenberry.com or at www.facebook.com/andreabfortenberry.
Andrea Fortenberry
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