Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.

THE POWER OF A DAD

Last week I got the chance to be part of “Point Break“, which is a ministry of Campus Life and Youth for Christ.  We hosted it at our church for 150 or so students from a middle school campus we partner with.  The goal of the day, as near as I can figure, is for the students to meet together and break down barriers between one another that often lead to prejudices, bullying, and division.  To this end, the day is surprisingly fun and engaging and often results in a very emotional response before it’s over.  In that regard, it’s almost identical to another program- challenge day– that I participated in at a local high school last year.

In both programs:
  1. First they break down the barrier of personal space- playing games that require proximity.
  2. Then they break down the personal touch barrier and get you connected with even perfect strangers.
  3. Then they break down the trust barrier and get you to share things you normally would either hide from or just simply quietly carry without burdening others with it. 
  4. Lastly, they have you align those stories with others and even offer time for the group to forgive and ask for forgiveness from other people in the room publicly… and you’d be shocked at how many people really do.  It’s very moving and powerful.  
To do this, they end the day with an experience called “cross the line”.  To do this, they place everyone in complete silence on one side of a line they draw.  Then, very systematically they read off a single sentence or fact and ask students to cross the line if this is true of them.   They start out simple and safe like “If you’re 13 years old” or “If your favorite color is blue”, etc.  Then they start to get deeper and deeper until you’re almost at a public confessional as people admit fears, regrets, scars, and life weights they hold onto and never share with their peers.

As I talked with my randomly chosen small group of 7 earlier in the day, I discovered that 2 of them had fathers in Jail, 1 of them their Dad was murdered, 4 were living with grandparents and no biological parents and almost all expressed a severe and significant disconnect from their dads.  It was deep and tragic stuff.

I helped them share their stories with one another but it didn’t hit me the vastness of this problem until the moderator said, “If your parents are divorced, please cross the line.”

Sure, I knew it would be a lot of the students, but seriously, it was like 75% of the 150 students in the room.  It was beyond tragic.  It was devastating.  As I stood their staring a the vast majority now looking back at me, my heart simply sank.  


I thought to myself:

A DAD IS A POWERFUL INFLUENCE.
AN ABSENT FATHER LEAVES A MARK.
THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE TEENS IN MY COMMUNITY ARE DISCONNECTED FROM DAD.

Then in my own high school small groups later that same day, two of our guys fully self-initated some struggles they have and opened up about their own father wounds.  They shared what it’s like to have a dad who is near them but not present.  In their case, their Dad either lives in their home or they do regular visitation with them, but they nonetheless feel disconnected and wounded by a spiritually, emotionally, or physically absent father.
I’ve been marinating on this for days and here’s my parting conclusions:  
IF YOU’RE A DAD, and you’re present in the life of your children.. seriously, you’re like a dinosaur in a museum of natural science.  Your kind are virtually extinct among kids today.  Don’t stop.  DON’T STOP.  WE NEED YOU!!!!
IF YOU’RE MINISTERING TO YOUTH, then we have to invite students to address, open up about, seek God for strength in, and wrestle with the issues that an absentee father has had on many of them.  Far too many of them are quietly carrying a crushing weight that they desperately need help to off-load.

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