Kids are like sheep. They’re on their way to independence but for now, they’re powered by their youth and energy and endangered by their lack of experience. Unlike sheep, they can learn from their mistakes . . . if they choose to . . . if they can keep it together until they mature
Like sheep, they need a shepherd . . . someone to watch over them. They need a dad. A real father. I know . . . today’s culture doesn’t deal every kid the ‘dad’ card. Dads get sick and die. Moms throw them out. They run off. It’s never the kid’s fault, but many are left growing up without a shepherd.
But I want to talk to dads who take their shepherding seriously. What does it mean to be a shepherd? According to Wikipedia, a shepherd tends, herds, feeds, or guards herds of sheep . . .
- Tends – Just as shepherds know where their sheep are, fathers know where their kids are . . . physically, relationally and spiritually. Dads who are ‘in it to win it’ know where their kids are . . . all the time. Do you have the kind of relationship where your kids welcome your involvement rather than shun it? Relationally, father-shepherds get to know their kids’ friends. They don’t try to be a ‘buddy’ but they stay close enough to steer their kids toward good influencers and away from bad ones. I’m not about ‘missionary friendships’ for my kids . . . I’m for guarding them (see #4). Spiritually, the recurring question shepherding dads ask their kids is “How’s your heart?” Do you know the status of your kids’ hearts right now? This should start when they’re very young and end Tending sheep begins with knowing where your kids are.
- Herds – Shepherds keep their flocks together. Dads have the same responsibility, starting with starting with keeping he and his wife together. You can’t keep your sheep together if you let shepherds drift apart. Families have to eat together, worship together, vacation together, hang out together. It gets harder as kids get older, but great dads find ways . . . find things that keep the family together. The embodiment of family you live out with your kids will be the vision they have for their families.
- Feeds – Dads are primary providers for their kids. Financially, relationally and spiritually. There should never be a ‘deadbeat dad’ . . . especially not a Christian one. Dads must provide unlimited, unconditional love for their kids including providing their ‘spiritual food’ too. There’s never an excuse for not providing.
- Guards – Dads guard their kids . . . from external threats and from themselves. Shepherds use whatever it takes to drive away anyone or anything wanting to hurt their sheep or lead them away. One of the biggest risks is for a sheep to lose its balance and fall down, usually from the weight of its own wool. This ‘cast down’ sheep can die unless the shepherd picks it up and gets it back ‘upright.’ Same with dads and their kids. Sometimes a kid needs to be picked up and helped get back to his feet. Only an attentive dad who’s ‘in the game’ with can pick up on what’s going on and ‘right’ his kid.
Most dads would ‘leave the herd of 99’ to go find their 1 lost sheep (Matthew 18:12). But will they be tending, herding, feeding and guarding . . . will they be paying close enough attention to know one of their sheep is drifting away? In today’s culture, too many dads are ‘live and let live’ with their kids, spending their time and energy on work, sports, TV or the internet. Others have delegated the ‘shepherd’ role to the mom . . . a role she cannot fulfill.
Dad . . . do you ‘own’ your role as shepherd? Will you?