Studies show fathers have a tremendous impact on their children’s spiritual lives, or at least their church attendance. According to Lifeway Research Group, Father’s Day is the Sunday with the lowest average church attendance, lower than Labor Day, Memorial Day and even July 4th weekends.
Historically Mother’s Day is the third highest attended Sunday of the year, falling behind Easter and Christmas. Studies also reveal spending on Mother’s Day always exceeds gift purchases for Father’s Day, according to the National Retail Foundation, but I digress.
Why the attendance disparity? Obviously, Father’s Day falls during summer vacation when people travel, but does the difference imply anything else?
Scott McConnell, director of Lifeway Research, summarized, “Clearly, mothers want to be present for the affirmation that is typically offered in most churches, but families are also present knowing their attendance will honor their mother.
“The attendance between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is telling,” he continued. “Either churches are less effective in affirming fathers, or families believe Christian fathers don’t value their participation in worship services.”
Promise Keepers and Baptist Press collected data showing that if a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only one child in fifty will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend as adults.
If a mother does not go to church, but a father does, a minimum of two-thirds of their children will attend church in adulthood. If the father does not go to church, but the mother does, usually two-thirds of their children will not attend.
Another study revealed that when the father is the first in the family to come to Christ, 93 percent of the time everyone else will follow.
Dads, we set the pace and make a huge impact on our children’s faith. The Bible charges us to give spiritual direction.
Joshua 24:14-15 declares, “Now, therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river … choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 reads, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In Ephesians 6:4, Paul instructs, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
These verses indicate spiritual leadership is a hands-on assignment, not a passive elective, involving teaching, leading, and setting the example. If you don’t teach them to love and worship God, who will? Their peers? The culture?
Pastor George W. Truett told about a 16-year-old boy who came the first three nights to his revival service. At the end of each service, when Truett asked those to raise their hands if they wanted him to pray for them, this teenager would lift his hand. The fourth night, however, the boy showed little interest. Truett spoke to the teen after the service and asked him why he had lost interest.
The boy answered, “My father is a doctor, and is the cleverest, strongest, greatest man in the world. But he never goes to church. I’ve decided that if he doesn’t need Jesus, then I don’t either.”
The next day Truett went to that doctor’s office and told him what his son said. The doctor asked Truett when the next service was. “Tonight,” Truett said.
The doctor was present, and during the decision time, he came forward and indicated he received Jesus as his Savior. The dad turned to see his son standing right behind him, also making his decision for Christ. The boy embraced his father and said, “Dad, I’m so glad you came. I wanted to come to Jesus, but I was waiting on you.”
Dads, are you helping your kids come to know Jesus? Or are they waiting on you?
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, 352 McDonough Road, Fayetteville, Georgia. Join them Sunday at 9 or 10:55 a.m. or online at www.mcdonoughroad.org. Contact Chancey at firstname.lastname@example.org).]