Father’s Day and the Crisis of Fatherhood in America (and Your Church)
Few words in our society carry as much weight and elicit such wildly different responses as father. It’s a word that should create a sense of warmth, strength, love, honor, integrity and masculinity. For many, unfortunately, it means someone who is absent, angry, abusive or perhaps worse, nothing at all.
If you watch prime time television, it’s a common theme to see intelligent women and children, and ignorant, uneducated or unaware men as an integral part of the plot line. If it wasn’t for women and children, who would make the smart decisions and save the day in television’s fantasyland?
In 2018 nearly one out of three children are living in a home without a father. The consequences are disastrous for our society. The instances of poverty, behavioral problems, physical abuse, substance abuse, incarceration, crime and low educational achievement skyrocket when there is no father in the home.
I know. It’s depressing, and it’s easy to think, “Fathers need to step it up, get their act together, and take responsibility for themselves and their families.” The situation is more complicated than just shaming men into compliance. As America runs full speed towards being a post-Christian culture, it’s also running full speed towards being a post-father/post-mentor culture.
So what do we do? As churches, what role can we take in stopping this runaway train towards a post-father society? And what does this have to do with Father’s Day? Here are a few thoughts on how your church can confront the post-father culture in a way that is likely to yield positive results.
1) Fatherhood is not just about biological reproduction and the birth of children. It can be that, but it can also be step fathers, fathers-in-law, mentors, spiritual fathers, coaches and role models. Take time this father’s day to celebrate all men not only for what they do, but for who they are, the prized possession and image bearer of the Most High God.
2) “Manly” comes in many forms, not just beer drinking, hammer swinging, grunt speaking dudes. “Manly” can be deeply intellectual, highly technical, or very hands on. Keep this in mind as you prepare for father’s day. Computer genius Bill Gates, and facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are just as Manly as Tim Allen and Bob Villa. Celebrate both.
3) Acknowledge that fathers only know what they’ve learned, and most fathers have never seen another healthy father thus have never learned what it means to be a healthy father. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train a child up in the way they should go, but for most, no one has trained them how to be a man of integrity, let alone a father. How can we hold men to a standard they know nothing of? Is there a way for your church to host an event led by spiritually mature, healthy men, so attendees learn what healthy masculinity looks like? An event like this could even lead to a mentorship program for those men, young and older, who are looking to take clear, confident steps toward being men and/or fathers of integrity.
4) No shaming. Our society already has this covered and then some. The church, especially on Father’s Day, should be a safe place where we celebrate and encourage men, and share the truth and redemptive power of Jesus. On this day, just focus on building them up, and let the Holy Spirit do any necessary convicting.
5) Make fatherhood in all its forms a BIG DEAL in your church. Men, have you ever given advice to someone younger? Let’s celebrate you! Have you ever been there to help a buddy out? Celebration in order! Have you fathered Children? You’re in! Have you been there for someone who has? You’re in too! Do you want to have children some day? Works for us! Does your drivers license say “m” for gender? Good enough! You were created in God’s image and we’re going to pull out all the stops and celebrate you today!
6) Say thanks tangibly. Father’s day shouldn’t be solely about food and “stuff” but let’s face it, everyone eats, most men LOVE a good hearty meal, and a manly, super useful gift just might keep your church name visible long after Father’s day. Tools, NICE mugs and tech accessories are equally as welcomed for the different types of masculinity.
Father’s Day is an opportunity not to scold or shame men for their failings, but rather, to celebrate and honor them, stand alongside and encourage them, regardless of past performance, and let them know they have an integral part in your church.
How can your church take advantage of this once a year day to invest deeply into the men of your flock?