By Sue Schlesman, Crosswalk.com
More than 25% of American boys grow up without their dads in their homes.
That’s 19.7 million boys, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Consequently, a lot of single mothers (or other caregivers) are attempting to teach boys how to become men without their biological father present on a regular basis.
The task is daunting but not impossible. In fact, it’s just the kind of situation that God uses to reveal his glory and purpose.
No Christian parent has any guarantee that raising children in a Christian home (with or without their biological family present) produces godly children.
Ultimately, every child makes his/her own decision concerning faith. But moms, grandparents, or other caregivers who are raising fatherless boys can make some important choices to set their guys on a path toward becoming grounded, spiritual men.
Boys need these 5 things from their caregivers on the path to becoming spiritual men:
1. A Mom (or Caregiver) Who Is in a Growing Relationship with God
Nobody’s perfect, so saying that moms have to be spiritual in order to produce spiritual kids is not only discouraging, it’s incorrect.
Many spiritual adults have chosen Jesus on regardless of their parents’ godless choices. However, children who grow up with a parent who is actively pursuing faith reap the benefits of understanding personal discipleship and responsibility, and they often avoid the destruction caused by ungodly choices.
Kids with godly moms can watch their mothers wrestle with faith issues, rely on God, and pray during difficulty.
Boys can and will follow the example of their mothers, especially in the absence of a godly father. You could argue that a mother has more influence over her son than she would if the father were present. While perhaps not wanted, single parenting offers remarkable possibilities.
2. A Mom (or Caregiver) Who Is Emotionally Healthy.
Single parenting carries enormous added weight not felt by many in-tact marriages.
Financial strain, loneliness, trauma, self-image, bitterness, fear, anger, and hopelessness are ever-present struggles for women who have been widowed, divorced, or abandoned by their children’s fathers.
Without a partner to share the load of decision-making, interacting, disciplining, and caring for children, single moms can feel overwhelmed with the enormity of parenting and providing alone. They often lack resources like accessible, affordable childcare or Christian counseling for them and their children.
It is critically important that single moms seek out mentors, counselors, therapists, pastors, and friends to provide a place for them to vent, share, and get emotionally healthy. Unless a single mom utilizes objective spiritual counsel, she will lean on people with her same perspective or most likely--her children--for emotional support.
Although single moms and their children often grow close through struggle, it is emotionally scarring for children to be burdened with the physical, emotional, or spiritual support that their mothers need. Co-dependency is a natural and dangerous possibility for moms and kids in a fatherless scenario.
3. Exposure to Intact Christian Families and Godly Men
Naturally, many of a single mom’s close friends are single moms. Although a woman may retain or acquire married friends, these relationships can change and feel awkward over time because of their unique struggles.
Even so, it’s important for single moms to find loving, in-tact families with whom to socialize. Exposure to healthy, godly male role models is critical for boys to experience.
In the absence of real male role models, boys can grow up with a skewed assessment of what fathers and men in general should become. As a Christian mom or caregiver of a fatherless boy, you must find safe, loving families at church who can be your friends and allow your sons access to spiritual men.
Employ wisdom and caution in exposing your boys to Christian men, but don’t be afraid to let your sons be influenced by godly teachers, youth leaders, pastors, coaches, or friends’ parents.
A mentoring relationship between men and boys of the church is important because:
- The church bears the responsibility to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27)
- Men are commanded to spiritually influence boys (Ephesians 5:1)
- This is one way God helps the fatherless (Psalm 10:14)
- Spiritual mentoring between men and boys (not just sons) is demonstrated throughout the Old and New Testaments (1 Samuel 2:11, 1 Timothy 1:2)
- Many men are looking for relational purpose; perhaps a man has lost a son or misses daily interaction with a son, and he would love to engage yours
Male mentorship doesn’t have to always be spiritual to be valuable. A boy needs to play ball, watch a sporting event, build things, go hiking, or do any number of other activities that will feel different to him if he’s doing it with a man instead of you.
Look for opportunities for him to enjoy these activities with a reliable male relative, friend, or church member.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas
4. Accountability and Consequences for Unacceptable Behavior
It’s easy for a single mom to soft-pedal her son’s character flaws in light of his trauma or grief.
Moms and caregivers will need to employ grace and wisdom when holding their sons accountable for sinful or potentially-dangerous behaviors.
Lovingly hold your son responsible and help him develop a path toward victory (Ephesians 4:22-30).
You may have to involve someone else if your son is defiant or rebellious. This is another reason to have established male leadership relationships. Sometimes, a respected friend or relative can appeal to your son during a time of rebellion and compel him to listen when you can’t.
Accountability is also necessary in a preventative fashion: teachers, coaches, and leaders can speak into your son’s life about proactive things he should be doing, like studying, finding a job, applying for college, respecting you, and helping around the house.
Tasks that will sound like nagging from a mom can be pro-active “guy” things from a respected man.
5. Opportunities to Develop Spiritually
Beginning when your son is young, involve him in service opportunities and spiritual development. Participating in activities and church orients his priorities around the body of Christ, provides opportunities for Christian friendships, and exposes him to godly male and female role models.
When a child sees the church functioning as it should—caring for one another and forgiving one another—he becomes able to correlate Scriptural principles to his own life.
A boy who understands sin and grace develops the wherewithal to forgive. A boy who sees the church giving generously to his mother understands and develops compassion and gratefulness (Ephesians 4:31-32). A boy who serves the poor understands and develops empathy and perspective.
He can forsake martyrdom and entitlement in his life for acceptance of calling and purpose.
Spiritual parenting is ultimately about teaching our children who God is and who we are by comparison.
Growing in faith means accepting and acknowledging God as Lord of all—the hardships and the blessings, the past and the future. A spiritually-mature boy doesn’t have to pursue respect, money, sex, or addictions to escape his reality because he recognizes that God’s provision and care is his reality and his only positive future.
Instead of coping and surviving, he begins to thrive. He becomes a trophy of God’s grace and mercy.
He becomes a godly man.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Alvaro Reyes
Sue Schlesman is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, English teacher, and pastor’s wife. She has a BA in Creative Writing and a Master’s in Theology & Culture. Her second book Soulspeak: Praying change into unexpected places is a Selah Award finalist. Sue’s material appears in a variety of print, online, radio, and podcast mediums. She has a passion for missions, social justice, traveling, reading, and the local church. You can find her writing about life, education, justice, and Jesus at sueschlesman.com.