Dinner Topics for Thursday
Biblical Parenting: Fatherhood Training
I think it is God-designed. Dad is the pace setter, the value giver, the protector. Kids, especially sons, look to their dads as their hero. ~Robert Lewis
“Every man needs to be assumed as inadequate for manhood,” Robert Lewis told AFA Journal. “And every dad needs to be assumed as inadequate for fatherhood.” Lewis is author of Raising a Modern- Day Knight and Real Family Values.
Lewis is passionate about training males to be men and dads to be fathers. His passion has led him to speak about marriage and parenting across several continents. He recently spoke with AFAJ about the breakdown of fatherhood and how the church can help men get back on track.
AFA Journal: Where does Dad’s hero status come from?
Robert Lewis: I think it is God-designed. Dad is the pace setter, the value giver, the protector. Kids, especially sons, look to their dads as their hero.
Imagine Dad receiving a bucket of hero coins at the start of parenting. He can waste those credits by living hypocritically, living in anger, or being absent. But he has a lot to spend before he loses that status.
However, if he recognizes his God-given gift, he will build on those credits and try to provide an environment where he never loses it. The result will be daughters growing up identifying their father as the ideal figure of manhood, knowing he is what they want in a husband. Sons will grow up saying he is the man they want to become. Unfortunately, most men don’t know how to invest those credits and most churches aren’t providing the necessary training for him to know how.
AFAJ: Why are fathers not getting that training in churches?
RL: Put simply, the church has made wrong assumptions, and fathers have come to wrong conclusions. Churches are assuming men are being produced by homes with dads, but they aren’t. Look at American culture; dads aren’t there. Over 40% of today’s men and women didn’t have a dad growing up. Probably another 30% [of fathers] were emotionally absent. There is a tragedy moving into the church with men.
Another wrong assumption churches have made is that dads possess the necessary skills to be successful fathers and husbands. But if they haven’t received those skills at church, where do we suppose they get them?
AFAJ: What assumptions can the church make?
RL: The church should assume every man is inadequate for manhood and every dad is inadequate for fatherhood. We need to put that on the church walls to drive men to understand they need wisdom because, according to Proverbs 24:3, a house is built by wisdom. That wisdom is not automatic. It is acquired.
There are churches with successful women’s ministry, children’s ministry, preaching ministry, but with a deficit in men’s ministries. I think the greatest error of the local church today is not giving a super priority to developing men, from the pastor down.
Gospel Teachings for Dads
Some churches are recognizing the problem and are starting to make changes.
AFAJ: How are those churches changing?
RL: They realize they must give men the call to intentionally love their wives and raise their children with wisdom. They know there is no institution on earth, no business school in the world that trains men how to be men. There is only one institution that can give that call, and it’s the church.
If I could speak to every church, I would say two things: Have a basic manhood class and a basic dad class taught by veteran dads every year.
Men need rigorous training by solid men with great curricula. But it mustn’t be a one-time shot. The training must go on for weeks. I wouldn’t have a dad class of less than six weeks. That is the minimum time required to really pound these fundamentals into their hearts.
Consider the training guys get if they want to be great hunters or fishermen. They don’t go to one seminar and consider themselves experts. They seek out disciplined training by proven veterans. In the realm of fatherhood, every church has those veterans. The church doesn’t need new ideas. It only needs a vision to develop men and fathers.
(NOTE on Resource for Fathers. One church, Members of the Mormon Church, enjoy tons of training for men and boys—not just a course study of a few weeks—but life-long, year in and year out, organized in every unit of the church body, from boy scout age to adult parenting and leadership, gospel teachings on developing Christlike attributes for godly men as a way of life.)
With all this, there must be structural changes in the church. It needs structural changes where the leadership decides to have more than just a children’s program and youth group. Churches that have training classes around marriage, parenting, manhood, womanhood, and the gospel are the ones recognizing this incredible need and having tremendous success.
AFAJ: Do individual men make the same assumptions about themselves that the church makes?
RL: Absolutely. But Scripture is constantly calling us not to assume we know anything. Peter, when talking to husbands, said, “Men, live with your wives according to knowledge” (1 Peter 3:7). The word he uses is ginosko, which has the connotation of information you acquire. It isn’t common sense. Peter is commanding men not to assume they have knowledge because they don’t. He seems to even say, “Don’t guess at what being a good husband and dad is because you’ll get it wrong.”
Men have to understand it’s okay not to know; the sin is in not going and getting the knowledge. You have to pursue and seek wisdom to get it. Every dad has to study what it means to be a parent.
