What is an Intentional Dad?
Fatherhood and Discipleship
“Dad, how do you know when you hear the voice of God?”
This was a question my son asked me while running errands one day. I don’t even remember what prompted him to ask that. It seemed so random. And I jumped on the opportunity! I asked him to turn the radio to 94.9 FM.
“Can you hear that clearly?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said. Then I turned the dial to 94.7.
“Can you still hear the music clearly?”
“I can still hear it, but it’s really fuzzy,” he replied.
“Right. Now, what if I tune it to 94.5?”
“I can’t hear anything but fuzz now.”
This led us into a discussion of tuning into the things of God, and how it can be easy to tune into negative things around us, which makes it difficult to hear the voice of God. These seemingly random conversations are my favorite.
Being a dad is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. The honor of “training up a child in the way he/she should go” is one that I don’t take lightly. But let me be clear: though it’s rewarding, it’s also really hard! I love my kids and think they’re amazing people, but they’re also amazing at sinning. I never taught them how to lie, gossip, be selfish, whine, or forget to put on deodorant (OK, maybe that’s not a “sin” per se, but it sure feels like it to the smeller), but I have to be intentional about teaching them how to share, be kind, think of others, love well, be respectful, and how to listen to God’s voice.
Intention is defined as “an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.” I want my kids to know and love God. I want them to be respectable citizens. I want them to stand up for justice. I want them to work hard. I want them to value all lives. I want them to love people. And these outcomes are not just going to happen. I must disciple my children. I must be intentional.
The primary purpose of Christian parenting is discipleship, inviting my children into my walk with Jesus. This method of modeling is how it worked for Timothy. The Apostle Paul affirmed Timothy’s family and Timothy, saying that his faith “first lived” in his grandmother and then his mother (2 Timothy 1:5, NIV). Paul became Timothy’s spiritual father. I’m not just a Christian dad, I’m a Christian dad discipling my kids.
Here are some areas in which we parent intentionally:
- Prayer – Everything with eternal ramifications starts with prayer. Prayer is a learned skill that we must grow in and look for ways to model for our children, such as bedtime prayers, table time prayers, and public prayers.
- Bible – We believe the Bible is our roadmap as Christians. We need to be students of the Word of God for ourselves and in order to teach it to our children. Two of our main ways to do this is by studying Proverbs together (we all need more wisdom!) and doing devos together, a little something we call “Table Time.” We also have key verses on our walls and try to memorize them.
- Marriage – Our children know that their mom is my first priority (only 2nd to God, of course). We are not a child-centered home. One day, our children will move out of this house (prayerfully – ha!) and will live their own lives, but my marriage will still be here. I want it to be stronger than ever. Trish and I have been dating weekly since 1999 and we don’t plan to stop! Modeling a healthy, strong marriage for my kids is crazy important to me, and so good for them.
- Relationships – This is one of my favorite things I love to teach my kids. “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” We teach that there are three levels of friends. Level 1: Friends that bring you closer to Jesus. Level 2: Friends at arm’s length; good people, but not “iron sharpening iron” friends; Level 3: People who God has called you to share Jesus with. We help them to process and identify their friendships through these three levels. And we ourselves, try to model this structure with our own friendship choices.
- Time – Love is spelled T-I-M-E. Another quote we live by is “he who spends the most time wins.” There are many things fighting for their attention–school, sports, music, social media, video games, etc. It is so important for us as parents to find moments to be eye to eye with our kids and spend time with our children. We eat most meals together, we plan family vacations (even if they’re just stay-cations), we do daddy-daughter/mother-son dates, and I try to bring a child with me on ministry trips when possible.
- Biggest Fan – I want my kids to know that I’m their biggest fan. Their value in who they are, their heart, and their character are more important than their performance. I want to be the one applauding the loudest for who they are and what they do. I do not want to create a performance-based love in them where they feel they have to earn my love. They already have it.
- Orphan Care – We think it’s important to involve our children in the work of the ministry, not merely just watching their parents do it or just receiving ministry from our church. Obviously, one of our main outlets for intentional ministry involvement is orphan care. For local orphan care opportunities, we involve them in serving other families who are fostering or adopting. For global orphan care, we involve them by writing letters to the children we sponsor around the world. We have also brought them on missions trips with us.
I hope this list helps you. There are probably a million things that could be listed, but our best intentions fall short if we don’t rely on God. It would take a book to truly tell you all that’s in my heart about parenting, and specifically fathering. It’s truly a passion of my heart, and I know that God has used that passion to be a voice for the voiceless. As a reminder of how critical our role is as dads, I want to give you some statistics about fatherlessness:
- 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
- 71% of teenage pregnancies come from fatherless homes
- 85% of children with behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
- 90% of homeless or runaway children come from fatherless homes
- 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes
- 85% of all youth in prison come from fatherless homes
- An estimated 24.7 million children (33%) live absent from their biological father
It’s hard to separate fatherlessness from the plight of the orphan. These statistics you just read feed the orphan crisis. This understanding is one of the things motivating churches to begin foster care, adoption, and orphan care ministries. The Church is, was, and will always be the solution for the orphan and for fatherlessness. Just as Paul occupied the role of a spiritual father to Timothy because the young man’s own dad had not assumed that role intentionally, I believe the Church is filled with men who God has called to be spiritual fathers. God is the perfect Father, the ultimate intentional Father. So men, let’s lean into our Heavenly Father to be the best intentional biological, adoptive, foster, and spiritual fathers we can be. Your job is important and irreplaceable. Happy Father’s Day!
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