Nearly 18.5 million U.S. children are living in homes absent their biological fathers. Needless to say, that’s not good.
It is a well-researched fact that kids with a dad at home perform better in school than their father-absent peers. Such children tend to also be in better health – emotionally, behaviorally, and physically. They are less likely to abuse drugs, to be poor, or to get into trouble with authorities. The very best thing for children is for their dads and moms to lovingly raise their children together. Too often, tragically, the dad and the love are missing.
Realistically, today a traditional family is not a possibility for many boys and girls. The failure of families to form, divorce, incarceration, and many other causes leave kids without the parenting support they need to grow up healthy, safe and ready to thrive. The research is clear that those children are far better off when their live-away fathers are consistently and healthily involved in co-parenting them. Unless they are a danger to their children, all fathers should be encouraged, equipped, and supported as valued parents, whether they live with their kids or not.
Statement of Need
The growing youth mental health crisis, an opioid epidemic, among other things point to a society in deep trouble. Mass shootings, which have become increasingly common in recent years, have claimed the lives of over 200 individuals and injured over 12,000, a shocking number of whom were children and teens. Fatherlessness is at the root of the crises. The following is an excerpt from the 2023 publication Fathering Strong – The Real Epidemic Today, page 8.
Researchers concluded that children with a positive psychosocial influence are less likely to engage in mass violence. In 2016, psychologist Dr. Peter Langman compiled biographical data on 56 American school shooters. He found that 82% had grown up in dysfunctional family situations, usually without two biological parents at home. The trend sadly continues. The shooter in Uvalde, Texas had not lived with his father in years. The Sandy Hook shooter hadn’t seen his father in the two years leading up to that massacre.
Over the years, various fatherhood initiatives have endeavored to strengthen the institution of fatherhood with minimal impact upon the culture. A new approach is needed to create a 21st century culture that embraces fatherhood, and engages, encourages, and equips fathers to excel at effective fathering. A strategy that directly reaches and edifies individual fathers while building community among them, facilitating peer support and enables skill-building will be more effective over time. To do that, fathers must be reached where they are – on their mobile devices. In the past 12 months approximately one-quarter million searches of Urban Light’s website for fatherhood resources have demonstrated the need.
Urban Light Ministries (ULM) is a nonprofit organization established in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio serving children and families. Starting with local fatherhood classes in 2006, ULM progressed to leading the Miami Valley Partnership for Fathers in 2008. The regional project comprised four organizations serving fathers in 11 centers across 5 counties. In 2011, ULM began what became a model of community mobilization in Clark County. In the decade 2009 to 2019, ULM served an average of 500 fathers per year throughout the Dayton region in various settings including jails, prisons, social service agencies, churches, schools, and in our own facilities.
Program participants gained tools for nurturing parenting, relationship building, and personal growth. James C, one of the participants stated: “Out of the 13-week course, I’ve learned how to communicate with my kids without being intimidating or abusive. I’ve learned to listen to their needs… not only with my kids, but also with other people, and with my kids’ mother. I listen to their thoughts versus being demanding or controlling.”
In 2019, ULM began offering online programming, including daily and weekly fatherhood devotionals, fatherhood courses, informative blog articles, and more. The organization’s 2020 strategic plan called for development of online and mobile resources to engage more fathers. The COVID-19 pandemic added urgency to the project. Research and planning for Fathering Strong have proceeded since then. After 12 months utilizing digital marketing strategies, the ULM website has generated approximately 250,000 searches for fatherhood resources and information. The Fathering Strong project is nearing beta launch stage.
1,000 (83% of engaged) fathers will self-report an increase in their knowledge of best parenting practices, a deepening of their commitment to effective parenting, improvement in their co-parenting skills, or other advancement.
By 12 months from official launch, ULM’s Fathering Strong project will engage 1,200 fathers in online communities where they are regularly inspired and equipped to be their best as nurturing dads for the sake of their children and families.
Launch and continue development of the Fathering Strong website (beta) where dads will discover helpful information and resources for enriching their parenting and relationship skills.
Fathers join online communities with others facing similar challenges.
Fathers enroll in courses to develop new parenting skills, self-study or group.
Launch and continue development of the Fathering Strong mobile app (beta).
Fathers receive regular notifications of resources available on the website and events in their geographic local area.
Fathers engage in chats with other dads for mutual edification and encouragement.
Fathers contribute posts and articles.
Continue to build the resources available on Fathering Strong while bringing on new partners.
Leverage digital marketing strategies, including the Google Ad Grant to promote and grow Fathering Strong reach and impact.
12 months from start date. Following the official launch of the website and mobile app, the project will phase in additional features.
The total cost of the Fathering Strong launch project is $276,600.
Urban Light Ministries has committed $76,600 to the project and we are seeking $100,000 from grant makers. We are asking individuals, churches and corporate sponsors to fund $100,000 of the project budget. Our organization’s annual budget is $420,000.
The ongoing costs of Fathering Strong will be defrayed by project income generation. Although there will be no cost to participating fathers for the basic membership, there will be charges for some resources.
Books, branded items such as hats, tees and mugs.
Practitioners’ Portal for professionals
Business Portal for corporate partners
To view this informational review of Fathering Strong in a printable pdf format please click here.
