Teaching fatherhood missionally...

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[TB: This is a guest post by our faithful Edinburgh correspondent, Ross Clark. Good idea.]

Once upon a time I was part of an Anglican church. The church had a lot of faults but it got one thing right: it had a heart for evangelism and the Gospel. One of the most effective ways this was expressed was a mothers-of-preschoolers group designed to appeal to mothers in the suburban community in which the church was based. During the years I was a part of this church, most of the adult women who came to faith did so through this ministry. Many churches offer similar parenting courses in order to build bridges with the community as well as minister to their own flock. Here is one such example from Singapore. (And check this out.)

So, after years of following Baylyblog, I've had this idea...

Why not run, in the community, a specific course for fathers and about fatherhood?

The difference is the "community" appeal, as opposed to treating this as part of a "David's Mighty Men"-type curriculum or something like that. Running a course in the community for fathers would be designed to resource them, not least by making it clear how a father's "job description" differs from that of a mother's.

The course, while associated with the church, wouldn't directly be evangelistic. The priority in the early stages would be to resource the men as fathers and then build a sense of connection and community with them. This is quite deliberate—not to downplay the Gospel into a religion of good works, but because effective evangelism and mission seems, in the modern West, to need to be based in, and come out of, relationship with the people you are missioning to. Here is a New Zealand example which is very definitely based in the church community. (Its principal leader made his name over many years as one of our foremost youth evangelists).

In this way, you'd make contact with all sorts of fathers in all sorts of situations. Fathers from sound families; single fathers who have the children at home; divorced fathers who may not have their children living with them but still want to do the best by them; maybe even some gay men with their own children. But this could tick a number of boxes: it would promote the critical importance of fatherhood; it would connect with men in the community; and it would also be evangelistic, because it would live out the Gospel as well as providing a context to preach it.

Finally, it would provide a way, which might have been lacking, of integrating patriarchy and mission.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!