According to a survey released by Baptist Press, if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow. If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow. But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow. Conversely when fathers are absent or are unengaged, things don’t turn out so well. In his book “Father Fiction,” Donald Miller says 94 percent of people in prison are men and 85 percent grew up in fatherless homes, that’s means nearly 80 percent of the total prison population grew up without a dad.
Although my parents stayed together, there was constant tension and anger in the household when I was a child. But when I met and married my wife Lisa, I was determined to change my family tree. Neither of us grew up in a homeschooling family, so when we began considering educating our children at home we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to come to a decision. A year and a half prior to our oldest daughter entering kindergarten, we decided to attend our first homeschooling conference. That weekend, we heard Psalm 127:5 repeated often: “….children are arrows in the hand of a warrior…,” which has become a cornerstone of our parenting philosophy.
As dads we often think in terms of providing safety for our children where they won’t be exposed to dangerous or uncomfortable situations, yet when we consider our children as “arrows in the hand of a warrior,” we realize that our job, in actuality, is to hone our arrows so that upon release they will fly into battle and pierce the heart of the enemy. We have a friend, Stephanie Arnold, who was on the Olympic archery team in 2004. I asked her what it took to accurately compete in archery at that level. She told me good vision is essential, the arrow needs to be well-balanced and you need to trust your equipment.
When I speak at churches or conferences, I often talk about several principles that I believe are essential to preparing our children to achieve the purpose for which they were created, and they fit neatly under the themes of vision, balance and faith.
Be a dad of Vision. Scripture tells us in that Proverbs 29:18: “Without Vision People Perish!” Developing a vision for ourselves and our family is essential for each of us individually and collectively to live out our purpose. For Lisa and I, our vision was to raise children who would live out their unique purpose, always with an attitude of ministry. I believe we men take a big step toward becoming dads of vision when we begin to honestly evaluate our lives and circumstances, seeking to shore up areas where we are lacking. One of the best ways to do that is through Godly mentorship. . If you have a healthy family unit and grandparents are not separated by distance or death, then you likely have the mentors you need. But because my relationship with my own parents has been severely detached, I made it a point to seek out healthy relationships with families that we could graft into our own. These relationships proved essential to my wife and I over the years as they helped us with parenting decisions and served as wonderful God-parents to our kids. Having vision also means fostering communication in our family and knowing our children well enough that we can recognize their God given talents, and then create or seek out opportunities for them to hone their talents.
Be a dad of Faith. Deuteronomy 7:7-9 instructs us to: “Impress them (God’s words) on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
I believe this is best accomplished when we are willing to accept the role of being the spiritual head of our family. I was not brought up in a family that prayed or had devotions together, and if you were raised in one of those homes you know that family prayer and devotions can seem a bit awkward to lead. But by taking on that responsibility in my home, we have created some of the deepest spiritual discussions with our kids. Another great way to model faith to our children is by serving together, inside and outside our homes. Serving each other can be as simple as doing the dishes with your children and allowing your wife to rest or read a book. And serving together can include raking an elderly neighbor’s leaves, or taking a meal to a single parent down the street. But whatever the case, looking for opportunities to model servanthood is key to being a dad of faith.
Be a dad of balance. Learn to work together as a family unit. My family and I like to garden and the kids are a huge help. When they were toddlers, it took about twice as long with their help as it would have without, we found worms and bugs which sometimes were given names, played in the dirt and every once in a while planted seeds, but encouraging that environment of working together led to some precious moments. Now that they are teens, gardening takes far less time, and provides many opportunities for great conversation and communication. We recently formed a family band and travel the country together, ministering at churches and other venues. Take time to play together as well. Have fun with your kids. This honestly has been hard for me. I LOVE spending time with my kids, but I was raised by a dad who worked constantly, and I have had to learn how to relax and take time to enjoy with my family. The third thing to give you balance is to love your wife. Respect her and be on the same page. While I was growing up, if didn’t’ get what I wanted from mom, I would try dad. My parents were seldom on the same page and this certainly contributed to a lack of balance and stability. Kids need the stability of knowing that you and your wife are a team.
Honestly, I’m not looking forward to releasing my “arrows” into battle, but when I do, I want to know that I’ve done all I can to prepare them for what lies ahead. Your involvement in your family is an essential part of their preparation to effectively achieve their purpose and ultimately advance the kingdom.
Tom Frye and his wife Lisa homeschool their three kids in rural Indiana. Tom is a singer/songwriter and speaker and he travels with his kids in an active music ministry known as the Frye Family Band. Tom has recently founded Family First, a ministry to strengthen families. The Frye Family Band’s new music CD is entitled Under Indiana Lights. For more information, visit www.fryefamilyband.net.