|Posted on 9 May, 2012 at 18:00|
Dear Pastors and Leaders in Ministry,
I hope this letter finds you in good health and in good spirits.
In my experience in ministry (20+years volunteer, 10 years full-time), I have discovered that most of our churches do not have a strategy for truly reaching fatherless young men. We touch their lives through bus ministries and youth programs, but very few of us can point to anyone in our church who “made it” if they did not have a father leading them at home. Not surprisingly, the fatherless young men who do grow up to live for God without fail had someone in their church who took them under their wing and made an intentional, personal investment in them. Sadly, most of us do not have a strategy to make sure this happens. Until now.
Next Step is a tool, a strategy that churches can use to be intentional about discipling fatherless young men. Our bus ministries are full of kids whose dads are absent. Our Christian schools often have students whose fathers do not participate in their lives. Our congregations abound with single moms. Our communities are saturated with “fatherless” young men. And yet so many of these young men grow up without ever connecting to a godly role model. God is the “father of the fatherless,” yet our track record (at least mine) in leading fatherless young men to follow God into adulthood is awful.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit [to care for, to look after] the fatherless and the widow…” If we look honestly at our ministries, how many of us can say we are truly caring for the fatherless? We may be caring for their ride to church or perhaps for some of their physical needs, but we need men to stand in the gap for absent fathers and consistently demonstrate the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father in these young men’s lives. These boys need role models to demonstrate what it is to be a good husband and father! They need godly people praying for them, too.
To put it bluntly, we’ve started working on this, and the need is greater than our resources. At this point I have no regular income, but I do have a strategy in mind to receive one through 100 individual “investors.” (Click here for details.) While waiting for God to provide these supporters, we are dependent on gifts from His people and part time work as a substitute teacher to make ends meet. It is expedient to write at this time as the school year is coming to an end. Though we have had no regular income since August of 2011, God has allowed us to remain debt-free except our house and we are current on all of our regular bills. Praise God!
Obviously, we need financial support, but our greatest needs are the power, wisdom, and favor of God. As you know, no great work for God has ever succeeded apart from the prayers of God’s people. Part of the strategy of Next Step is to conduct prayer meetings to specifically pray for our growing list of fatherless young men. We pray for God to provide for their needs, extend grace in their lives, connect them to godly role models, etc. We pray for laborers to minister to fatherless young men, as well. (Click here for NS Prayer Meeting dates.)
Of course, we need growing, godly men to mentor boys, too! So, what’s your “next step” after reading this letter? I do not know, but would you please take a moment to ask the Lord about it. Here are some things to consider that would be a blessing to us, and thereby to fatherless young men.
• Allow me to come preach in your church to cast a vision for truly reaching the fatherless or just come and spend 10 minutes in a service presenting Next Step
• Announce or Host a Next Step Prayer Meeting
• Consider supporting Next Step (the work) on a monthly basis
• Consider helping me enlist men to become 1 of 100 Personal Investors
• Consider sending a one time gift of support for my family
• Consider allowing me to do a “mentor training” in your church or even help you set up a mentoring ministry.
• Begin praying for us!
A brief example of the young men I am working with is "Kent." I met him when I was his public school bus driver (4th grade). I invited him to ride the bus to El Vista, which he did. He got saved, baptized and rode the bus often. In 7th grade his mother died suddenly in a car wreck. His father has only ever had monthly supervised visits with him. In 8th grade, he made honor roll. This year he is in 9th grade and making straight “F’s.” We spend a lot of time together and I asked him what changed in his grades. He said that his father promised to show up for his 8th grade graduation but did not and he was hurt and angry. I told him that to the best of my ability I would be present to cheer him on for high school graduation. (Click here to read "Kent's" story.)
I’ve also told him he can do nothing that will make me care about him less (I learned this from God). Amazingly, he has responded to me better now as a mentor than he ever did when I was his youth pastor. This is just one example of the many young men I am working with. And, the measure of success will not be how well he turns out but how well I fulfill my responsibility to “stand in the gap” for his absent father.
Another benefit of a ministry like Next Step is that it will get fathers thinking about how they are rearing their sons. The young men whose dads do not intentionally train them to know and follow God are often the ones who drop out of church, have children out of wedlock, and fail to lead their families in the way of the Lord. Dad may have been physically present, but not intentional about personally equipping and motivating his son to become a good Christian, husband, father, and citizen. The message of intentionally mentoring and unconditionally loving will impact the lives of young men whose fathers are present as well as those whose fathers are not.
I would love to hear from you, pastor friend. I cannot do this great work alone. Please, would you sincerely seek the Lord about whether you should get involved in this ministry in some way.
May God bless you and your work.
Standing in the gap,