According to a survey released by Baptist Press, if a child is the first person in their home to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow them into faith. If a mother is the first to accept Christ, there is a 17% likelihood her family will do the same. But, if a father is first in his family to become a follower of Jesus, 93% of the time his family will follow suit. Conversely, when fathers are absent or unengaged, things do not turn out well. In his book Father Fiction Donald Miller offers these sobering statistics: 94% percent of the prison population is men of which 85% percent grew up in a fatherless home.
My wife, Lisa, was one of those children who grew up in a fatherless home, and although my parents were both present during my childhood, our home was filled with constant tension and frequent outbursts. So, when Lisa and I married we were determined to provide for our children the stability we never knew ourselves. As the children grew and the time came to consider how they would be educated, homeschooling seemed like a viable option. A year and a half prior to our oldest daughter entering kindergarten, we attended our first homeschool conference. That weekend, we heard Psalm 127:4 repeated frequently, “...children are arrows in the hand of a warrior…” which has become a cornerstone of our parenting philosophy.
As dads, we often think in terms of keeping our children safe, not exposing them to dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Yet when we consider the truth held in Psalm 127:4, we realize our job, in actuality, is to hone our arrows - preparing them not for a life of safety and security - but rather to be released into the heat of the battle, striking the enemy and advancing God’s Kingdom.
We have a friend, Stephanie Arnold, who was a member of the 2004 Olympic archery team. One day, I asked her what it took to compete at such a high level. She responded by saying, “Good vision is essential, the arrow needs to be well-balanced, and you must trust your equipment.”
When speaking at family events or during our concerts, I often share several principles which I believe to be essential in preparing our children to live a life of purpose:
Be a Dad of Vision. Scripture tells us in Proverbs 29:18 that without vision people perish. For Lisa and me, our vision was to raise children who would live out their unique purpose with an attitude of ministry. Becoming a dad of vision requires us to see the big picture, to look beneath the surface and into our child’s heart, recognizing their natural bents and doing our best to train our children in the gifts they exhibit (Proverbs 22:6). Being a dad of vision also means to look beyond the moment, realizing the decisions we make today – or refuse to make – play a great role in setting the course for our children’s future. We should discipline fairly, consistently, and never in anger, understanding that discipline is not about punishment, but discipleship (Hebrews 12:9-11). Additionally, being a dad of vision requires us to look inward, to prayerfully identify our short-comings and work to overcome them. This may mean we seek out mentors, faith-based study materials, retreats, etc, but the investment we make in our personal growth can reap amazing dividends in all our relationships.
Be a Dad of Faith. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 instructs us to: “Impress them (God’s words) on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” I believe being a dad of faith starts with accepting the role as spiritual head of our family. If family prayer and devotions were not something you experienced as a child, doing them with your family can seem a bit awkward. But making the necessary effort – no matter how disjointed it seems – will help us, not only communicate God’s truth to our children, but also give them an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts and concerns.
Another great way to model faith to our children is by serving together inside and outside our homes. This can be as simple as doing the dishes with your children while allowing your wife to rest, raking an elderly neighbor’s lawn, or taking a meal to a single parent. As Deuteronomy 6 implies, being a dad of faith is not about compartmentalized religion, but about living in a constant awareness of God’s goodness.
Be a Dad of balance. Find ways to work and play together as a family. Lisa and I like to garden and the kids are a huge help. Even when they were toddlers, we had them in the garden with us. Back then, it took twice as long with their help as it would have without it. We would find worms and bugs which sometimes were given names, played in the dirt, and every once in a while, planted a seed, all the while building character and creating memories. Now that they are teens, gardening takes far less time, and provides many opportunities for great conversations.
Creating an environment of working together has also allowed us in recent years to travel as a family band, ministering at churches, festivals and events, but I believe our music ministry has its roots, literally, in the garden.
Take time to play together and have fun with your kids. Being raised by a dad who worked constantly, this can honestly be difficult for me. While I LOVE spending time with my family, I have had to learn to relax and take time to enjoy them, sometimes going as far as writing “recreation” in my day-planner. But the memories of their laughter and smiles are much sweeter and long-lasting than any other tasks I could have possibly accomplished.
The third thing to bring balance to your family is to love your spouse. Model respect, appreciation and support for each other. Kids need the stability of knowing that you and your wife are a team. Date nights are one great way to model this. Sometimes, when time is short or budgets are tight, this may require free activities like taking a long walk together, Frisbee in the park, or possibly making a date out of necessity, by running errands together. But balance in our homes starts with parents who are on the same page.
My children are beginning to strike out on their own now, and honestly, I am not looking forward to releasing my “arrows” into the battlefield. But when I do, I want to know I have done all I can to prepare them for what lies ahead. Your involvement in your family is essential to helping them achieve their purpose and, ultimately, advance the kingdom of God.
Tom, Lisa and their family live in rural Indiana. Tom is a singer/songwriter, worship leader, speaker and author. He and his family have an active music ministry, known as the Frye Family Band. The Fryes recently founded Family First, a ministry to strengthen families. The Frye Family Band’s new book, 101 Devotions for Busy Families, and their new EP “Alive for the First Time” are available at www.fryefamilyband.net.
Publication date: December 31, 2013Page Source (url): http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/teens/parent-is-a-verb.html