Friends from church are expecting their first child. As Jodi attended the baby shower on Saturday, I thought I would compose an email to the proud pappa containing some of my thoughts on what it takes to be considered a “great dad.” Jodi encouraged me to share the list with you. Here it is:
How to be a Great Dad–Part One
1. Love God more than you love your wife.
2. Love your wife more than you love your children. Deep down, this is exactly what your children will want to see. Lovingly show them what your sweetheart means to you. Be affectionate with her in their presence. May your one-fleshness (Gen. 2:24) be evident to all.
3. Love your children more than you love your work.
4. Love your children more than you love your hobbies. If you choose not to practice #3 & #4, you may–in the end–lose your children.
5. Although you cannot make your children Christians, you are still responsible to train them in the discipline and instruction in the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
6. The most effective way to do that is through the events of the day rather than scheduled times of training such as church events and services (Dt. 6:5-9).
7. However, since the gathering of the body of Christ is vital to growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), do not forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:25). Your children will not believe pursuing Christ personally is a priority if they do not see it as a priority in your life. Your children will not believe pursuing Christ publicly is a priority if they do not see you treat it as such. Remember you continually live in Example Land.
8. As you train your children and put them into situations where others are assisting you in the training process, repeatedly stress that your motivation is love rather than legalism. Prove to them that joy, not judgementalism, is our catalyst for doing the right thing. Your goal is to raise passionate pursuers of the glory of God rather than Pharisees. Seek to cultivate humble-heartedness in yourself, your wife and your children instead of haughty-hearted religion–the type of religion Jesus disdained.
9. Teach your children to do the right thing the right way at the right time for the right reasons. Do this first through your own actions. Illustrate it for them. Hold them accountable to doing the same.
10. Hold your children accountable to honoring and obeying those God has placed in authority over them. Your children will be conceived in sin. They will be born in sin. It will not take long for them to prove that they are–in fact–sinners. Shortly thereafter, they will become professionals at sinning. Discipline them–as you deem appropriate–for willful sins. All children should honor and obey. I particularly want to exhort you to ensure that your children treat their mother with the respect she undoubtedly deserves. When your wife is sinned against by her children, own the offense and punish the offender.
11. While taking your responsibilities as spiritual leader and disciplinarian seriously, be proactive in your children’s lives. Be engaged in their interests. If they know you truly care about them and what they like, they will be much more inclined to care about what you have to say. Yet strive to enter their world simply because it is their world.
12. Begin and remain faithful to family traditions. I recently read an article about the security family traditions bring to children. If you inquire of my children some of our traditions, things we do every year that they enjoy, they will give you a list. These are high priorities to our family. Never forget: God is not entrusting you with a family with the expectation that you neglect quality time with that family. Your wife is an unspeakable treasure. Your children are blessings from the Lord. Cultivate these relationships. Spend quality time with the ones you love. You will be blessed. They will be blessed. Most importantly, God will be exalted.
13. Protect your children. They will be inundated by ungodly, negative influences. As long as the Lord has children “under your roof,” prove to be their earthly security guard. Do not be afraid to veto entertainment options or inappropriate gaming or music. Put a filter on their computers. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” contains a concept that is far more inclusive than regular church attendance (Jos. 24:15). Guide them to choose friends who will build them up rather than tear them down. Seriously consider homeschooling or a private school option for their education. You simply will not have the time or energy to undo the errors which they will be taught in the government schools. It will be near to impossible to balance the imparting of your worldview with the worldviews they will be immersed in for seven to eight hours–five days a week. Your children’s education is your responsibility, not that of the federal government.
14. Pray for your children. Pray that they might come to know Christ at a young age. Pray that they might value Jesus above all others. Pray that they might be God-glorifying, people-blessing individuals. Pray that God might bless your pathetic efforts at parenting. Pray for wisdom as their father. After doing so, pray for it again. You need God to be a great dad. Your wife needs God. Your children need God. Be a prayer warrior for your family.
15. Rejoice in the opportunities to repent of poor parenting and in the fact that much can be done over the long haul in the hearts and minds of your children. You will mess up. Never believe the line, “I did the best I could.” Do not be satisfied with being better than your father. Do not strive to be a good dad. Be the best. Be great. Do so in God’s strength and for His glory!
Thanks for reading! Tune in again for Part Two. And–if you are a dad, be a great one!