The Importance of Fathers

by Mark Gungor on January 27th, 2011

We live in a culture today that minimizes the role of men, discounts the importance of fathers, and generally tends to dismiss the male gender as unnecessary. Stemming from the women’s lib movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the continuing and pervasive line of thinking says that women don’t really need a man, they can do almost everything that a father does in a family and that men are pretty much obsolete. Sadly, some go as far as employing the science of artificial insemination where a woman doesn’t even need the man for procreation, she only needs his sperm.

So are men really only useful as sperm donors, or is there something that the feminist agenda is missing?  Studies have shown that, indeed, their thinking is very flawed and they are missing a great deal. The bottom line of research says that it is the father who overwhelmingly determines the moral and spiritual development of the children.  Three separate studies that I have read come to mind: One done by the Swiss government, a second reported by the Baptist Press and finally a third one reported by MSNBC (hardly a Christian biased outlet). A variety of sources—the government, church and the liberal left—yet these investigations show the same results. All three sources support the important influence fathers have on their kids—shocking as that is to those in the “we-don’t-need-men” club!

First, the Swiss study, published in 2000 showed that “it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future church attendance of the children.” Check out this amazing statistics:

Mother and Father attend church regularly:

33% of their children will end up attending church regularly

25% of their children will end up not attending at all

Mother attends church regularly. Father does not attend church at all:

2% of their children will end up attending church regularly

60% of their children will end up not attending at all

Father attends church regularly. Mother does not attend church at all:

44% of their children will end up attending church regularly

34% of their children will end up not attending at all

While many people believe that women are the “primary parents” and that men are pretty much nonessential, these numbers prove differently. There is no comparison—2% compared to 44%! Men do matter and that father’s influence and participation in church attendance and the spiritual development of his children is a great indicator of how successful families are at passing their faith on to the next generation. Surprisingly, even when both parents attend church regularly, the number drops 10%! My theory is because so many women end up criticizing their husbands in this area and undermine his value and influence over the kids.

Numbers like this can be very depressing to single moms out there and they can end up feeling horrible.  I don’t intend to condemn anyone, and I feel badly for all you ladies who are struggling to do your very best with your children. Of course, you need help from other people, especially male role models, and the grace and mercy of God cannot be underestimated. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves. Single parenting is not the best case scenario and because of this flawed thinking that says men are pretty much irrelevant, too many women are quick to cast aside their marriages and dismiss the important role of their husbands in the lives of their kids. Many women say that they can do as good or better of a job without the man, yet these numbers don’t say that—in fact, they scream the exact opposite.

Now look at the numbers from the survey released by the Baptist Press:

If the mother is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 17% probability that everyone in the household will follow.

If the father is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 93% probability that everyone in the household will follow.

Sadly, even though these studies show the value men have in transmitting their faith to their families; most churches are missing the boat on this one. They aren’t connecting with men; they aren’t unleashing the spiritual power latent in the male population. And until churches and pastors learn to tap into the spiritual potential in men, The Church will only be a fraction of what we are supposed to be.

I realize that saying this is very politically incorrect.  But if you look at the makeup of most Christian churches in America, 60% or more are women and 40% or less are men. Unfortunately, most of that 40% of guys are those whose wives drag them into the building every Sunday. The Church has become so over feminized that it is not real or relevant to many men. (For more information on this check out the book Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow.) In no other major religion do we see this but for Western Christianity. You don’t see it in Islam, Judaism or Buddhism—it’s exclusively our problem that men pull back or refuse to get involved in any significant capacity in our churches. The Christian church must do a better job of drawing in the men and reaching the fathers in our communities and congregations. By doing so, families will reap the benefits of a Godly male influence, which in turn will bring great power to the church body at large.

Finally, we will look at the MSNBC study (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31086977/) on how fathers influence the moral decisions of their children.  According to this study, “teenagers whose fathers are more involved in their lives are less likely to engage in risky sexual activities such as unprotected intercourse. While an involved mother can also help stave off a teen’s sexual activity, dads have twice the influence.” Men are not just some small incidental with no significance as they are often regarded. Fathers have a large and very important role in the lives and futures of their children—in fact, double the influence on the moral development.

So when women are choosing to become pregnant or adopt children to raise by themselves, when mother’s decide that the fathers of their children are dispensable, divorce the guys and allow them minimal contact with the kids, they are overlooking one of the essential and key elements in raising strong, confident, and Godly sons and daughters. And when men are choosing to leave their kids behind, be it in out of wedlock births, through divorce or abandonment, or even being a “present-but-clearly-absent” father in the home, they are missing out on the greatest opportunity that they have: the chance to be an influence to future generations.

We have not yet begun to see the ramifications of a society that thinks so little about the value of men and their role as dads. As our culture continues to devalue men more and more and as fewer men choose to take an active role in the lives of their children, societal ills will keep growing.  A recent study by the Pew Research Center tells of another startling statistic:

41% of babies born in 2008 were born to unmarried mothers (vs. 5% in 1960)

If you want a clear picture of what kids without fathers can become, look no further than our prison system. The vast majority of men and women incarcerated grew up without a strong father to influence their moral and spiritual development. Children who grow up without dads have more school and behavioral issues, higher suicide rates, increased drug and substance abuse and juvenile delinquency, and the list goes on and on.  Whether through divorce, abandonment, or being disconnected, disengaged and never present with the family, absent fathers create a huge void—and our society is suffering for it.

As these statistics show, it is time to put an end to the “guys—you can take ‘em or leave ‘em since they aren’t really that important or necessary” mindset we have in America. Men do matter. Fathers are very significant and all the dads and moms, politicians in government, teachers and administrators in schools, and especially all the pastors in our churches need to take that seriously.