Simplest Influence: Father’s Day and the Power of Presence

Simplest Influence: Father’s Day and the Power of Presence June 17, 2024

Photo by Natalie Toombs on Unsplash. Father's Day.
Photo by Natalie Toombs on Unsplash. 

This past weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, a day in which we as dads also remember and celebrate our fathers, and we remember and celebrate those who have been like dads to us. For those of us who are fathers, we also find ourselves grateful for our children, the blessing they are, and we hopefully find ourselves grateful for the lives they are living. This year, after church, I was blessed to celebrate another Father’s Day by enjoying some Key Lime Pie with my family, one of my favorite pastimes. I love the little notes and cards that my daughters create for me and I am grateful for my daughters and who they are becoming.

I love being a father of three girls. Becoming a father was singlehandedly the best and hardest thing that has happened in my life. Though it is rewarding, there are also moments in which parenting has its challenges. Parenting also happens so fast. When I was growing up, the years of my childhood felt like they lasted forever. Most importantly, summers felt like they lasted forever. As a parent, I am increasingly aware of how fast these impressionable and meaningful years pass. Summer, perhaps the most memorable season for families, especially goes by fast. I find myself reminded of how little time we have to disciple and invest in the children we create.

Celebrating Father’s Day.

This Father’s Day weekend, in addition to sharing Key Lime Pie, we were able to also take in a baseball game at the stadium of a local independent baseball team, another one of my favorite pastimes. For me, little compares to sitting outside as a family at a ballgame. As a father, I experience great joy in sharing my passions of baseball, boardwalks, beaches, bays, and books with my daughters. These are certainly memories that I cherish, but nothing tops just the simple moments of a walk outdoors in the evening as we talk about life and throw some frisbees around – and I am thankful for a few of those experiences this Father’s Day weekend. I am also thankful when they understand it is the simple moments that count.

As I have shared in the past, I want more than just good memories and a positive upbringing for my daughters. I hope that their upbringing helps them to understand the value of a life that accepts Paul’s challenge in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. I want them to live a life of faithfulness to the Kingdom of God and to live lives that are cultivated by simplicity and a deliberate pace amidst the chaos of our fast-paced world. However, the pressures on us as parents only mount. On this Father’s Day, I realize how much our kids feel the pressures of want and consumerism in this life. They know when they are being sold something, but they also want the things they are being sold. We want our kids to understand the value of simplicity, but our kids live in a world shaped by what we have. I am reminded of the limited influence we have and have left as parents, to help them develop new soundtracks to their thinking.

Pew Research on a father’s influence.

On this Father’s Day, I am reminded that I want to spend more influential time with my kids than I do. I found myself challenged by a 2023 report from the Pew Research Group on parenting:

  • Fathers have a limited amount of time to influence our children. The report states, “Dads with kids under 18 in their household spend, on average, 1.02 hours caring for and helping them per day.” This is not a lot of time. This 1.02 hours of time together includes only “0.36 hours playing with them and 0.32 hours providing…care.”
  • The influence fathers have on our children’s learning is limited. Additionally, the report found that fathers spend very little time “reading to and with their children (0.05 hours on average).” Likewise, dads spend just about 0.05 hours on average “related to their kids’ education.”
  • Fathers are feeling the weight of parenting. Most of us also feel the weight of parenting, and even more, we feel the pressures from others about our parenting. Apparently 38% of dads “report feeling judged for their parenting at least sometimes by their own parents (38%), their spouse’s or partner’s parents (37%), other parents in their community (27%), their friends (22%) or people they interact with in online groups or message boards (16%).” I am sure the way other fathers portray their family life on social media equally brings pressure.
  • Perhaps we as fathers don’t communicate as much as we should. In 2024, the Pew Research Group also found that “44% of dads say they communicate with [our children] less often than they’d like.”

We feel the mounting pressures of being a father from so many angles – the idealistic pressures of society, the pressures we put on ourselves, and the pressures that emerge from the judgment of others. We also feel it from our children at times, as they press for more time eating out in restaurants, more vacations, and more things that their friends all have. Like you, it doesn’t take much to remind me as farther that I want to provide more for my kids, but I also want and need to spend more influential time with my kids than I do.

The tension of “working for” and “being with.”

That tension of “working for” and “being with” our kids is a reality in any father’s life. I want to play more of a meaningful part in their lives, and I want more memories, happiness, and experiences for them. However, to make it my ambition to lead a quiet life, I also realize this can mean living in a way that isn’t as focused on productivity, busyness, and provision in the same way the world is focused on those things. It means that we live by a different set of values. Our set of values puts the investment not in our work but in our time with our family, with our church communities, and so on. As fathers, we don’t just need to be workers with integrity who win the respect of others, but we need to be individuals who have the respect of our family as well.

Insights from the scriptures.

The scriptures have a lot of stories and parables on what good parenting looks like. The Parable of the Prodigal Son shows us a father who shows unconditional love and compassion, who is willing to sacrifice trespasses and the demands of life to be present with his child who was lost to rebellion. This is the character of God the Father on display, but it gives us an example for our own lives. Paul, writing to Timothy, reminds Timothy of the importance of Jesus’ followers who are good fathers. Paul writes, “Anyone who does not provide…for their own household, has denied the faith” (1 Timothy 5:8). Most of us don’t struggle to be a hardworking provider, but being a provider that works for our families physical and material needs is not enough on its own. Providing for is also about starting “children off on the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). We are commanded to be part of their “training and instruction” in the ways, words, and works of Jesus (Ephesians 6:4). Like John, an early follower of Jesus, we should find “no greater joy than to hear that [our] children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). When the tension is between “providing for” and “being with,” the provision of “being with” is of the highest value.

Dad Life and the Power of Presence

As we reflect on Father’s Day, it’s important to acknowledge the unique and profound influence fathers have on their children’s lives. This day reminds us of our role. While the pressures and demands of modern life can often make it challenging to balance work and family time, we need to remember that the most meaningful contributions we can make as fathers are not materialistic but relational. Finding a way to share in more simple moments, imparting values, and investing time in our children’s growth are the true legacies we leave behind and the most influential to our kid’s future. This Father’s Day, let’s hear an invitation to allow “being present” to win over “providing for,” even when our kids press for more things. To be present, to nurture our children’s hearts and minds, and to lead by example in love, faith, and simplicity will make all the difference. As we strive to live by a different set of values, to live lives and families that ambitiously lead quiet lives, may we remember that our greatest gift to our children is not what we provide but who we are with them.

About Jeff McLain
I grew up inspired by Jesus, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the California Raisins, and The Clash. I'm an avid fan of baseball, boardwalks, beaches, and books. Additionally, I am currently a doctoral student at Kairos University, and finishing a third master's degree, an MBA in Executive Leadership, at City Vision University. Previously I have earned two master's degrees - one in Theology and Ministry and another in Leadership - both from Fuller Seminary. I also graduated summa cum laude with a Graduate Certificate in Non-profit Management and an Associate Degree in Christian Ministry and Leadership from City Vision University. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives