by Ryan Sanders
I make money, try to be a decent husband, and I play with my kids. But as for my kids’ spiritual development, I expect my pastor to give them direction, the teacher to give them knowledge, and my spouse to shape their character. I just can’t do that with all the other stuff on my plate. Hey, at least I’m not just sitting back and letting the internet raise them.
- Every Church-Going Dad
Most dads we work with at Manhood Journey might not say this aloud, but their actions show it. Many good dads believe the only discipleship duty they have is to drop their kid off at the right spots…with the right people…for the right amount of time…in the right environment. We wrongly think that’s biblical fatherhood—drop them of and let “the experts” give them Jesus. Maybe you know some guys in your group who have fallen into this trap. Maybe you only need to look in the mirror.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
For this post, I want to remind you of the six most common obstacles we see dads struggle with. I encourage you to lead the dads in your group with these six things in mind. Maybe you’re a dad yourself, and can use some help.
1. The Ignorance Obstacle
This dad says: “I didn’t know that was my job.”
Many well-meaning dads in your group simply don’t understand how vital it is for them to intentionally disciple their kids. If a dad believes his sole purpose is to drop his child off at the right spot at the right time—this dad misses the point.
You can help by teaching this dad to become aware, avoid self-pity, resist becoming the victim, and find mentors who will walk with him. Ask yourself: What does this dad need help with most? Then, start to connect others with this dad. You can do it. Need help? We have a book for helping find and be better mentors. Grab the sample here.
2. The Inertia Obstacle
This dad says: “I don’t know where to start.”
When we’re sitting still, we tend to keep on sitting still unless a force of change helps us get moving. YOU are that force for change! Here’s the best-kept secret to the dad in your group discipling his family: It doesn’t matter how or where he begins. It only matters that he starts. Get him started—the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
You can help this dad by encouraging him to ask his family for prayer requests or read a verse from Proverbs and spark conversation over dinner—JUST START. Encourage this dad to get accountable with you or a friend. Lastly, encourage him to say aloud to his wife, “I’m looking to be more engaged in our kids’ growth spiritually; do you have any ideas before I try a thing or two?”
3. The Delegation Obstacle
This dad says: “I’ll let someone else do it.”
This dad relies on two experts for help: his wife and “the professionals.” This approach tends to work well while the kids are young. Dad learns he can work and bring home the check. See where I’m going here?
As for the professionals, this dad expects the student or family pastor will guide his child spiritually. Your job is to show this dad his role as a father is his God-given assignment—even more than it is yours. Encourage this dad to ask his kids about the discussions he’s having with other leaders at school, church and so on. Get him and his kids talking.
You can help this dad by encouraging him to do what we call “audit the leadership” around his kids. Thankfully, I’m blessed to have a great school, large church, and helpful family. But it’s my role to regularly ask questions about content, directions, and talks they’re having. This only happens when you ask good questions early—and often.
Lastly, help this dad understand he doesn’t have to quit his day job to be a dad. He simply needs to take hold of the moments—the short windows he has with his family day in and day out can be more intentional for asking good questions and encouraging those around him.
4. The Guilt Obstacle
This dad says: “I’ve got my own issues. Who am I to talk?”
One of the most effective tools Satan uses against fathers is guilt. Guilt over how we’re living now, and guilt over how we’ve lived in the past.
You can help this dad understand God’s Word tells him there is no condemnation in Christ (Rom. 8:1). He can be freed from sin. Seriously, for some dads, this may mean actually accepting Christ’s work and grace for the first time.
Beyond salvation, you can help this dad own his faith. One last thing—help this dad know how to do the “gospel pivot.” If he’s made some mistakes in the past, teach him how to handle them properly per age and stage. Help him understand the importance of pointing to God—not himself—as the family hero.
Romans 8:1-2 is helpful here:
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
5. The Procrastination Obstacle
This dad says: “I’ve got plenty of time.”
If you lead a dad of young kids, it’s nearly impossible to explain how little time he really has. The hours are long but the years are short, right?!
Encourage this dad to create margin in his calendar and simply carve out time to just be around—with no agenda. If he’s around and alert, teaching moments happen without being rehearsed or lectury.
6. The Despair Obstacle
This dad says: “My kid’s already too far gone.”
If you lead a dad of a teenager or older, you should help him see there’s still hope. God is the author of redemption and restoration. This dad needs to learn from you how to resist despair and be reassured that his situation can be restored. Encourage this dad to connect with his child in the simple things, and just be present.
Any of these obstacles sound like ones blocking dads you lead? Dads who get intentional about leading their family tend to lead the church better. There’s a Scripture about that somewhere.
Want to learn more and help the dads you serve do the same? Grab this free eBook and infographic called Identify and Destroy for more details on the six obstacles EVERY dad faces and how to remove them.
Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey, the fatherhood ministry helping dads build godly men. Ryan is married to Tonia and they have three children. He serves as Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. and is a diehard Redskins fan. Learn more about Ryan here and find him on Twitter @RyanSanders.