Board Retreat Brings Time for Transition and Transformation

The Urban Light Ministries Board met in October for a time of reflection and confirmation.   The purpose was to review the strategic direction of the ministry and through prayerful discernment, outline the plans for the upcoming year. The challenge is to leverage the deep and rich history of Urban Light Ministries while effectively transitioning and expanding the impact it can make on building stronger fathers for the benefit of their children, families, churches, and communities. 

The consensus was to continue to focus the efforts on addressing the impact of father absence through biblically-based fatherhood programming.  An updated research white paper was developed and published that supports the positive impact these programs can have.  Three new initiatives addressing this objective include:

  • Launching a new online fatherhood community called “Fathering Strong” in January – the website has been developed and already has over 50 fathers without an official launch
  • Begin bringing communities of fathers and experts together through the release of a new podcast hosted by Pastor Eli with the official release in April
  • Bring the community of fatherhood practitioners, program leaders, and fathers together through the offering of a live and virtual fatherhood conference that is planned for May.

The Sonshine Clubs and the work of enriching the lives of children through in-school children’s ministries will transition through supporting and assisting the launch of LifeWise Academies which provide released time bible based character education to elementary-age youth during school hours. 

I feel the board retreat brought a sense of renewed direction that will allow Urban Light Ministries to continue reaching more fathers and families. The direction is to focus resources on building the fatherhood initiatives and continue to support children’s ministries through collaboration, not duplication.

Click here to review more details on the strategic direction of the ministry or go to www.urbanlight.org.

This ministry is supported 100% from private donation. Please consider giving to help Urban Light continue this important work.

Bruce Stapleton, Board Chairman

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Building a Better World for Children – By Building Strong Fathers

Children and youth have been my passion since the beginning of my personal ministry in 1988. The labor of love on their behalf has been amazingly rewarding. I have the blessing of still being in a personal mentor/father-figure role with several of the males after all these years. Most now have children of their own, and they are excellent parents! Sadly, that is not the case with many fathers and mothers. One of the consequences is violent crime in our communities.

According to Detective Jordan of the Springfield Police, “The problem is with so many people and so many issues today, especially young people, out shooting people over disagreements.”[i] To help police departments fight violent crime, Ohio Governor DeWine has committed to distributing a total of $200 million in grant money to law enforcement agencies around the state. “The vast majority of crime in this state is committed by repeat, violent offenders. We have to go after them and we have to prosecute them and we have to lock them up for a long, long time,” DeWine said. This is not only a problem in Ohio but throughout the country and beyond.

Getting to the Root Problem

Here is the thing, though. Throwing money at it will not solve the crisis. Arresting, prosecuting, and jailing criminals may help a little, but does nothing to turn off the pipeline that keeps pumping new offenders onto the streets. It never has, and never will. We must go upstream to the source of the supply of violent offenders and stop the flow there. The source of supply? The home. The place where values form, and where the character is developed. With less-than-ideal home lives, many of our community’s youth – both boys and girls alike are in trouble, and they are making trouble for communities. They need fathers and mothers working together to raise them up right – the way the Creator intended. This is the mission of today’s Urban Light Ministries.

As I shared in my 2016 book Father Love – The Powerful Resource Every Child Needs, I am grateful for my dad. He committed his life to faithfully loving his wife and children, even though his father had abandoned his family. Under very difficult circumstances, my father provided for 13 children, all the while serving his church as a deacon. Because of dad’s example of healthy manhood, and the strong Christian fathering of his children despite not having had a good father, I believe in the potential of every man.  He has been the inspiration for my work with dads since 2006, and for ULM’s new ministry Fathering Strong.

What is Fathering Strong?

It is a new community where dads can share their stories, learn about effective parenting practices, and become stronger fathers by applying biblical principles. Our local group of fathers meets in person. These dads are receiving and giving encouragement, building bonds, discovering important resources, and preparing to lead their own groups. We are nearing the final stages of the development of the online Fathering Strong community that will be available to dads everywhere on the globe. We are endeavoring to build a better world for children by building strong fathers.

Our vision is that these men will grow as parents assured of the Word’s promise:

“Point your kids in the right direction — when they’re old they won’t be lost.” – .

Prov. 22:6 MSG

In partnership with their children’s mothers, they will model Christian manhood and help their kids develop godly character. Within this vision, pre-believing men will find Christ. Men who are new to the faith will find mentors and disciplers. This is an effective way to reduce the number of delinquent youth, youth violent crime, child poverty, and so many other challenges: Help men become better fathers. Reach them where they are… On their smartphones. Before we have officially rolled it out, there are already 50-plus men on the waiting list for dad groups on the Fathering Strong website and app! We need your help.

