Hope for a Fatherless Generation

We celebrate fatherhood. And rightly so! Being a dad is among the most difficult yet unspeakably rewarding roles a man endeavors. As we honor fathers this month, may we also find men who will stand in the gap for those without a father-figure. After all, if our God is Father to the fatherless, how could we, who are called to be imitators of him, be anything less?

Consider the impact of the fatherless epidemic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, these statistics directly impact more than 1 in 3 children here in Arkansas, as 234,000 kids are growing up in single-parent households. But let’s not get lost in big numbers. Each one of these kids has a name, a story, a dream, and a purpose. You see them every day. And they are in desperate need of hope.
My father instilled values in me that have guided so much of my life:
“Always do what’s right, even when it’s tough.”
“If you learn to work hard, then you’ll always find work.”
“If you get in a fight, start with the ringleader. When you win, the rest will scatter.”
Think back to your own childhood. Who made a difference in your life? Was it a parent who loved you even when you made a mistake? Was it a teacher or coach who challenged you and believed in you when you doubted yourself? What made that relationship so impactful?
While there may be some sweeping gesture that could impact youth, such heroic efforts usually fail to reach those who are numbed by life’s disappointments. Rather, it is often the small, everyday interactions that shape a life. At Deliver Hope, this is what we call “Life-on-Life Mentoring”.
Deliver Hope is a Conway-based nonprofit with a mission to “deliver hope to at-risk youth, no matter the circumstance.” We serve the community by recruiting and training mentors to make a difference in the lives of teens. More than a program, these relationships reveal the Gospel of Jesus to hopeless teens, provide necessary resources for their holistic growth, and help them become all that God has created them to be. The role of a mentor is not dissimilar from the role of a father. We train our mentors to do three things well: love, model, and coach.
Every kid deserves to know that someone is crazy about them just the way they are. Unfortunately, youth today are used to fathers and authority figures who come and go, make demands, and then kick them out or leave them entirely. Until they know that they are loved consistently and unconditionally, youth cannot learn healthy trust.
Edison Sullivan, the Mentor Director with Deliver Hope, relates, “To me, mentoring is all about accepting a kid unconditionally, without judgment or disapproval. Once I am genuinely accepted as a friend, then the mentee will open his heart and value my advice.” When we persistently show up in a teen’s life, and when we accept them as a person even if we don’t approve of their actions, then we build a trust that becomes the foundation of a transformational mentoring relationship.
Anyone who has been around kids knows they learn more from what they see us do than what they hear us say. This means that we should gladly forfeit our turn to give golden advice for the opportunity to model the right attitudes and behaviors. This is why mentoring with Deliver Hope is not an event. We encourage our mentors to invite youth into their everyday life. Let them see how you handle your weekly errands, how you respond to unexpected traffic, or how you interact with your boss and coworkers. Even our struggles and failures are prime opportunities to model humility and apology. Seeing our life of faith and integrity, youth begin to desire our guidance.
Only after we have established trust and proven integrity can we expect a youth to heed our advice. Sometimes it takes months to get here. But how many years of broken trust must these youth overcome? Providing hope for a fatherless generation, your investment is worth the effort. For what we lack in wisdom given from our fathers, we look to a greater authority:
“Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
Like being a dad, being a mentor is among the most difficult yet unspeakably rewarding roles anyone may endeavor. We take courage from Christ’s example, that while we were sinners, he loved us, he came to us, he lived real life among us, and he sacrificed himself for us, inviting us to trust him for abundant and eternal life.
How can we, who are called to be imitators of him, do anything less?
Make a difference this month in honor of Father’s Day by signing up to be a mentor at www.Deliver-Hope.org/Volunteer-Form.
You may also make a tax-deductible contribution to Deliver Hope at www.Deliver-Hope.org/Donate. For more information, you may reach us at 501.358.6306 or info@Deliver-Hope.org.