My dad passed away on April 15, 2004, just a few weeks before I graduated from high school. He was a good man who worked hard all his life. I didn’t live with him day-to-day because my parents divorced when I was two, and I only saw glimpses of him through the years.
Father’s Day for me is awkward, sad and joyful all at the same time. It’s awkward because I’m not quite sure how to respond to the Father’s Day gifts and praises I receive from my kids because I didn’t have a role-model of fatherhood while I was growing up. It’s sad because I think about my father and what I missed growing up and what I miss now. I feel joy because what I lacked in an earthy father, my Heavenly Father has lavished me with love, grace and blessings.
Youth pastor, Father’s Day looks different for each one of our students and here are three thoughts to keep in mind.
1. Don’t be afraid to celebrate great dads.
For some students who have great dads, they may tend to try and find faults in their fathers in order to connect with their peers whose fathers are absent or uninvolved. Students tend to lean towards common suffering, and we can unknowingly feed into this by focusing on the negative with students instead of celebrating the positive. Give a space for students to celebrate the fact that they generally have a good dad at home. Most students in your ministry probably fall into this boat, and we must encourage sons and daughters to be grateful by honoring their dads. As I grew up, when I would hear others talk about great dads, it didn’t discourage me. Rather, it gave me a picture of what I wanted to become.
Something you might say: “I want you guys to know that there is no such thing as a perfect dad. However, many of you have dads that sacrifice when you don’t see it. They bend over backwards to provide and care for your family. They love you; they are for you and it’s ok to be proud of your dad. One of the greatest gifts you can give your dad is to simply tell him, “I’m proud and thankful that you’re my dad.””
2. Don’t ignore students who are hurting.
You may have a student in your ministry crying out in anger and frustration because of the father they have. I used to cringe when someone would start a prayer with “Father,” because I couldn’t wrap my head around God being a good father. Father’s Day may bring up hurts and pains in a student who longs for the type of father they see around them. I used to ask, “Why do they have such a great dad, and I don’t?” You have students who are hurting, and you must balance acknowledging it without feeding into their sorrow.
Something you might say: “I want to acknowledge that some of you may not have a father who is a good example at home. Father’s Day may not be a great day for you. I just want you to know that I see you and I am here for you. I don’t have all the words or know how to fix what’s going on, but I promise that if you need someone to talk to, I am here. We just want you to know that this is a safe place, and you don’t have to act like everything is fine, when it’s not.”
3. Don’t miss the opportunity to point students to their heavenly Father.
In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world. 4 When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.
Regardless of whether your students have fantastic fathers or absent ones, we must point them to our heavenly Father. In the passage above, we are reminded that we have received adoption from the Father and we are no longer slaves or orphans, but sons and daughters.
Orphans are self-reliant, untrusting, crave attention, and long to be accepted and belong. We are not orphans, we have a Father in heaven that is trustworthy, loving, and accepts his children just the way they are.
Something you might say: “Regardless whether you have the best dad on Earth or the worst, we all have a Father in heaven that is perfect, loving, and will never fail us. You never have to wonder if you are loved or worthy of love because God is love and sent His Son because He loves us. Because we are sons and daughters of God, we must learn to live as sons and daughters of God.”
Each student has a different story, and their emotions and feelings are real when it comes to Father’s Day. Shepherd well and allow your heavenly Father to lead you, too. Remember, you don’t have to have all the right words to say, your presence is powerful.
Written by Bobby Cooley:
Bobby Cooley is a Discipleship Pastor in Katy, TX. He loves pouring into the next generation and their parents to build lifelong followers of Jesus.
He loves his wife and three blue-eyed kids, great BBQ, and the outdoors.
“I love being a part of DYM and helping youth workers win!” – BC