Like most people, I have several titles associated with my life.
When being introduced in a formal setting, I am called “doctor.” When visiting the hospital, I am often called “reverend.” At church, most call me “pastor.”
My wife, when she refers to me in conversation with others, calls me her “husband.” And my children call me “Dad.”
I unashamedly own all the titles people use for me, but in some ways, the last title is the best.
Unfortunately, fatherhood may be one of the most neglected topics in church today, and dads the most neglected disciples.
In contrast, the Bible is filled with examples of the important role that fathers play in family life, calling fathers to both a rich spiritual life and fulfilling family life.
This article will focus on how to reach fathers during the Father’s Day season.
However, for a great article on the social and spiritual importance of fathers read Robert Parham’s EthicsDaily.com article here.
For a review of an insightful book on fatherhood, read Jim Denison’s article here.
For a thoughtful article on why fathers are opting out of church, read Thomas Long’s article here.
Clearly, the ramifications of absentee fathers are staggering. Therefore, the church must do a better job of reaching and helping fathers.
Father’s Day is an excellent time to call all fathers – the highly committed, marginal and disinterested – to both a deeper spiritual life and richer family life.
Most attempts to accomplish this fall into one of three categories: missional, educational and attractional. All three have a place in taking dads deeper in their commitment to Christ.
The missional strategy is an attempt to minister to fathers’ felt needs or to get them involved in missions activities. For instance, Father’s Day is a great time to promote fathers’ support groups.
Support groups could include fathers of teenagers, young dads, men struggling with addiction or fathers who have lost their jobs. The point is to find a need and provide a support group.
Another missional approach is to get fathers involved in a local missions activity leading up to Father’s Day. Father’s Day Sunday could then be used to celebrate the work that was accomplished.
Many younger fathers long to be involved in something that is helping the community. In addition, a father is more likely to attend worship on Father’s Day if he is being recognized as a part of a group that is making a difference.
This approach has the advantage of appealing to all three groups of fathers and places disinterested fathers alongside highly motivated fathers.
An educational approach to Father’s Day can also be effective, especially for highly committed and marginal fathers. This approach can take one of several forms.
The most obvious strategy is to offer classes or seminars on relevant issues for fathers. Another educational approach is to offer mentoring partnerships for several months leading up to Father’s Day.
My church has been intentional in partnering older men with younger men and fostering a strategic mentoring process.
A third educational approach is to partner with community organizations to host a support drive for health or social issues that might concern fathers.
It is now common for churches to highlight “Breast Cancer Awareness” at Mother’s Day. Why not partner with a community health organization to raise awareness on prostate cancer?
On Father’s Day, members of the church could take a stand with prostate cancer survivors and their families to raise awareness or funds to help in the fight against the disease.
The final and most common approach is attractional. Although it is not the most effective in the long term, it certainly has its strengths.
Some churches will have a guest speaker for the Father’s Day worship services. The guest speaker is typically an athlete or celebrity who might have an appeal with the target audience.
Other churches plan a Father’s Day extravaganza that might include a picnic and entertainment for the entire family.
There is often a giveaway associated with the event. The prize is typically something that fathers are perceived to desire (anything from sporting paraphernalia to barbecue pits to automobiles).
This approach has the advantage of attracting a larger population of nonchurch members for at least one Sunday. The hope is that some of them will return.
In a 2010 Father’s Day speech, President Barack Obama, referring to his own daughters, said, “What I think about is what kind of world I’m leaving them.”
The church’s responsibility is even greater. Our call is not only to this world, but the one to come.
Whatever your church attempts this Father’s Day, the most important thing is to not let it pass unnoticed. The ramifications are eternal.
Ellis Orozco is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University, Southwestern Baptist Seminary and George W. Truett Seminary.