How can pastors honor dads without embarrassing them on Father’s Day? I’ve asked that same question for thirty Father’s Days and am preparing now for June 17. I really want your feedback on some ideas to implement, but first I will share four of my worst ideas you may want to avoid.
Giving them a gift they do not want
Churches don’t usually make as big of a deal over Father’s Day as they do of Mother’s Day, nor should we. Just because you gave flowers or took pictures for the moms five weeks ago, doesn’t mean you have to equal the playing field with dads.
Let’s face it, guys, we neither want nor deserve equal attention with moms. One church I pastored gave gifts each year: pocket knives, measuring tape/key-chains, and thumb drives. Although our motives were good, I’m not really sure our dads wanted any of those things from their church – especially since they had church logos on them.
If you already have gifts ready for this year, don’t sweat it. They will still be appreciated to some extent.
Preaching a sermon they will resent
If you do preach on fatherhood or parenting, be careful not to compound parent guilt from the pulpit. Is rebuking fathers in front of their families really the best way to motivate them?
My suggestion is to continue preaching through whatever series you are on. You can usually tailor your application toward fatherhood while still being faithful to the text. Your primary focus should be on accurately handling the Word of truth. If you do that, the Holy Spirit will do His work in each man’s heart.
If you plan on preaching a Father’s Day message, go for it. I have done that many times, but that does not mean I have to do it every time. My sermon on Father’s Day this year is part of a summer series from the book of John, and it is not directed toward fathers. Since this is an American holiday, not Christian holy-day, I don’t feel obligated to preach a sermon about fatherhood on Father’s Day.
Making them stand up
On Veterans Day I ask former and active duty military to stand so that we can recognize them. I do not ask anyone to stand on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. I used to, but eventually became aware that at least half of our parents preferred not to be recognized in front of others in an awkward or programmatic way. Instead of having them stand up or walk down to the front this year, consider praying for your fathers while they are comfortably seated.
As far as the laying on of hands for prayer down front—save that for ordinations and commissionings. Seriously … stop. Some churches are way too handsy for the average man, especially on Father’s Day.
Not sharing the gospel
This mistake may be the biggest. Whether your sermon is directed toward fathers or not, remember that there are likely some fathers in your service who do not want to be there. Some have been pressured to come by their spouse, kids or parents.
Those who bring their unchurched and unsaved fathers to church on Father’s Day are counting on us to make the most of the opportunity. We have good news about God’s perfect rescue from a hopeless hell. If you focus on their fatherhood apart from the fatherhood of God and the salvation of His Son, you will have short-changed everyone. A thousand years from now the only connection that really will matter is the one they made with Jesus Christ.
You don’t need to preach an exclusively evangelistic sermon to include the Gospel in it. I’ve found that men like it when pastors shoot straight with them (not at them). If you speak the truth in love and respect, you will have fulfilled your calling.
In the comments section, or on whatever social media channel you are on, I would like to hear your ideas on non-cheesy ways to honor and encourage fathers on June 17. If you prefer to share more mistakes like mine to avoid, I would love to hear those as well.
I hope each of you has a very happy Father’s Day!
Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash