Research Brief : Intentional Fathering -- By: Steve Clark
JFM 2:1 (Fall/Winter 2011) p. 44
Research Brief : Intentional Fathering1
Steve Clark (Ed.D, Talbot School of Theology) is a part-time professor at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane where he teaches apologetics, philosophy, spiritual formation, and Christian education. He has earned the MA in Christian Apologetics (Biola University), M.A. in Education (Chapman University), and the B.A. Economics/B.A. Philosophy (University of California, Davis). After playing tennis competitively in the collegiate ranks and smaller professional tournaments, he coached at the collegiate level for twenty-plus years. His wife, Kelly, and he homeschool their three children (Graham, 8; Grace, 7;Joy, 6) from when they rise up to when they lay down.
Children need parents for healthy development, especially spiritual formation, and their father’s role in this is much greater than has often been thought. While this may seem intuitive to many, the spiritual formation of children and the perceived level of paternal influence on children developmentally, especially spiritually, has been historically marginalized. Fortunately there has been a recent rise in research on these matters.
It was the goal of this study to assess theory, empirical research, and insights from Scripture. Guiding this goal was one overarching question: How can fathers have a positive influence in the relational spiritual formation of their children? Subsidiary questions were addressed within two domains: the relational spiritual formation of children and intentional paternal involvement. The first question was, (1) How do parents influence the spiritual formation of their children? Multiple meaningful principles arose in response to this question. Relationally, children are co-pilgrims in a spiritual journey, particularly with their parents, from whom they predominately develop their attachment styles and God concepts. Additionally, attachment theory and research point to children’s need for a secure base from which to develop properly. Although children express their spirituality differently than adults, their spirituality is nonetheless very real, and children are capable of complex ideas about God. Children share in a bi-directional communication with adults. Parents and other central mentors in the faith community should talk with and not to children spiritually. Additionally children as young as three years old are sensitive to the intentionality of adults in their actions and adults’ use of symbols with respect to referents; this aids in children’s decision-making and understanding of more complex concepts. Lastly, a child’s spiritual formation is not necessarily linear; children are formed spiritually as learning leads development mediated by mature mentors within the...
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