Dads, you are needed.
You are more important than you probably realize. You probably don’t need me to tell you that studies consistently show that children who have loving dads who are involved in their lives do better academically, socially, and emotionally than children without an involved dad. They also choose healthier friendships and make wiser choices.
With regard to faith, fathers play an even bigger role in passing on the faith than mothers. One study showed that in families where the mom attended religious services regularly but the dad attended irregularly, only 3% of children will grow up to be regular attenders. (It goes down to 2% when the dad doesn’t attend at all.) But when both mom and dad attend regularly, it goes up to 33%. (And when dad attends regularly but mom attends irregularly or not at all, the percentage actually goes up to 38% and 44%, respectively. I’m not sure what that says.)
And when Dad goes beyond just attending worship services but actually lives out his faith, his children will most likely follow his example.
Like I said, Dads, you are needed.
You have a hugely important role in your family. They are counting on you to lead them, and God has tasked all of us fathers with this responsibility.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV).
Following Jesus and being a father are the ultimate adventure. And like any adventure, it can be exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
But you are not alone. You have a God who calmed the storm, walked on water, created life, and defeated death; I’m pretty sure he can handle any obstacle we encounter as dads. Seek him. Don’t neglect your most important relationship. The more you seek your Father, the better father you will be.
Plus, there are other dads out here who are also on this adventure. Seek them out at church, among your friends, or in your own extended family. My hope is that The Dadventures can become an online community of dads who want to bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
So, if this all seems a bit new and overwhelming to you, start small. Take one step at a time in the right direction. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.
Make time to hang out with your Father.
No, not your earthly dad (although that might be a good idea). Carve out some time each day to focus on God without distraction. I have three kids and another on the way, so I know how hard that can be. But get up a few minutes early, make some time in the evening after everyone else is in bed, or give up a few minutes during lunch.
Start small. Five minutes, if that’s all you can manage right now. Spend a few minutes reading Scripture and a minute in prayer.
There are some excellent reading plans over at YouVersion.com or on their Bible app. (They even have a kids Bible app that you can use together!) Find a reading plan you like and make it a priority each day. Many of them even have suggested prayers, if that is new for you.
When you spend time with Jesus each day, he will make a difference in your life. And I am confident that before long, five minutes won’t be enough time for you. The more time you spend with him, the more time you will want to spend with him! And your family will start to notice!
Read the Bible with your Kids.
It doesn’t have to be a two-hour Bible study. Read a verse or two at the dinner table. Read a chapter each evening or once a week. (Start with the Psalms or one of the Gospels, like Mark.) For younger kids, find a Bible story book or use the aforementioned Kids Bible App. And for older kids, let them pick what they would like to read, and take turns reading it out loud.
Don’t worry if your kids ask you a question you can’t answer. (Just, don’t make something up like you do with other questions!) Look it up together, or use it as homework for both of you to research. When your kids see that Jesus is important to you, he will become important to them.
One of the most important things you can ever teach your kids is how to talk with God. We started all of our kids just about as soon as they could talk. They say their prayers before bedtime each night. (We sometimes have to help them, especially when they are little.) We also take turns praying before meals.
And don’t just have the kids pray. Make sure they hear you pray. It will help them learn to pray, and it will reinforce for them how important and valuable a relationship with Jesus is.
Listen to Christian music.
Our kids love to listen to the Christian radio station. We turn it on when they are getting ready in the morning, and it is usually on in our cars. Dads, I can’t even begin to tell you the feeling I get when I hear their sweet little voices sing along in praise to God.
Listening to Christian music is an easy and fun way teach your kids about Jesus.
Memorize Scripture together.
I work on memory verses with my kids a lot of mornings on the way to school, and it is amazing how quickly they are able to pick it up—even at two and three years old! Scripture memorization not only teaches them that God and his word are important, it also helps Scripture become alive for them. Those powerful words will come back to them just when they need them.
I always break the verses into phrases, and we memorize one phrase at a time. It might take a few days to get the verse down, but it makes it a lot easier.
Here are a few suggestions for memory verses:
Give it a try this week! In addition to helping them spiritually, it will also help them academically as they learn how to memorize information.
It’s important to for your kids to hear about faith, but it’s equally important for them to see it lived out and have opportunities to do so. Serving together is a fun and memorable way to show your children what it means to love their neighbor.
Right before Thanksgiving, our whole family helped with the food pantry at our church. Our kids had as much fun as they do at the playground! Seriously. They were legitimately sad when it was over.
Most churches have numerous opportunities for families to serve, or you can find a local non-profit with whom you can partner. Tell your kids that the reason you are serving is because of what Jesus has done for you.
You can do this, Dad. It may not always be easy, but it will be worth it.