The children of well-known spiritual fathers often ride a curse into this world. High expectations, suspicion of favoritism, and the “PK” (pastor’s kid) label often drive a child to rebellion by their teenage years. We often see it coming when they are still small kids. How many of us have rolled our eyes when thinking of some conniving little pastor’s kid who seemed to get away with everything? For a father that has a spiritual influence, position, or even occupation, this struggle will be the greatest in helping his children form their own identity without going off the deep end. I was a child in just this type situation, with a father in an influential ministry role. Because of that situation one night helped my spiritual quest more than any other.
Like many kids brought up in the church in the 70s and 80s, I attended transitional churches that still had regular altar calls. One week we even had children’s revival meetings with altar calls every night. Monday night of that kids week I walked down front to consciously make a decision to follow Jesus Christ. I went home that night with good news for Mom and Dad.
My father was once asked when he met the Lord, or “became saved.” He answered by giving a question back. “Well,” he said, “That’s a hard one to answer. It’s as if you asked me when my Dad became my father.” After pausing he concluded, “My Father was always my Father.” I don’t believe he meant this as a comment on when a person really “becomes a Christian,” but more as a comment on how the whole process felt for him. In the great legacy that was passed from my grandfather’s family to my father’s, I had many of the same feelings when it came to my spiritual quest. God had always been a part of life. Every bedtime story or prayer contained biblical teachings or spiritual requests. Every meal included thanks. Every Sunday involved services. In many ways I experienced the same “always been” spiritual experience that my father described in response to that question. When people ask me when I was “born-again,” I often think of answering with the time-tested joke, “I was born at an early age.”
We are more than the sum of our atoms. And any relationship between father and child must deal with more than the physical and emotional people our kids are. We must involve ourselves in their spirit as well.
When I came home that Monday night in 1980 and told Dad of my spiritual landmark, he didn’t brush it aside like so many other decisions a 7 year old might make. He treated it with respect and told me he was proud of me. But instead of having a long talk with me about what it meant he took me in the garage and we made a little piece of wood with the saw and a router. We just put the date “7/21/1980” on this block of wood. I knew what it meant—so did he.
It may seem a bit trite, but for more than 20 years during doubts about God and my salvation in Jesus Christ, I’ve looked at that simple block of wood my Dad took the time to make with me, and it has been a touchstone. Encouraging that decision and helping me grow through the years enabled me to know even as a child that I was not faking it. It was real. It was mine! That block of wood helped me overcome, eventually, the nagging question of whether my faith was independent of my family – because that date was my date and no one else’s.
A Dad can be the strongest spiritual force in a child’s life. It doesn’t matter if we think women often find it more natural to talk about such things. It isn’t an issue of simply talking about your “spiritual side.” Every father has his own spiritual way of life. Every father! We don’t have to copy some spiritually well-known leader to be the person God wants us to be. We should be ourselves with God. And most essential to our journey in these pages, we must be ourselves with our kids. Being Dad means living our spiritual lives so our kids can see them. Whatever it is that you do to connect with God, be sure to show your kids you’re doing it. Whatever they are growing into, encourage it, and help them become themselves in God. We fathers can be authentic spirit guides for our children. In fact, if we take this seriously, we must.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- What kind of spiritual lives do you want your kids to have?
- What ways are you already successfully modeling that kind of life to them?
- How could you show them your spiritual side more?
- When is the best time of the day or week for you to pray with your kids?
- What kind of spiritual milestones in your kids lives could you more intentionally celebrate in the future?