Reprise: Being a Spiritual Dad


I am not a father. I do not have children. My wife and I would love to have children, but God has not permitted that for us in our first 9 years of marriage. Now because I am not a dad, my usual reaction to all books and sermons and being a dad or raising kids is one of checking out. “I am not in that stage of life,” I tell myself. “Therefore, I will move on to other things.” Like I said, this is my usual reaction ….. until a few weeks ago when my pastor preached a sermon on “What Every Dad Must Do” from Psalm 145.Father-and-Son-in-Church

There was nothing flashy about the sermon. There was no new content that I hadn’t heard before. He gave a clear and helpful 9-point outline that dad’s should be motivated to give praise the Lord in the presence of their children. Here are those 9-points:

  1. The Lord is great (v. 3) – He is supreme!
  2. The Lord is gracious (v. 8) – full of compassion and love
  3. The Lord is good (v. 9)
  4. The Lord reigns (v. 10) – His authority, sovereignty over all
  5. The Lord is faithful (v. 13b)
  6. The Lord upholds (v. 14) – His care for creation
  7. The Lord is righteous (v. 17)
  8. The Lord is near (v. 18) – like kinfolk or a neighbor
  9. The Lord preserves (v. 20)

Again, good stuff, but not directly toward me because I am not a dad. BUT (and I love this!) the Holy Spirit applied this sermon in a way that I had not given much consideration as it relates to my ministry to youth.

In my philosophy of youth ministry that I wrote up a few years ago to give to my elders to let them know why I do what I do in youth ministry, I have a phrase that reads:

Youth ministry is a help to the parents by coming alongside the parents to help disciple their children during the ages of 7th-12th grades.

This phrase is what began to run through my head as I was listening to Pastor Brad preach. I then began to reason in my mind: sure, I am not a father of my own children, but am I not obligated by my word to help disciple these students as a spiritual dad? Of course! Therefore, I need to take the role of a spiritual dad and proclaim these same perfections of God to my students like a dad.

I need to be teaching about God, His greatness, goodness, graciousness, etc. And I need to not just teach this from the pulpit on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, but when I am with them in small group or taking them out to lunch or just hanging out. These students need to hear me speak about God and the joy of knowing Him and the rewards that come from living a life that trusts and follows Him.Christ Formed in You

I am so thankful to God that He has given me this new perspective. Interestingly enough, as I looked into this concept from a biblical view, this is not “new” at all, but it is exactly how the Apostle Paul and John approached their role as a shepherd-discipler (1 Cor 4:14-15; Gal 4:19; 1 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4; Phile 10; 3 John 4).

So, youth pastor, do you see your students as your little children who need your spiritual guidence? Do you aim to speak with them about the excellencies of God as you would with your own child? Do you have “the anguish of childbirth” in you for your students “until Christ is formed in [them]” (Gal 4:19)? I pray that God would continually burden me with care for my student-children, so that I can rely more fully upon Him so that they can know and love Him.

What a privileged position we are in. May we, by God’s abundant grace, not waste it.

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About Greg Peterson

Greg received his B.A. from Moody Bible Institute in Bible & Theology and his M. Div and Th. M. from The Master's Seminary. Greg has served in various areas of the church, including youth (10+ years), senior adults, events, and choir. Greg currently serves as the co-pastor at Anchor Bible Church in Nw Arkansas -- a church plant as of July 2020. AR. Greg also is the co-host of the "Local Church Matters" podcast. Greg is married to Michelle.