Will you help?

As with everything worth doing, an investment is required to bring this vision to reality. Our team and partners have devoted a substantial amount of volunteer time, talent and treasure. We are asking you to consider supporting this work through a yearend gift, or an ongoing commitment in 2023. Your contribution will help us reach our goal of getting up and running with the full complement of resources for dads by early next year.  

Thank you so very much for your partnership in this work. Learn more about Father Strong by visiting www.fatheringstrong.com.

Sincerely,

Eli Williams, Ministry President


[i] https://www.wdtn.com/news/springfield-pd-receiving-grant-money-to-help-cut-down-on-violent-crime/

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2023 Strategic Direction

Mission

Leveraging Urban Light Ministries deep and rich history to effectively transition and expand the role in building stronger fathers for the benefit of their children, families, churches and communities.
Guiding scripture – Malachi 4:6
Turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to the Heavenly Father.

Objectives

  1. Increased focus and resource allocations to address the impact of father absence through biblically-based fatherhood programming.
    • Continue to build on Father Love biblical principles through the development of an online father community that connects fathers and provides the platform to share their stories, learn about effective parenting practices and become stronger fathers by applying biblical principles
      • Fathering Strong Online community (official release date January 2, 2023)
      • Father Love Podcast (official release date April 1, 2023)
      • Fathering Strong Conferences (preliminary date of May 2023)
    • Build the tools and partnerships to drive biblically-based fatherhood advocacy to make positive changes within current laws and programs.
  2. Continue the work of enriching the lives of children through collaboration not duplication. Use Urban Light Ministries’ years of experience and financial resources to help launch LifeWise Academy in Springfield and Clark County in partnership with local churches.
  3. Build the support and management of Care-it’s for Kids fund to serve local youth while building stronger father and child(ren) relationships. Maintain and administrate the Care-it’s for Kids fund for appropriate distribution of funds to under-resourced families with children and youth.
  4. Continue leadership of stimulating racial reconciliation and building biblically healthy multiethnic relationships in the Christian community.

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What the Bible Says About Fathers

Fatherhood was one of the first responsibilities God gave men.

Fatherhood was one of the first jobs God gave men. Immediately after creating Adam and Eve, God commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28) One of His primary purposes for marriage was offspring who would fill the earth with God’s praise and glory. However, providing sperm for conception is merely the beginning of God’s expectations for fathers. The Bible provides many points of guidance on what God’s expectation is to be a good father.

Here are just a few verses that describe a father’s role:

  • Psalm 103:13 – As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
  • Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
  • Proverbs 20:7 – The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!
  • Colossians 3:21 – Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
  • Proverbs 4:1-9 – Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. …
  • Proverbs 13:24 – Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
  • Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
  • 3 John 1:4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
  • Psalm 127:3-5 – Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Ten Characteristics of a Godly Father

  1. A godly father knows God – It should be without stating, but many men want their children to have a relationship with God but do not have that relationship themselves. Children model what they see. So godly fatherhood begins within the heart of a man.
  2. A godly father loves and honors his wife – it has been said that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. Even if a man is divorced or single, he can still model respectful behavior towards his child’s mother. Children imitate what they see.
  3. A godly father accepts responsibility for his children’s spiritual training – While providing financially for a family is an important responsibility for fathers (1 Timothy 5:8) it is not their only responsibility. A father must encourage Christian character in his children by his example as well as his words of instruction and the expectations of behavior he sets forth for and enforces with his children.
  4. A godly father is continually aware of his influence – fathers may not realize it but everything they do is influencing their children. Words alone are not enough.
  5. A godly father models selfless service – much of Jesus’ earthly life was given to serving others. As followers of Jesus, we are to imitate that service (Matthew 20:28). Godly fathers figure out ways to involve their children in acts of service.
  6. A godly father is consistent – nothing confuses children more than inconsistency, either in discipline or example. A father that is loving one minute and angry the next creates insecurity in his children.
  7. A godly father disciplines his children appropriately – discipline is a part of child-rearing and should not be ignored or solely delegated to the mother. Hebrews 12:9-10 reminds us that earthly fathers disciplined us for our own good and our heavenly Father does the same.
  8. A godly father does not allow himself to be controlled by outside influences. Addictions such as alcohol or drugs often create a home environment marked by insecurity, fear, and depression. Fathers that display addictive behaviors often teach their children to do the same.
  9. A godly father is a man under authority – Due to his sinful nature, a man will fight to be his own boss. However, Jesus demonstrated that He was a Man under the authority of his heavenly Father. He readily gave credit to God for His successes and submitted Himself fully to the will of God.
  10. A godly father will lead – the world is in desperate need of men who will lead wisely. Leadership is not domination or control. A leader is one who goes first. He sets the pace for the family by practicing what he preaches. He is on the lookout for dangers and takes initiative to protect his family from them. He is a man that his children can be proud of (Proverbs 17:6)

For a complete copy of the white paper, “Fathering Strong – The Real Epidemic Today” click here.

