“Fatherlessness” in America has reached crisis levels!
More than 24 million children or 1 out of every 3 kids is growing up in a home without a father!
An entire generation of youth are without the influence, guidance or nurturing of a father or father figure in their lives. My involvement with youth ministry and students over the course of 22 years has lead me to understand that the role of a father/father figure is the single greatest need in America today.
Where are the Christian men and why aren’t they stepping up to become the men of God, the deliberate dads they need to be? This is a great question! Although, I have no biological children and am limited in the exact role of being a father, I have mentored many youth, trained in high-intensive discipleship/internships with several young men, and “adopted” several students over the last few years who have no active dad in their lives. I have been the only “dad” and most definitely, the only positive father-figure in many of their lives. When I say “only”, I mean ONLY! This is what bothers me so much! How is it that I can be the ONLY ONE IN THEIR LIVES?
In being involving in the lives of kids who have attended church or have been part of our ministry teams or overseas mission trips, I have yet to see other men step up or step into their lives in real, significant, and meaningful ways! Through the years, I have been able to fill the void of being a godly father figure in the lives of students in the states as well as other countries (El Salvador and Nigeria). All of them had a void of an active man in their lives who was pouring life into them, bringing life out of them! Why are men failing so badly…where are the Christian men of courage?
Recently the movie Courageous spotlighted the topic of fatherhood in America. But for all of it’s cinematic pulling of heartstrings, the men around our country are still failing to effectively stand in this gap. Why?
1) Many men don’t feel equipped or prepared to be a father! Statistics show that almost 50% of men did not feel ready to be a dad when they became a dad. Some of this lack of preparation is because many men became fathers too young (some of them as early as 15 years old) simply because they were involved sexual non-committed relationships. They were ready to have sex but not ready to have any responsibilities. As blogger Debbi Schlussel puts it: the men were nothing more than “sperm donors“. She writes:
“It’s sad that many media reports I read about this research refer to “fathers ages 15-44.” Um, here’s a tip, America: if you are 15, you are NOT a father in any sense of the word and probably never will be. You are just a sperm donor.” Even though many teenage boys may be “fathering” children, most men even in good families would agree that they feel unprepared for the task afforded them.
2) A lack of materials or encouragement in fatherhood is another reason men say they are failing in this area or parenting. I understand this to some degree; however, there are more books, CD’s, DVD’s, websites, and resources than ever before! Access to these materials is not that difficult and not insurmountable for the father who truly wants to be engaged in their kid’s lives.
That’s really the heart of the matter, right? Do we want to be involved? Do we want to be inconvenienced? Do we want to be bothered? Are we willing to be humble? Are we willing to admit we don’t know what to do? Are we willing to step up and be responsible, plugged in, engaged and love our kids?
I believe the reason more men are not involved in their kid’s lives, being the father figure they could and should be, is seen in the title of this article. Achieving the kind of significance and impact I’m talking about will not happen without a deliberate choice. It will take a deliberate act…many of them in fact, to connect, mentor and prepare the youth of this generation for the role and mantle God has for them. It’s time for the men of our churches to become deliberate dads!
I cannot stress enough the point that these will have to be DELIBERATE acts that you as a man must take. We can no longer abdicate our roles as fathers, dads, mentors, coaches, and friends of our children, especially our sons. If we continue, an entire generation will grow up not knowing how to be men, how to love their families and how to engage God or others the way they were created to.
Here are a few of ways to becoming a deliberate dad.
It is your responsibility to nurture your personal relationship with God. This is not the responsibility of your pastor, small group, or church. Your relationship with God is the most vital connection to ensure establishing good connections with every person in your life. If you are not discipling yourself to have daily time with God in prayer and bible reading and study then this is the place to begin. Connection with God will not only help you become the man that you need to be, since you will begin to understand the call of God on your own life, but it will also give you insight into “fathering” from the best Father Himself!
Connect with your kid!
In our culture it is somewhat ironic that we can be so connected to devices and technology and yet so disconnected from each other in deep and meaningful ways. We are mentally tethered to our phones or tablets or computers and seem to be incapable of conversations that go beyond the length of a status update. As a man, communication may be a challenge and finding the words to say, the emotion to convey, or the prayer to pray, everything but easy. Be deliberate man! Put down that computer, walk away from the tablet, turn off the phone! Connect with your kid in conversation. Look him in the eye and listen to his heart! Seek out a skill to teach him that he wants to learn. Flip the script and ask him to teach you a skill you need to learn. Every kid is different in the things they enjoy doing but every kid is the same in this way: they just want our attention and affection. You have to find out what makes your kid tick. What do they need to most hear from you and sense from you? Protection? A sense of pride? Security? Leadership? Love?
Connect with others.
With the plethora of materials available, join with other men who want to connect and make a difference in the lives of young men and women. There are far too many men who for pride’s sake have failed to become all they could. Not knowing is not an excuse, men! You don’t know what to do because you have failed to deliberately seek help. Isn’t that the ageless joke of the male species: you won’t stop and ask for directions? Get time with other men…even those who are not doing so great and spur each other on! Don’t let this go down on your watch! Find some men in your area or church and deliberately come up with a strategy to engage the young men in your church, especially those who have no father figure. You may be their only hope.
It is incumbent for us men to rise up and be all that God has ordained us to be. This will not only take courage but deliberate acts of selflessness, authenticity, and love for a generation of young men who have only us to look to as examples.
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as the student minister at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA.