According to the Pew Research Center, there were approximately 300,000 single father households in 1960; today there are around 2.6 million. Still, this only accounts for 17% of all custodial parents in single parent homes. If we really want to broaden the spectrum, we can make a strong case that a “single father” is any single man who is involved or wants to be involved in his child's life. Case in point: in our latest YouTube video you may notice none of the dads in the video were ever married and none are the custodial parent. But that doesn’t rule them out as the father, does it? Not at all! Without taking away from the amazing men who are already parenting as a one-man team, this approach greatly expands the mission field and our ability to relate with more dads, whether or not he is the custodial parent.
Research around the globe is consistent: when fathers are involved in the lives of their children (full or part-time), those children perform significantly better overall cognitively, emotionally, socially, and academically than those without involved dads. As we here at A Father’s Walk have said time and time again: If we want to stop the bleeding in this nation when it comes to crime, teen pregnancy and suicide, substance abuse, divorce, and so on…then we MUST get to the dads!
Over the years our small group has seen men who have risen above and beyond as fathers despite overwhelming obstacles: everything from terminal diseases to felonies. Now, they are thriving as parents and spiritual leaders. There is a story of one single dad who joined the group before he even became a father, because he wanted to be prepared when his daughter was born! Today, that dad is just like a sponge, soaking up every bit of information he can on how to grow as a man and as a father. Others have voluntarily checked themselves into rehab to help overcome addictions, continued to support their children’s relationship with their mom (despite her being the one to leave the family), and so on. Simply put, these single dads are doing what is necessary for the overall benefit of their families. Oh, if only ALL dads could rise like some of these men have!
It is with great encouragement that we can recognize and celebrate such men. Jesus tells us in John 15:13 that “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (NASB). In a nation that is still experiencing the heartache and devastation of fatherlessness, we can rejoice and praise the Lord for fathers who do lay down their lives for their children’s sake. Single parenthood is still on the rise, but there is hope ahead. Organizations, churches, neighborhoods across the nation (and even the media) are really beginning to shine a positive light on fatherhood. The Fatherhood CoMission (which includes A Father’s Walk) has a new campaign entitled Honor Your Father. Their website has plenty of tremendous resources to assist all of us to honor our own dads, honor fatherhood, and to grow as fathers ourselves.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (NASB). God has put a very specific admonishment on dads as the spiritual leaders of their families. Single fathers are no exception to this and our children need this sort of godly influence like never before. Today, we encourage you to celebrate the men who are answering the Lord’s call to raise their children in Christ no matter what type of situation they may be in. Even if that isn’t immediately evident in the life of a single dad you may know, now is a great opportunity to introduce the saving grace of Jesus into his life. Remember, look for the potential, not the flaws. When we begin to view single fathers as the priceless investments that they are, we catch another glimpse of how God works through the most difficult of circumstances to fulfill some of his greatest testimonies.
Matt Haviland is the founder of “A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers and the coauthor of The Daddy Gap. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a father to a beautiful daughter himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: July 2, 2015