I'm sure on numerous occasions you've heard it said or implied that dads aren't important. Hollywood often portrays fathers as clowns or deadbeats. And society says that men provide some genetic material, but families generally do well with them or without them-it's no big deal.

But current research proves that those are lies. So, today, if you are a dad, I want you to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that YOU ARE IMPORTANT!

According to David Blankenhorn in his book, Fatherless America, fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. (Today four out of ten children live in homes without dads.)

And research on fatherless Americans shows that the single greatest indicator of whether children will grow up in poverty, get on drugs, end up in prison, get pregnant before marriage, or end up in juvenile hall is . . . whether they have a father at home who is engaged, caring, and loving.

That tells me that fathers are important. So, if you're a dad, you have a vital role to play in your family, and you have a tremendous responsibility for your kids. But what does a good dad really look like?

Today I want to give you a brief look at the four primary roles of a father. And I'm confident, men, that as you ponder them and apply them, you will become the kind of dad God desires and your kids need.

Role Number 1: Dads are leaders who make things happen. As a dad, you're the one who's primarily responsible for setting the direction for your family. You need to make the plans for your future. You must decide on goals, plan a course to get there, and evaluate your progress along the way.

That doesn't mean you have to be a dictator who makes all the decisions or a slave who does everything. You certainly should utilize the resources God has given you-your wife, your family, your church, and godly friends. But remember that, ultimately, God will hold you responsible for your family.

Role Number 2: Dads are priests who make God known. Just as Moses was a priest for the people of Israel, so a dad is the priest for his family. It's his responsibility to reveal God to his family and to take the needs of his family to God.

To do so, first, make sure you have an accurate view of God yourself. Study God's Word, be diligent in prayer, and be devoted to living for Him. Then reveal what you know about God to your kids.

P> Use structured times like reading Bible stories to them, having family devotions, or memorizing Scriptures to help them discover God, but talk to them at “teachable moments” as well to show them how God is part of every aspect of their lives.

Most important, be a model for them so they can see what a godly man looks like. Be the initiator in taking your family to church and Sunday school. Lead your family in prayer and devotions. Ensure that the magazines you read and the programs you watch are acceptable to God. Be a model of integrity and godliness that your family can imitate.

Role Number 3: Dads are teachers who impart wisdom and build character. One of your greatest responsibilities, dads, is to build values, principles, convictions, and integrity into your children so that when they face tough decisions, they make the right choices.

You need to teach your kids what's right and what's wrong. They need to know what's expected, and you need to be there to help keep them on course. And as you teach your kids, do so in such a way that it doesn't exasperate them (Ephesians 6:4). Don't have unrealistic expectations or treat them with undue harshness when they fail. And remember it's not what you say that teaches them the most - it's how you live. Take advantage of those “teachable moments” that come in the form of struggles at school, rejection by their peers, and disobedience at home.