Janet Denison

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How to be a great dad

Ryan Denison and his daughter, showing off their new Atlanta Braves baseball hats, pose for a photo (Credit: Denison family) I thought about writing a Father's Day blog post, but I was afraid it would get lost in holiday, and the subject matter is too important. This was my first Father's Day since my dad died. I was surprised by my sadness. I'm so glad Dad is in heaven and whole again, but I really miss him.

At the same time, my oldest son Ryan celebrated his first Father's Day. Those of you who know Ryan remember that he was rarely seen without his Atlanta Braves cap. He still wears it whenever he can. For his first Father's Day I ordered him a new Braves hat with a matching one for Axia. The picture today is of the two of them, each grinning in those caps. (Time to buy another frame!)

Dads matter – a LOT! I want this to be another "conversation blog post." I want you to think about the best lesson your dad ever taught you, and then share it with the rest of us. I want to help dads, like Ryan and your sons, to be the strongest generation of fathers our country has seen.

Jim's Father's Day sermon was so good. He gave several statistics that I thought were very interesting and encouraging about the importance of a dad's role in the family. Jim said:

  • On the fathering front, there is good news to report. A recent survey reports that fathers are more involved than ever with their children. About 75 percent of fathers say being a dad is their most important job; 61 percent say they are more involved with their children than their father was with them.
  • 73 percent of parents say "a real man knows how to express emotional support to his children." According to Pew Research Center, the amount of time fathers spend on childcare and housework has grown from 6.5 hours a week in 1965 to 17 hours in 2011.
Jim also spoke about the importance of dads to the spiritual life of their children. He said:

  • Christianity was founded by a man and 12 male disciples. Men were engaged in the faith from its inception. But in the 19th century and the industrial revolution, more men began working in mines, mills and factories, far from their home and church. Women stayed behind and began doing most of the church work. Over time, church became a place for women, where men attended on Sunday morning, if at all.
  • Today, only one out of six men goes to church. In a typical church service, only 39 percent are men.
  • It's a shame that many men don't connect with faith and church, because churchgoers are more likely to express a high level of satisfaction with life.
  • Worship attendance is the most important predictor of marital stability: those who attend worship are 25-50% less likely to divorce than those who don't.
  • Religious involvement helps men be more engaged husbands and fathers. And teenagers who have religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with them.
Jim has always been a busy dad, but he always found a LOT of time for our sons. Most nights, when the boys were young, I would listen as Jim told Ryan and Craig a Bible story. Then he prayed with them, and tucked them in. On the nights he was gone, I did that job. We did that with our boys for many years, until gradually handing them the responsibility for their own relationship with God.

One of my favorite verses in the Psalms is 131:2. It says, "But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me."

My word of advice to dads (and moms) comes from that passage. Our most important job as a parent is to teach our children how to have a personal relationship with God as their King. They begin that relationship by listening to us tell them Bible stories, then teaching them what those stories mean. But eventually, we need to "wean" them spiritually to read, study and interpret the Scripture on their own, with the Holy Spirit's guidance.

A calm and quiet soul is found in a person who walks with God, and loves God.  That relationship requires a deep knowledge of God. Too often we go to God for what we can get or for what we need, instead of going to him in love, simply seeking his Presence. An unweaned child goes to its mother when he or she is hungry. We need to wean our children spiritually, like we weaned them physically. Parents can teach their children to go to God, simply because they love him and want to spend time with him. But moms and dads must share the job of "feeding them." In fact, the older the children get, the more important a dad's role in feeding them becomes.

Please use the comment section below to share your own thoughts or advice about what it means to be a great and godly dad. I'm hoping that this blog will help a lot of men be the best dads they can be!

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