One of the most important realms of ministry for a father is their children. It also can be one of the toughest. We may kick ourselves for not going on a mission trip to India or sharing the Gospel with a neighbor (both great things), but your best chance to influence someone for life is by spending time with them…a lot of time. And if you have kids, you likely have no lack of unregenerate, depraved little people in your living room right now wishing Daddy would put down his remote and play with them.
Just like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ,” your children will imitate you, whether you or they, want to or not. It’s how we’re built…and in God’s sovereignty, He uses mothers and fathers to encourage, sharpen and disciple their children. The question is, “What are you modeling to your children?”
Children see everything. They see you speed on your way to church. They hear what you say when someone makes you angry. They witness how you treat other people when they need help, but it’s not convenient for you. How are you stacking up to the model of Christ? Obviously, we are all going to fall way short of the model of our Savior, but we do need to think about how we, as fathers, point to Him. Here are a few ideas you may be able to implement:
1. Put down the phone.
This is hard. I know you need to check the latest score, reply to that text or get the high score on Jetpack Joyride, but don’t do it in front of your kids. Or at least don’t make that the main thing your kids see you doing all the time. You are teaching them that technology is more important than people. The next time you take a look around at all the people with their faces in a device at an airport terminal, remember, we are built to be social creatures. There’s no better way to build a relationship than with someone in-person.
2. Pick up the Word.
Let your kids “catch” you reading your Bible often. When your children are asked what Daddy cares about, wouldn’t you want them to say, “Daddy loves to read about Jesus”!?
3. Spend time with them.
This is no surprise, I’m sure, but you have to spend time with your kids to make a lasting impact on them. Note this does not mean you need to spend a lot of money, go on fancy trips, etc. The best time you can spend with your children is one-on-one doing something that doesn’t have too many distractions. Going to the arcade or a movie is nice, but look for activities that facilitate chatting about life.
Take them out to a special breakfast at IHOP. Take your daughter on a date. Shoot targets with an airgun in the backyard with them. Take them on a nature hike. Take opportunities to point out how God is working through nature, your life, theirs, etc. It doesn’t have to be a planned out sermon; just enjoy the moment and thank God for it with your child. Remind them how much God loves us.
4. Serve others with them.
There are few things your children need to see you do more than serving other people. Your children need to see you serving your wife, other family, them, and also people outside your family. This will look different for each family, but look for opportunities to help in a way your children see, and if at all possible, include them in the process. For example, take them to the local soup kitchen to volunteer.
5. Love them.
This may sound too obvious, and more than likely you already love your children dearly. But, they need to know it and feel it. This will vary based on the dynamics of your family, but make sure you tell your children often how much both you and God love them.
6. Sacrifice for them.
This may not be something that you overtly bring to the attention of your children, but in our efforts to model Christ to our children we must sacrifice for them. This may mean giving up time, money, possessions, or activities that you had other plans for, or that take you away from your children. This doesn’t mean you don’t ever get to have “guy time,” toys of your own, or have fun away from your children, but there needs to be a healthy balance.
Pray that the Spirit would reveal to you the appropriate thing(s) that you should sacrifice for your family. Once you know what that is, go all in…no looking back or complaining. It is an honor to sacrifice for others.
1 John 3:16-18 says “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
Author: Daniel is a magna cum laude graduate of NC State with a B.S. in Technology Education with a minor in Graphic Communications. He is a currently working towards an M.Div. at Shepherds Theological Seminary. Formerly a middle school teacher, he now runs a web development company in Raleigh, NC (Page Progressive). He resides with his wife, two sons and a daughter in Fuquay-Varina.