“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
A Father’s Greatest Calling
Children are our greatest blessing from the Lord, and how we choose to father now will impact future generations–this is huge! We live in a culture that is increasingly suffering the effects of fatherlessness. The importance and honor once given to fatherhood (and parenting in general) has diminished, at least partly due to the increasing rate of fathers who fail to remain present in their children’s lives.
Fathering is difficult. It takes time, effort, humility, and vulnerability to love, protect, and raise little ones to adulthood. Fatherhood requires sacrifice, and Scripture declares that our most important calling, the greatest commandment, is to:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
In other words, a man is called first to love God, then to love his neighbor as himself. This puts a man’s wife, if he is married, above all others, followed behind by their children.
Earthly fathers are to disciple, teach (be an example), train (in the ways of the Lord), and bless (establish identity and declare destiny over) their children. Fathers are to be the prophet, priest, king, and leader of their household. As a prophet, we encourage, envision, and speak words of life to our children. As a priest, we get to intercede for our family and teach the Word of God.
As a king, fathers are to lead, honor, protect, provide, govern, discipline, and provide clear and healthy boundaries. As leaders, fathers serve, carry burdens, and make sacrifices for the family. Men are to demonstrate authority by the sacrifice of serving and laying down their lives for their families.
The Impact of Fathers
A father’s connection to their child can make all the difference in their future. Children whose fathers are involved in their lives, even in small ways, are better off cognitively, socially, and emotionally than those with absentee fathers. Children with connected fathers are at significantly lower risk of a range of things, from infant mortality and low birth weight to substance abuse, criminal activity, and suicide. The statistics show that a father’s absence yields tragic results, while his presence makes a positive difference in his children’s lives.
Whether or not you have children of your own, as a man, you are called to be a present father. This is how we will, ultimately, partner with our Heavenly Father to bring heaven to earth. We can fill the void and step up to the plate. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can be the fathers we wish we had growing up. We can speak blessings over our children’s lives, pray for them, remind them of who they are created to be, and consistently show up when they need us. If you don’t yet have children, showing up as a father figure to children or youth lacking this leadership should be the standard. Who are you mentoring in this way?
Rest assured; we don’t have to be perfect. There is no doubt we will get it wrong on occasion. Life is messy. There is always room for growth and maturing if we are willing. Children don’t need our perfection, they need fathers who will be there for them. By doing so, with our eyes on Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can raise the next generation of children to love Jesus. When we do, we will rejoice and exclaim, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:25) and bring redemption to the earth.
How can fathers show up for their children?
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.” (Proverbs 4:1-4)
Connecting with your kids doesn’t need to be complicated. Children of all ages need your presence in various forms: silly and serious, emotional and spiritual, intellectual and physical.
The sooner you connect with your children, the easier it will be to maintain and strengthen your relationship. However, if your children are older or you are just starting to connect with them after a season of distance (emotional or physical), there is still much hope! Your journey might come with different challenges, but keep showing up. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.
The following list is meant to spark ideas for activities that create strong relational bonds, daily rhythms, and memories that will bless your children with stability and a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.
- Be present and curious; ask questions and smile often.
- Bless your children regularly. (See The Father’s Blessing Part 2 for examples)
- Take your children on dates: go on walks, get hot chocolate at a coffee shop, or go to the park to play catch or ride bikes. Don’t forget to be silly and laugh!
- Play sports together, throw a baseball, shoot some hoops, and enjoy a game of tag or frisbee.
- Playful wrestling and rough housing are fun and surprisingly important for their mental and physical development.
- Read together before bed and pray before turning off the light.
- Enjoy a family meal at least once a week.
- Listen to music together.
- Volunteer together.
- Cook a meal together.
- Help your kids with their homework.
- Give lots of hugs.
- Look for and call out the gold within your child; encourage and nurture their giftings.
When your children are older, stay connected with phone calls and text messages to show you care and are thinking about them. Send audio messages of prayers and blessings over their lives. Remind them you are always there for them. They may not always need your help in a practical sense, but they will always need your wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.
Keep Your Children in Mind
There are also a few should and should nots to remember as you connect with the children in your life. Consider the following and always keep your children in mind as you spend time together.
- Remove the distraction of phones and screens while you spend time together. Focus on eye contact and listening to your children by asking thoughtful questions about things they care about.
- Don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love, discipline when necessary, and teach the hard lessons. Children desperately need their fathers to show them how to live and make wise decisions as they mature.
- Cheer your kids on when they succeed AND when they fail. Let your kids know that you will always be their greatest cheerleader.
This list is not just for fathers with biological children. Everyone needs a father or mentor at every age and stage of life. If you don’t have children of your own, ask the Holy Spirit if there are children in your life who need a father figure and how you might help fill in.
Good Fathers Turn to God First
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” (Psalm 127:3-5)
If we want to be good dads, we must turn our attention to our Heavenly Father first. He is perfect, and He never fails! When we need help parenting our children, we can run to Him, and He will show us the way forward. We are not alone. Our Father God is with us to help us father the children He blessed us with. God will turn and connect hearts to fill our families with love. I haven’t always gotten it right… but I’ve learned that when I reach out to the Lord for help as a father, He always comes through. (How? Usually through Scripture, wise council, or wisdom He shares with me in our quiet time together.)
I challenge you to ask the Holy Spirit how to connect more with the children God’s given you this week. Choose an activity from the list above and run with it. You will be surprised at the good fruit that will grow!