Here we are a year after the infamous letter I wrote to you. I, inadvertently though willingly, have become a go-to person to share ideas for Mother’s Day and recently some of your co-laborers have contacted me asking for Father’s Day resources. The two holidays have some significant cross overs, but one is known more for honoring and one for shaming.
I believe this hasn’t been your intention, to shame men on Father’s Day. But it’s happened before (in other churches not yours, no doubt) and some men are a bit leery to cross the threshold of your door. We’re on the same page here, we want them welcomed, ministered to and pointed towards God while in your midst.
As I said with my 10 ideas for Mother’s Day, let me preface these ideas with the reminder that you are the expert on your flock, I’m not! Not all of these ideas will work in your context, they are merely suggestions (can you see I’m a bit gun shy on what might show up in the comment section :)). Take, use, discard. I am for you and this list is intended as a resource.
In the service you could:
1. Focus on scripture. If you’ve been preaching a series, keep going. If your church is one that follows the liturgical calendar, follow that. We’ve come to hear from and worship God.
2. Preach/teach on what it means to honor our mothers and fathers. Honoring parents was a common theme in the comment section of the Mother’s Day post, but what does that mean when your parent isn’t in church with you? Or when your parent isn’t easy to honor? Or they have now passed? You’ve been given a rich opportunity to teach on this subject!
3. Preach/teach on the Imago Dei and the ways that fathering reflects God. As Sarah Ruden says, “love is manically verb centered.” So is fathering. Active verbs show the heart of an active God. Providing, instructing, protecting, disciplining, coaching, serving, calming, enjoying, challenging, teaching, entertaining, worrying over, learning from, guiding, playing with, rescuing and the list could go on. One of the great joys in life is watching my brother-in-law delight in his children. In him (and my own father), I see a picture of the way God delights in us and allows men to reflect that aspect of Him.
4. Mention fathers and fathering in the pastoral prayer. Here is a sample Father’s Day prayer.
5. Have a special prayer time or time of blessing for dads. Resources include: A blessing for Father’s Day
6. Recognize the broad spectrum of fathering. A friend’s brother was recently left unexpectedly by his wife who took their young daughter with her. I’m picturing this man who would like nothing more than to see his family healed and restored; but on this day he is awakening to an empty house and there will be no dear young arms hugging him or young lips kissing his face. He is but one of many for whom this Father’s Day is different from years past.
In your flock you will have those:
- who are faithful husbands and fathers (!)
- who found out years later of children they never knew who were aborted (and they wonder about them today)
- who have regrets in the ways they parented
- who became first time dads and RADIATE joy like the sun
- who lost children or grandchildren this year and the ache is so profound words are inadequate
- who walk the paths of infertility but are supposed to be “the strong one”
- who aren’t providing for their families in ways that they want
- who encouraged their children to be aborted
- who had horrific fathers are doing the best that they can
- who love fathering and walk honorably in the role
- who are co-parenting and are not able to be with their children as much as they want
- who are estranged from their children both relationally and physically
- who lost their father this year and feel like orphans
- who did not grow up with good fathers and it has impacted their view of God
- who long to be husbands and dads, yet find themselves single
- who are proud of the men and women their children have grown up to become
There will be step-fathers, fathers-in-law, adoptive fathers, biological fathers, foster fathers, spiritual fathers and mentors. David had his mighty men and we have mighty, brave men in our midst too!
Ideas for Sunday School Teachers
7. (from Carolyn Barnetta) Not all children live with or even know their fathers. Perhaps they are being raised by a single mom or grandparents. Talk personally with the custodial parent or guardian before next Sunday, and ask them how they want you to handle the situation with their child. If you are making a gift for fathers in class, ask the parent/guardian if they would like to have their child make the gift for a grandfather, step-father, friend, uncle, etc. Then, the custodial parent will have an opportunity to talk with their child during the week. It will keep you from having to deal with an awkward situation that might embarrass the child.
8. No shaming, please. Some men will stay away from church on Father’s Day not-so-much due to the standing thing (that seems to be a bigger deal on Mother’s Day) but because of the shaming thing. There seems to be a double standard of honoring mothers and shaming fathers on their respective days. There are places to call any one of us on ways that we are not honoring our callings (and yes, fatherhood can be a calling), but this is not the day for that message. Pick some time in October or February or really any day but this one.
9. No standing, please. Either for fathers or men. It’s kind of a no-win situation. Let’s side step this one (and by implementing the above ideas, fathers are acknowledged and honored!).
10. No reducing fathering to being about food. OK, this one isn’t so much for pastors as for family members. It was a bit disappointing to see how much Father’s Day is about the food (at least on the internet) — what snacks can kids make for dad? What’s the best BBQ techniques and tools. I get that it’s June, we like being outside, and hey, who doesn’t love a good BBQ. But fathering is about more than this one aspect of men (see — and celebrate — the above).
Again, thank you for serving and shepherding us day after day. And remember, it’s not all on you; much is in the ear of the hearer combined with the work of the Spirit. Knowing that Father’s Day seems to be more about the food (at least according to my simple internet research), I’m praying for you as are many others in your flock, as you spiritually feed us.
Grace and peace to you, my brother or sister,
Here’s a resource for you: 14 Tips for navigating the messy middle of life.