We have a fatherhood problem.
This is not a new realization. For decades, we have struggled with the problem of absentee fathers and the unfortunate numbers of mothers who must raise their child alone and without much help. It is a serious issue when men do not take responsibility for children, do not pay child support, or are not there for them.
It is problem that we need to address. However, I think our fatherhood problem goes much deeper than absentee fathers.
We have a problem in appreciating good fathers and equipping all men to be strong fathers to their children. It is something we are not doing well in society or in the church. I believe if we did a better job appreciating and equipping men for their roles as fathers then it could help to solve the issue of absentee fathers. Men need good and strong role models to provide the way forward in being good dads. Right now, we are not receiving that.
What we receive is a society that portrays men as incapable to raise children. Television depicts men, through shows and advertisements, as lazy and bumbling fools who are only interested in sports. When it comes to raising children, men are seen as uninvolved or trying to make excuses for why they can’t help.
The image portrayed in society is what is said in the home. We have taught men to believe that they are only “babysitters” of children until they reach a certain age. Fathers are not babysitters. They are an important part of a child’s development and can provide strength, comfort, and affection to a child.
If this is the dominant image of fatherhood in society, then it is no wonder why some men avoid their responsibilities. When we teach men that they have no role to play in a child’s life, we should not be surprised when men do not want to show up and be a dad. This is not an excuse. From personal experience, it is heartbreaking and sad when a father does not want to be a part of a child’s life.
The way we portray men in society, especially as it relates to their roles as fathers, must change. Just as we have supported women and encourage women to take a stronger role in society, we need to encourage and support men to take a stronger role in the home. I think this is where the church has a role to play.
First, we must appreciate good fathers and not just on Father’s Day. Just as we do for great example of mothers, we must highlight strong and supportive fathers and let their examples be a guide to other men. When men see how other men are as fathers it will affect them in how they are a dad to their own children. Much of what I know about being a dad I’ve learned from watching my friends be good fathers to their children. We appreciate in ways that inspire others. I can think of no better place to do that than in the church, where we are called to be a community that supports one another in fellowship and love of the Lord.
We need to also train men to be strong fathers. Appreciating good fathers is just one piece of the puzzle. We have to teach what it means to be a dad. By using examples from Scripture and life, we show men how to be the dad their children desire them to be.
Equipping also means we must change society’s attitude towards men. I admit this will be hard work, but work that needs to be done. We must correct sexist attitudes that claim men have no part in a child’s initial months, while women do all the parenting on their own. Both parents are important to a child’s early development and we must express this through both our words and actions.
The fatherhood problem is one that will not completely go away. Unfortunately, we will always have men who will not take responsibility for their children. By appreciating and equipping men to be strong fathers we can reverse the trend and change society’s attitude toward fathers.
There is not greater joy than being a father. We all have a part in sharing that message with men so that they will be ready to be an active role in their child’s life.