I even go as far as saying a guy who assumes he knows how to be a father and husband is a fool. The guy who assumes he doesn’t is already wise because he will strive to collect wisdom and gather fathering skills. He will upgrade his parenting and those hero credits God gave him at his child’s birth. And when he begins to act on that acquired wisdom, he becomes the game-winning dad by the time his child leaves home.
Learn of Christ
AFAJ: How does a father pursue wisdom?
RL: There are two things a young man can do. First, he can encourage his pastor and church to start manhood and fatherhood classes.
When I work with dads, I try to give them some values that reconnect them to the heart issues of their families. But most men are clueless when it comes to that. We have been going through cultural shifts that have decimated family values and natural family interaction. We are left with a family where everyone is isolated from everyone else. They are strung together with programming at church or school, but not the real substance issues. So look for curriculum that will address those needs.
AFAJ: What should a church do when it finds a great resource?
RL:They should make that the resource of the church. We in the American church gobble up resources like we do movies. We use it once and can it. If you have a great resource, get some great leaders and make it the resource of the church. Keep using it until everyone has mastered it.
AFAJ: Aside from resources, in your book you heavily promote finding or being a mentor.
RL: Absolutely. I have found every young man wants to hear about the lives of older men. They want to learn from the success and failures of veteran fathers.
Sadly, older men are often afraid. But they can be activated into the mentoring process by the pleading of younger men.
I always tell men, every older man is good enough to be a mentor, and every younger man is good enough to ask for it.
AFAJ: Finding mentors and starting a class takes time. What practical wisdom can you offer parents in the meantime?
RL: The first thing Mom and Dad have to do is ask, “What are our values?” When I wrote Real Family Values I remember the resistance I got from young couples because they didn’t know how to articulate their values and write them down.
George Barna told me the homes and families with authentic, stable adult children happen when parents know the values they want their children to leave home with, can easily articulate them to each other and children, and parent with that end in mind. They constantly check their parenting against those values. They constantly call their children back to those values.
Once you get to the point you know and can articulate your principles, now you have two applications: Talk about them while living them out, and constantly reinforce them for your children.
Parents need the confidence that comes from writing something down. Act as though they are written in stone, unchangeable. Then emulate them and constantly call children back to them. In today’s fast-paced world, kids will better catch what you live than hear what you say. Otherwise, the world is going to lure both parents and children away from them.
The point of all the training, mentorship, assuming men don’t possess wisdom, and encouraging them to pursue it, is to restore the hearts of fathers to their children. It is different than rules. Shepherding kids in programs, sports, or academics is good, but if your child doesn’t have your heart, your child is at a deficit when he leaves home. But that is where we are today. And without a drastic change in the hearts of fathers and in the church, I believe children will be the tragedy of the 21st century.
For fathers pursuing wisdom
Resource for Fathers. Members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints enjoy tons of training for men and boys—not just a course of study of a few weeks— but life-long, year in and year out, organized in every unit of the church body, from boy scout age to adult parenting and leadership, gospel teachings on developing Christlike attributes for godly men as a way of life.
▶ What started as a book has become one of the most sought-after online resources on fatherhood. Raising a Modern-Day Knight has grown to include a series of videos, online tools, an app, and a year-by-year playbook for fathers to help them guide and disciple their sons. The book is available online and at bookstores. Learn more about all these resources at rmdk.com.
▶ When it comes to curriculum, few can beat Men’s Fraternity. The series contains three volumes, all of which guide men to authentic manhood. The lessons are timeless and applicable to every father, no matter what stage of parenting he is in. Learn more at mensfraternity.com.
▶ 33 The Series is a six-volume Bible study aimed at helping men seek wisdom and apply what they find. Each volume contains six sessions and builds on the timeless truths and applications that are foundational to Men’s Fraternity. Learn more at authenticmanhood.com.
Robert Lewis served as directional leader of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, for 21 years. He is the author and producer of a number of best- selling books and video resources.
OneMilliondads … lead or others will
Online communities can be a great resource for discussion, learning, and encouragement. Nowhere is this truer than at AFA’s father-centered blog, OneMilliondads.
OMD editor Jim Shempert said, “I became a father two years ago and quickly learned I was in over my head as it relates to being a Christian father. I began digesting every book, website, and blog I could find, and I wanted to help create a space specifically for dads like me. As Christian fathers, we learn one day at a time. Hopefully, OMD can help make each day’s learning a little easier.”