Growing up without a father
There’s the seven-year-old boy who spent a couple of weeks with his father, who wants to be a player in Las Vegas. The boy comes back totally confused, talking crazily about women, and saying he wants to be like his daddy.
There’s the kid who’s acting out in school.
Or the fourth-grader who is participating in a school assignment that asks, “What do your parents do?” Not knowing who his dad is, he makes something up.
Or the young boy sitting on the porch on a Saturday, watching his friend down the street and his dad put their buckets and fishing poles in the back of the car to go fishing. They never invite him along. And he wonders, “Where’s my dad? Why won’t he come take me fishing?”
That young boy is now a sixty-year-old man who still carries the pain of his father’s absence during his childhood.
Pastors need to help their congregations grow in compassion toward children with absentee fathers and to increase awareness of the lasting hurt the kids may carry because of it.
When you’re talking about fatherlessness, it’s not the kid who is the cause of his or her not having a parent. It’s the parent who is responsible for what has happened. But, if a person is in a bad situation, the first thing we do is ask how or why that person got there. And if the answer to that has something to do with a person’s failure or mistake, we say, “Wow. They should have never done that.” Then somehow, that kind of appeases us, and we say, “Well, maybe they almost just kind of deserve that.”
But when people approach the issue of fatherlessness with this attitude, it lowers the level of compassion, human concern, and love.
Jesus says one of the characteristics of the last days is the hearts of people will grow cold (Matt. 24). There’s going to be a shortage of genuine love. A pastor’s heart needs to be open and caring for people regardless of how they got into their individual situations. How they got there cannot be a factor in how we love them. The fact is, they are there, and we have a responsibility to show the God’s love to them in a way that God equips us to do so.
A strategy for responding
One of our church’s first responses to the issue of fatherlessness was to create an awareness of the problem. In the church there are a lot of single moms who are struggling. They can explain that there is no man in the household to help pay the bills, etc., but a lot of them can’t articulate the dynamics that are taking place and what’s going on in terms of their son not having a father present.
So we tried to create awareness in the church about the issue. We have a problem here: It’s prevalent in our churches. It’s prevalent in our community. It’s prevalent in our nation. And we have to understand that the issue is dear to the heart of God, because God says He is a father to the fatherless. I spent time preaching on that just to help get the church members’ minds wrapped around what is going on.
For the younger men in the church, in their teens and early twenties, we created a program called Life Changes. The majority of the men who attended had no fathers. We were able to love these young men and try to fill in the gaps in their lives. Young men without a father may not know how to treat a young lady. Or how to clean the house or have a work ethic. While some moms do a great job, we have noticed in our church that you can tell the difference between some of the young men who grew up with a father and some who did not. The work ethic is totally different. And then, whom do they talk to about men’s issues, about those things going on in their lives that perhaps a mom may not be able to understand or relate to?
Ministry to young women who are fatherless is also important. Consider how mature Christian women in your church could help mentor or guide these young women. Again, increase awareness of the potential issues in their lives. For instance, your church members may not be aware that sex trafficking can be a danger for young women without a father figure. One young lady in our church used to be involved in that. She said they find out if a girl has a good father or not, and if she doesn’t, then that’s what they use to run their game on these young girls. They promise them all these things that they’re longing for from a dad.
How you can raise awareness in your church
Pastors can raise awareness by preaching sermons on the issue of fatherlessness. I preached a few sermons on it, and generally our church responded well. We also do a conference called “Fathership” highlighting the issue and how people can become involved. Then we heard testimonies. Some of the young men and a couple of young women in the church shared their stories. It was powerful to hear.
After one Fathership conference in Seattle, an eighty-year-old lady flagged down one of the men who spoke at the ladies’ session and said, “Where were you seventy years ago?” She was still carrying that pain.
Preaching, special events, testimonies: all those things are a good way to get information out about the topic.
Find a place to start
Pastors need to figure out the best approach for them and their church to begin addressing the issue of fatherlessness. Find a simple starting place. It doesn’t have to be a high-power program. Once a month, we have Boys’ Night Out. We’ll get a man from the church, and we’ll have boys come. We play games. We eat pizza. And then, somebody will share a lesson, and we’ll just talk about father stuff. You know, boy stuff. Man stuff.
It could be as simple as identifying some kids in your church with absentee fathers. Spend a little more time with them after the church service on Sunday. Invite them and their families over to the house for dinner. Model for your church what it looks like to have compassion for the fatherless.