A Dad’s Role in the Spiritual Formation of His Children

Dads, I want to ask you something. When was the last time you asked your children about Jesus? When was the last time you had a conversation with your children about the nature and character of God? When was the last time you spoke to your children about the season of life you and your family are in, and how that season should ultimately be used to bring God glory?

My goal is not to make us feel bad. I’m a dad too. I have three littles running around our home, and I fail at this quite often. But, in my life, I have witnessed a change in my mentality toward showing my children who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for them and all of humanity. 

Growing up I loved playing catch. As a matter of fact, I still do! I would spend hours outside, or in some cases, inside playing catch with my dad. It eventually got to a point where he would hesitate to play because I would try to take his hand off with a fastball! But still, that time was something that I will never forget. And it’s something that I want to share with my kids as well. 

That same mentality of wanting to pass this simple game of catch on to my kids should be the same mentality of wanting and desiring to share Jesus with them. I should be just as excited to talk about Jesus with my kids as I am to play catch with them in the yard.

Look with me at Proverbs 1:7. The Word says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” We have been taught at length that everything begins and ends with a healthy fear of God. As fathers, it is our responsibility to pass this on to our children. We pass it along to our children because we have been instructed to do so. 

So you may be asking yourself, “Why? Why do we do this?”

We do this because we first have a healthy fear of who God is and what He alone has accomplished. We have traveled the journey with Christ. We have seen our sinful nature and it has been exposed. Because of this, we have turned our lives over to the One—Jesus—who can make us clean. We have allowed Christ Jesus to forgive our sins and bring us into a relationship with God. 

We all desire wisdom. We want to be wise. We want to know what it is that will bring us closer to our loved ones, what will help us provide for our families, and what will bring us satisfaction and joy. Therefore, we know that God is the only one who can provide us with everything that we need and the overwhelming joy that comes from knowing Him and having a relationship with Him. Because of this, we seek to become wise to his teachings and his ways. And we want to impart that to our children. 

Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” While we lovingly discipline our children, we do so through a biblical lens, because we are attempting to lead them towards Jesus and ultimately a loving relationship with Him. 

Have you ever had one of those moments where you are ready to explode on your kids? Maybe they scribbled on the wall with a marker, spilled something in the car, and chose to repeatedly not listen. (By the way… All of those examples happen regularly in our household). Anger begins to build up inside of us, and we want to explode. The inner being wants to rage against the act that has just happened and we can’t help but unleash everything within us. If you’ve never experienced this type of moment, I want to personally meet you and sit down and chat with you! 

Nevertheless, Paul instructs fathers to do no such thing towards their children here in Ephesians 6:4. Why does he do that? What gives Paul the right to tell us such a thing? He does so because he knows that fathers, mothers, and parents are providing their children with an example to grow up towards and ultimately imitate. He essentially tells parents to set a good example for their children. Tony Merida, the pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC says, “What are children learning? They are learning basic Christian living by watching their parents.” 

“What are children learning? They are learning basic Christian living by watching their parents.”

Dr. Tony Merida

The primary place for parents to live out what they believe is in the home. And who is at home? Their children. Our children see how we live and act and how we speak to one another. Merida continues by saying: “Children are observing how their parents value the church. They are watching how their parents are speaking truth lovingly, working honestly, giving generously, encouraging others properly, putting away bitterness and anger repentantly, and forgiving one another Christianly.”

Our children are watching us. They are examining every move we make and every word out of our mouths. They want to see what we will do when they make a wrong move or make a mistake. Are we going to extend our anger and wrath, or are we going to extend grace, while showing and teaching them the ways of the Lord?

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Isn’t this the mother’s job? Isn’t this what moms are supposed to be doing?” I want to encourage you now, to stop viewing parenting and your children through the lens of the American 18 and 1900s. At this age, especially here in America, we saw where the dads went to work, while the moms stayed home to raise the children. Dads would provide for their wife and their children by working, while moms stayed home and raised the children and provided a clean home. 

This model transitioned over to American Christianity as well. At home, the discipling was left to the moms while the dads did their own thing. You may have listened while dad cracked open the bible at night and read it aloud, but it was really mom who was doing all the discipling at home. We saw this within the children and student Sunday school departments throughout this time frame. Think back, if you grew up in church, who was your Sunday school teacher? More than likely it was a female. While there is nothing wrong with this, think about who was absent in the discipling of children? The guys were. 

Now, look at the Scriptures… Do we see this same picture here? Absolutely not! We see a totally different one. We see where dads take up the mantle provided to them by God to lead their families and their children. Within the Old Testament time frame, before Christ, dads had a responsibility that was laid out for them as to all they were responsible for in the spiritual wellbeing of their children. If we look at the New Testament, we see that the responsibility did not end when Christ came, but we are now parenting through a different lens of redemption. 

Dad, please hear me. Don’t outsource the discipleship of your children to someone else. You play a key role in their development—physically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Don’t run from this God-given task of leading your home. Raising your children in the ways of the Lord is not a feminine thing. It’s really the manliest thing you can do. 

It all comes down to a dad’s relationship with Christ before it comes to leading their children. When you begin to see your children through the lens of Jesus, we will see them as people who one need Jesus, and two, they need to be discipled in His ways. In our reflection time for this session, we are looking at our own relationship with Christ. 

So, I want to ask you: What are the areas in your spiritual journey that have been neglected? (For example daily bible reading, praying, giving, serving, etc.) Again, how do we expect our children to know and love God, if we don’t teach them by showing them and telling them about Him?

And then secondly, after responding to the question take a few moments to pray for help from the Holy Spirit to strengthen your walk with Christ in these particular areas.

Catch. Move from baseball to fishing… Jesus tells the first disciples to play catch. Not with their fishing nets, but with their lives as they now seek to catch people for him—Matthew 4. Dads “catch” your children and see how God will use you!

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