An Open Letter To Dads

I feel like I’ve been a dad for a long time. My oldest son is 21 now and that makes me feel a tad old, especially considering that I was 21 when I was married.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a few things about parenting along the way and I thought I’d pass a few of those things on to today’s dads. Some of these things I wish I would have known before I started on my parenting journey so feel free to pass them on to any new parents you may know.

Mindset is everything

When my second son was born, a random old woman saw me carrying him in the grocery store and decided to dispense her home-spun wisdom to me. She said, “When they’re little, they’re a little trouble. When they get big, they’re big trouble.”

I looked at her and answered, “No, when they’re little, they’re a little blessing. When they get big, they’re a big blessing.” I then paid for my Hot Pockets and declared, “Good day madam!”

You know what I’ve discovered? My kids really are a blessing to me! When you take a Philippians 4:8 (think on the good) approach to your kids, you draw good things out of them. When you assume that they’re going to be a bother, then that’s all they’ll ever seem to be to you. Mindset is everything.

Be present when you’re with them

When my kids were toddlers, I felt like they would be by my side forever. The idea of being fully present in the moment didn’t carry any sense of importance with me because I thought I’d have thousands of opportunities to give them my full attention. If I could go back in time and turn off the TV, put down my phone, and step away from the computer I would. I would do it in a heartbeat and be present with them and drink in those moments because now those moments are gone forever.

Being present communicates that you value them, that they’re more important to you than hobbies or distractions. Those are bonding moments and teaching moments. Those are moments that earn you the right to speak into their lives when they get older.

Model your commitment to God in front of them

It’s our responsibility to raise our children up in the faith. Nothing is more important. Not school, not work, not sports. Nothing.

Back in my youth pastor days, I had a mother call me in a panic. She was at her whit’s end because her daughter was sneaking out of the house at night and drinking with her friends. She wanted desperately for her girl to be in church, connecting with Christian high-school students.

The problem was that the mother only attended church occasionally and the father would rather go hunting or wax the pickup truck than set an hour aside for worship on Sundays. If we don’t value our faith and our church community, then our kids won’t either. Beware of raising consumers because that’s what the default is if we’re not intentional about raising them otherwise.

Get involved with a mission and take your kids with you. Attend church with them on Sundays. Pray with them. You know how we say a prayer with our toddlers before they go to bed at night? I did that with my kids until they were teenagers. I have no regrets about that.

Have dinner with them every night (or most nights)

This one’s tough if both parents work full-time, but it’s worth it like you wouldn’t believe.

Do it up old-school. Eat around the table together, turn off the TV, and put away the phones. Have conversations, talk about your day, ask questions. The practice of sharing a meal together every night is so powerful!

Research shows that kids who eat dinner with their family in the evening do better in school, are less likely to do drugs, are less prone to depression, and are less likely to engage in high-school sexual activity. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids??

Have dinner together as a family as often as possible and it could change your kids’ lives!

I’ve got more. 21 years is a long time, but I’m going to stop there for now. Maybe I’ll post some more later. If you’re a parent and have found some really helpful things that you’d like to share, just drop them in the comments below. We all want what’s best for our kids so let’s keep praying for them and keep growing as parents.



The Power of Fathers

You’ve probably heard before that this is a fatherless generation. 20 million children live in homes without fathers.

This is a reality that is leaving a gaping wound on our society.

Every summer, our church sponsors a camp for abused and neglected foster children called Royal Family Kids Camp. We work with social services to bring 25-30 kids (age 6 to 11) to a camp in western Illinois where they get to be kids without the fear of abuse or rejection. Some of them have been beaten, some of them have been molested, and some both. Of all of the campers that I’ve met since we started the program, I have yet to meet one with a biological father in their lives. It usually leaves me with thoughts of breaking dads’ kneecaps.

As a person who grew up without a father in the home, I know what it’s like to try to become a real man without a dad to show you how. The feelings of vulnerability and insecurity were sometimes crippling. When a friend’s dad attempted to molest me, I wished more than anything for a father’s arms to run to but they weren’t there. When I was bullied, I didn’t have a dad to tell me how to handle it. When the guys all talked about sports or cars, I was clueless. It was by God’s grace that things weren’t worse and I remember that every time camp rolls around.

I recently came across some startling statistics about growing up fatherless:

Children from fatherless homes account for 63 percent of youth suicides, 71 percent of the pregnant teenagers, 90 percent of the homeless and runaway children, and 70 percent of the institutionalized juveniles. They account for 85 percent of the children with behavioral disorders, 80 percent of rapists, 71 percent of all high school dropouts, 75 percent of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers and 85 percent of all youths in prison.

Wow, if those numbers don’t move you, then check your pulse. Fatherlessness is a pandemic with far-reaching effects.

So, what can be done? Well, I don’t think the answer is to fold our arms and expect dads to step up to the plate. Truth be told, most absentee and deadbeat fathers will always be just that. I’m not trying to be cynical, it’s just the hard truth. I believe that the Lord can change hearts and I believe that some men will come to their senses, but most will continue in their cycles of neglect and substance abuse.

No, what fatherless children need is a miracle in the form of you and of me. They need someone who will play with them, talk to them eye to eye, and be safe and consistent. You don’t have to join the foster system (though that would be amazing) or rearrange your life. You just have to learn to keep your eyes open and let them into your life.

I was blessed to have a couple of men in my life that accepted me as I was, affirmed me, corrected me, and didn’t abandon me when I was being a tool. I believe it’s one of the reasons that I’ve been married for 24 years and my kids still like me (most days).

My prayer for us today is that we pause when we see the lonely, the abandoned, the fatherless. That we won’t be too quick to be about our business, and that we’ll walk with them long enough for them to see what a good man looks like and lives like.

Let’s be the miracle they need.