Based on our recent survey of you, our reader, your top three biggest challenges are that you battle feeling like a failure, you want to be more intentional, and you struggle with discipline and training. This post will help you start tackling all three of these challenges. Let's rock and roll.
In our handy, dandy father and son bible studies, we call these the "five vital principles". Why? Well, when it comes to intentionally discipling your son, they're "vital" and they're "principles". There's also five of them. Kidding aside, many of you feel like you just can't seem to get your son to open up. One dads' survey response struck me. He said, talking about his son,
I wish we had the type of relationship in which I could speak into his life.
How bad does it feel to think you aren't speaking into your son's life? On the flip side, how empowering would it feel to know you're doing everything you can?
I want every dad reading this post to feel like you're speaking in to your sons' life—and your son is listening.
Here's the deal, do these five things. If you invest your time in doing these five vital principles, you'll be intentionally discipling your son. You're welcome in advance. You can thank me later.
1. Take ownership of the process.
You have a small window of opportunity don't we? My kids are just starting to be the age where they have their own lives. You know? Like, their own "stuff" to be at. It sucks, not gonna lie. What's that saying, "the hours are long but the years are short"? It's in those "long" hours that magic can happen—if we own that time.
Intentional fatherhood looks different compared to the world. Ephesians 6:4 has a different reference point for us as dads. There's a purpose to it and our role. God’s Word instructs us to bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Dad, don’t leave this to chance; bringing up boys to be godly men will not happen on its own. So own it—it's yours for the taking.
2. Be humble, honest and helpful in all your conversations.
Remember, the goal is to raise your son into authentic, godly manhood. Within reason and depending on your sons' age, be prepared to share areas where you struggle in your faith and pursuit of being a godly man. Let your son see you are a man who needs God’s grace as you work toward godliness.
Sure, your sons’ journey to manhood should be found in Christ’s own model of manhood. But, he should be able to see an example—right in his own home—you! As you teach your son how to be a godly man, you will need to have the trust of your son over the world.
3. Engage in conversations, not lectures.
Kent wrote in our State of Biblical Fatherhood report a point I needed to hear. He said, "Stop trying to 'be God' to your children, instead reflect His character." Whoa, what's that sound? Oh, that's Kent stepping on my toes. Let's all agree to talk out the issues and help our kids come to the answers on their own, with your guidance. Remember that more is caught than taught.
MJ Dad pro tip: take questions to God, seeking wisdom in prayer and from His Word—in front of your son.
Good or bad, our kids’ first thoughts about who God is are shaped by how us dads relate to them. Some of my most difficult, yet best moments, as a dad, have been when I've apologized to my kids for a wrongdoing.
4. Continually learn about your son.
One dad in our survey said, “Sometimes I'm all business/work and find it difficult to slow down to play ball or catch with the kids, in fact we seem to never do this.” We can do better if we aim higher. One big goal is know your son's heart, which means you'll need to constantly peel back layers. Learn to ask good questions and continually improve at numbers 1, 2 and 3 on this list.
Use the discussion questions in our 1-on-1 bible study guides if you need to. We can tell you what to say and when to say it. Another MJ Dad pro tip: Put your iPhone on airport mode or in a separate room—away from you—for intentional times of connecting. Let your son know he has your undivided attention. I'm just preachin' to myself now.
5. Apply biblical wisdom to real life.
The Bible provides the answers to our questions. It's useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Remember, biblical manhood most easily starts with biblical fatherhood.
You will need to be digging into the Scriptures if you're ever to be intentionally discipling your son. At the end of the Book of Matthew, Jesus gives us our mission in life to “go into all the world and make disciples...” (v. 28:19). What if you started by intentionally discipling your son?
About the author: Ryan J. Sanders, M. Div.
Ryan is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey. He is married to Tonia and they have three children. He has a Master of Divinity from The Southern Seminary and is a Fellow at The Colson Center. Ryan serves as Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, DC and is a diehard Redskins fan. He is the author of 7 Sins of a Disengaged Dad and general editor of the Field Guides for dads. Learn more about him here and follow @RyanSanders.