To learn more about the new Fathering Strong online community click here.

To join Fathering Strong go to www.fatheringstrong.com

Interested in a 7-day devotional focused on becoming a better father? Go to the new YouVersion bible study authored by Eli Williams. Click here to go to the devotional.

Different Types of Fathers Bring Different Challenges

Building stronger fathers means meeting them where they are. There are many circumstances that create barriers to being a good father and understanding the different types of fathers helps build programs that meet their needs and help them be the best father based on their requirements.

Teen Fathers

Teen fathers have many risk factors associated with transitioning to fatherhood including lack of education, unemployment, societal treatment, and the fact they are still growing up themselves. Getting teen fathers engaged with the mother and child is the key to long-term success.

Single Fathers

Single fathers make up a small but rapidly growing population. The largest proportion are single fathers due to a divorce. They spend, on average, more time with their children than fathers in other family forms but less time than single mother families. Little is still known about their specific struggles in raising their children.

Divorced Fathers

Divorced fathers often have to overcome hurdles such as the court system to have the level of involvement they want with their children. Differences arise based on custodial arrangements and support from the mother. The higher level of productive involvement by divorced fathers in the lives of their children shows better outcomes.

Nonresident and Noncustodial Fathers

Nonresident fathers, many of whom are noncustodial have to balance responsibilities to be with their children with the level of access they have to their children. The father’s involvement with the children has proven to be a positive influence but many have barriers such as lack of visitation, financial issues and depression.

Incarcerated Fathers

Incarcerated fathers must work especially hard while they are in prison to stay connected with their children and studies show that the majority of them report having some contact with their children since imprisonment. However, studies have shown that children are at a higher risk of antisocial, delinquent, and aggressive behavior.

Military Fathers

Military fathers are motivated to be involved in their children’s lives but struggle during deployment to stay connected and reunify with their families. Struggles include missing developmental milestones, nurturing, staying involved. PTSD can have a negative effect on parenting.

Stepfathers

While there is variability in stepfather involvement and relationships with their stepchildren, the majority of stepchildren feel close to their stepfather as they enter adulthood. Stepfather involvement has been shown to improve the nonresident biological father-child relationship and the children’s adjustment.

For a complete copy of the white paper, “Fathering Strong – The Real Epidemic Today” click here.

To learn more about the new Fathering Strong online community click here.

To join Fathering Strong go to www.fatheringstrong.com

Interested in a 7-day devotional focused on becoming a better father? Go to the new YouVersion bible study authored by Eli Williams. Click here to go to the devotional.

The Cost to Society Due to Father Absence

The total expenditures added up to a startling $99.8 billion.

In 2008 a study, the first of its kind, provided insight into the estimate cost to taxpayers due to father absence. It estimated the annual expenditures made by the U.S. federal government to support father absent homes. The total expenditures added up to a startling $99.8 billion.

The study supports the facts that father absence contributes to financial poverty. Thirty-nine percent of single-mother families live in poverty. But only 8.8% of families with fathers present lived in poverty. The $99.8 billion was spent on programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child support enforcement, food and nutrition programs, housing programs and the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP).

The $99.8 billion cost is a conservative estimate, as it leaves out 3 significant, but hard to measure, sources of costs:
In 2010, President Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act which provided $150 million per year in grants to promote healthy marriage ($75 million) and responsible fatherhood ($75 million).

  1. Federal benefits programs that improve whole communities or individuals regardless of income.
  2. Indirect costs related to the poor outcomes of children of single-mother families, such as greater use of mental and physical health services, and a higher rate of involvement in the juvenile justice system.
  3. Long-term costs in reduced tax income due to the lower earnings of children of single-parent families, and long-term costs due to the higher incarceration of children of single-parent families.

The most obvious consequence of father absence is the effect it has on household income, and the corresponding increase in single-mother households’ use of means-tested benefits programs. The best overall aggregate estimate available is that 20.1 percent of single mothers would leave poverty if marriage rates returned to what they were in 1970.

For a complete copy of the white paper, “Fathering Strong – The Real Epidemic Today” click here.

To learn more about the new Fathering Strong online community click here.

To join Fathering Strong go to www.fatheringstrong.com

Interested in a 7-day devotional focused on becoming a better father? Go to the new YouVersion bible study authored by Eli Williams. Click here to go to the devotional.