Proverbs 4: 1-4
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Impartation from fathers
1 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a boy in my father’s house,
still tender, and an only child of my mother,
4 he taught me and said,
“Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands and you will live.
Fathers are good because they know stuff – like how to fix things, what to say to people who want to sell things at your door, where to get the best tyres for the car and which way is the right path when out hiking. They also have a particular role in nurturing young people, mainly by doing things with them, showing how it works, and guiding through the difficult parts.
Where fathers are absent, so much of this doesn’t happen. Sociologists talk about the dangers of growing up without good male role models to look up to – so that the not-so-good or even abusive ones look normal for lack of comparison.
A recent Centre for Social Justice report says that more than one million children in the UK are growing up without significant contact with their fathers (‘significant’ is pitched at the level of one or two visits a year, so this one million is the tip of an iceberg in reality). The report predicts that, with the number growing at the rate of 20,000 a year, by the next election, it could be two million. At present, three million children are being brought up predominantly by their mothers.
The cost of this social breakdown is incalculable. Who has the answers to this? On this occasion, the answer is ‘Jesus’! Or, to be less flippant, His church, which has a high value on marriage (the kind between men and women), families (the kind with parents and children) and relationships (the kind that loves enough to work through difficulties and come out stronger). Without changing society overnight, church is also a relational environment with all the different ages and roles in the mix and plenty of activities for young people where men are involved.
Fathers are pretty essential. And they come in several guises, not necessarily limited to the biological relationship. There are also spiritual fathers – the people in the church who are natural teachers, trainers and mentors. Making disciples is an activity which leans heavily on that ‘fathering’ approach, and it is what Jesus’ church is supposed to be best at.
TAKE AWAY CHALLENGE
How can men in the church be role models, spiritual fathers and those who engage in healthy, helpful activities with young people who are lacking that dimension of parenthood – within good safeguarding practice and without attracting the wrong sort of media attention?