Hey Dads: You’re Not Alone – Let’s Do This Together

Dads, our children are the most precious possessions we have (and I use the word ‘possessions’ for lack of a better word – really they’re the Lord’s). And for most of us we would say our desire would be that our children would catch hold of our Christian influence and heritage and make it their own, right? But is that what is happening? Once our children leave the protective influences of our Christian homes – they’re living strong for Christ, right? Not so much.

At secular Colleges and Universities (and without a doubt in some Christian Colleges), many Christian students across North America begin to realize quickly that they don’t understand their faith – they don’t know why they believe, so they start wondering what to believe. Secular professors are not encouraging post-secondary students to reaffirm the truths they were brought up believing, they’re encouraging them to change fundamentally their core beliefs to match their post-modern culture.

In an article featured in “Missions Frontiers”, authors Chuck Edwards and John Stonestreet shared alarming research about Christian college students in the U.S. They determined that:

  • among College freshmen who called themselves “born-again”, 59% of them no longer considered themselves “born-again” four years later.
  • Only 20 percent of students who were highly churched as teens remained spiritually active by age 29.

As a Dad, those stats should rattle you a bit.

But often times when we hear things like that we immediately look for someone or something to blame. We want to blame academic institutions. We sometimes want to blame the church. But if we were to really find out what the cause of our kids leaving the faith, where should really be the first place we look? The think the answer is found in Ephesians 6:4….

“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Dads, we have the opportunity to participate in the all-time greatest ministry opportunity: bringing our kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What in the world is “Bringing Up”?

Every set of parents, without even consciously knowing it, are bringing their kids up in something– the question is what. For some parents, their goal is to bring their kids up knowing how to play sports and be a good sportsman. Other parents want to bring their kids up to be exceptional students. Neither are bad – but they fade into the distance quickly when you compare it with the one thing parents, and specifically dads, are to bring their kids up in: the “discipline” and “instruction” of the Lord. “Of the Lord” means our attention as Dad’s is primarily focused on intentionally pointing our kids towards Christ.

“Discipline” – an interesting word. It refers to ‘education, bringing up, discipline’.
“Instruction” – this Greek word has to do with “putting something in the right mind.” It means correcting the course.

Both of these words speak of nurturing, help, direction, and in the context, all wrapped up in love that is correcting and not punishing. So discipline and instruction have a purpose – to ground our kids in Christ.

Dads – grounding our kids in Christ is not primarily a Bible college’s responsibility, or even a church’s…it’s ours.

Can I recommend a few things that I think can help all of us as Dads? Here’s three suggestions for how we can more effectively teach our kids to love the Lord and His Word:

Suggestion#1: You can’t work out what you haven’t worked in. It would be very difficult in any area of life to teach your kid to be passionate about something that you yourself are not passionate about. It would be like me trying to get my kids excited about watching curling on TV…not going to happen. But HOCKEY? …now that’s a different story. Philippians 2:12 says we are to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. That means we work out what God has worked in. And may I add – when God is working in your life and it’s changing your life, it WILL come out – there will be nowhere else for it to go.

The point is that I will not communicate:

  • A passion for Christ if I have no passion for Christ.
  • A need to be involved in Christian service if I’m not involved in my church.
  • The importance of giving an answer for the hope that is in if I don’t even know why I believe what I believe myself.

To make an unforgettable Christ-focused impression upon our kids, we ourselves have to have a Christ-focused passion.

Suggestion #2: Have A Plan. A person without a plan has no plan.  Likewise a Dad without a plan for making Christ a priority in the home has no plan for making Christ a priority in the home. It would be like a tourist who has never come to your country before and asks you “How do I get to the Rockies?” If you answer, “That way” you’re not giving them a plan that will work. It’s really no different when it comes to our strategy for leading our homes. We have a general direction we want to go, but how will we know if we got there? Check out what Deuteronomy 6 :4-7 says about a plan:

“Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

A Dad take-away from these verses? Teach your kids to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and might during the regular stuff of your day, but deliberately. One of the ways to very simply start this as a family is right after supper each night. Take 5 minutes and talk about what God has taught you that day. In our family we specifically do that centered around what they’re reading in their Quiet Times. Our kids need to be hearing about who God is 7 days of the week, not just on the first day of the week. Do your kids understand why they believe the basics of the faith? They say that they’re saved, but do they understand why? We can’t leave these important matters of our faith to our pastors, we as dads/parents must be proactive.

Suggestion #3: We get by with a little help from our friends. The next time you’re in church look around – you know what you’ll see? A lot of Dads. Dads who struggle with the same things day in and day out. Dads who want to lead but often times feel alone. Proverbs 27:17 says: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” What happens when iron is rubbing up against iron? Sparks. Heat. Friction. But the result? Sharpening.

Chances are you have a natural network of sharpening in your church right now: it’s a Men’s Bible Study, a Men’s Accountability group or something similar. If you’re a guy and you’re going at it alone – that’s not smart (in fact, it’s probably a sign of foolishness). God has put others in your life for a reason. Use the resources God has placed around you to encourage you, help you and stay on track.

Dads, a lot of Christian kids when they leave our homes are also leaving the faith. What will you do about it?

Scott Foreman is the Associate Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. He has been active in full-time ministry for over almost 20 years as a Camp Director, Missionary and now Pastor.  You can follow him here at The Ministry Dad and also on Twitter: @scottdforeman

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