Raising children to serve God doesn’t happen by itself. Fathers must intentionally engage their children in a long-term, step-by-step plan towards God’s higher purpose.

On the fathering side of the parenting equation, many dads are uncertain and insecure with their role. Because I speak often on the topic of raising kids, I talk with many dads who are knee deep in the task. A shocking number of them (and moms, too) feel ill-equipped to bring up the children God has entrusted to them.

Fathers need to go back and reread Genesis 18:19, one of the foundational texts for being a good dad. “For I have chosen him [Abraham], so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (NIV).

This passage bristles with implications about a dad’s task. If the way of the Lord is to be maintained, fathers must teach it. Parenting is a team task, but the responsibility for modeling “the way of the Lord” falls directly on fathers. Dads must inculcate into young minds a vision for a life that honors God. As a measure of the import of this task the text says in some way the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham is tied to his being a faithful father.

Give specific direction. Children need direction. They are not to be self-directing. They are not even co-directors. Our culture typically turns decision-making prerogatives over to children, and then we are surprised when our teens do not look for or accept direction from us.

Be intentional. Another implication is that dad must be intentional. The goal is more than “just be a good kid.” As a dad you must have specific training goals. You need conscious ways and means of accomplishing those training goals. A defensive coordinator does not get a team ready to make the big plays by lecturing. He runs drills. He watches the players execute the drills and corrects poor moves. He employs a clear, defined, intentional process of training.

Taking on the role of director is what separates real dads, dads who nurture their kids, from dads who have no vision for this task, who simply concentrate on what they know how to do, providing food, clothes, and shelter.

God has called you to more. Do you feel overwhelmed by that? Remember everything we need to do this job has been given to us in Christ (2 Peter 1:3–4).

Watch this column in coming months for specific training goals and an “intentional” training regimen.

Dr. Tedd Tripp is the senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He holds a D. Min. with an emphasis in pastoral counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Tedd is the author of the popular child-rearing book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

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