Today marks the beginning of a new way for fathers to connect with each other. Why is connecting important? There are many reasons. For starters, here are five.
Being a good father is difficult, challenging work, even in the best of circumstances.
We need each other because none of us has everything figured out.
Many of us have valuable experiences that are worth sharing with other dads.
Each of us can be inspired by others’ triumphs and joys in fathering.
There is no other place to go for this kind of resource (as far as we know).
The bottom line? We can make each other better, stronger, more loving.
What is Fathering Strong?
It is a growing community of fathers still in the early stages of formation. Fathering Strong is a free mobile app that enables fathers to engage with each other in respectful, confidential, healthy, positive, and optimistic ways. Smaller communities of fathers in similar circumstances will form. Fathering Strong is also a developing robust website, which will be full of helpful information for healthy, nurturing parenting and co-parenting. Relevant and up-to-date video content, links, courses, devotionals, books, research, merch, and more.
Powered by Urban Light Ministries, Fathering Strong brings decades of experience working with fathers, children, and families from many walks of life. As a father, fatherhood practitioner, male mentor, and fatherhood program leader, I am delighted to be part of this new 21st-century century resource for holistically strengthening dads and the institution of fatherhood. But it is you – the Fathering Strong community member that makes it work.
We promise to offer up current, well-researched information and resources on fatheringstrong.com. It will be honest, though sometimes not politically correct. It will be spiritual and Bible-based, though never preachy, or overly religious. All fathers are welcome. Whether biological, step, adoptive, male relative, foster, single and whatever your marital status.
I will offer up brief daily messages called Strength for Today, which are meant to encourage, inspire and challenge dads in their growth. It will include a scripture, a prayer, and an action step. I hope you are blessed by them.
Welcome to the Fathering Strong Community.
Eli Williams, President Urban Light Ministries, Inc.
An article written by Bob Griffin stated the real problem; “The need for a father is on an epidemic scale, and the “father deficit” should be treated as a public health issue.”
According to the 2020 U.S. Census 18.4 million children are living without a biological father. This means that out of the 73 million children in the U.S. 23% are without a present father. This number has doubled since 1968 and continues to increase. Literature associated with father absence indicates that growing up in a father absent household can be associated with negative wellbeing and life adversity among children. Father absence can have negative effects on a child’s life such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, psychological issues, a tendency for violence, and sexual and criminal activities. Absence is also felt by the mothers as they work through pregnancy, birth, and raising a child alone.
A detailed research study titled, “Father Facts Eight Edition,” published in 2019, by the National Fatherhood Initiative consolidated over 212 research projects and studies conducted on the effects of families and communities due to a lack of a father in the home.
The research is overwhelming and makes the point with clear and unequivocal evidence: children need good dads.
The Impact of Father Love
Eli Williams, the author of the book,” Father Love – The Powerful Resource that Every Child Needs,” defines what it means to be a loving father and the protector, order keeper, provider, and stabilizer the family and community needs to remain strong and vibrant. In the book he ties together the important aspects of not only working to become a better father but also making the commitment to be a loving and faithful servant to God. Becoming a stronger father means becoming committed to the word of God. It is the belief that giving your life to Christ is the way to becoming a more loving and stronger father.
The last verse in the Old Testament of the Bible that was written before Christ came to this earth is in Malachi 4:6 – “And we will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” A clear statement of the impact a father plays in the role of his children and the stability of society.
Causes of father absence is a complex phenomenon produced by many circumstances and situations. Some are related to choices people make about fertility, marriage, and cohabitation.
But others are the results of unexpected events, illnesses, or incarceration. It is very likely that fatherlessness has different meanings and implications for those of differing social classes.
A father is called to be the leader and protector of the household. This may be foreign to most fathers who choose to be absent in their child’s lives.
This paper supports the impact statement of the mission for Fathering Strong, a network and community established to build up fathers and support their needs to become stronger and more committed leaders of the families and followers of Jesus Christ.
The Facts of Father Absence
At a national level 18.4 million children are living without their biological father.
Father absence disproportionally affects black children, and nearly a quarter of American children live in father-absent homes. The table below identifies the percentages by ethnicity.
Ethnicity of Children
Lived with Both Parent
Lived with Mother Only
Lived with Father Only
Lived with Neither Parent
In 2017, 35% of unmarried parents cohabitated and 53% of unmarried parents were solo mothers. Resident fathers had consistently higher levels of involvement than separated/divorced and nonresident fathers; however, both types of fathers did not have statistically different involvement when their child was 1 year old. Some additional facts revealed by the study included:
Separated and divorced fathers had a higher level of involvement than nonresident fathers.
FatherInvolvement was found to decrease over time
Fathers with Education including high school or bachelor’s degree were found to be more involved
The Positive Impact of a Present Father
Children need an involved father in their lives. Research has proven that children that grow up with a father in their lives do better in almost every aspect that was measured.
In a study conducted by professors at the University of Missouri it was found that adolescents who had resident biological or adoptive fathers were shown to have higher GPAs than those with unknown fathers. Adolescents with unknown fathers, deceased fathers, and non-residential fathers all had lower GPAs than those with residential biological fathers. Divorce, non-marital birth, and child abandonment all negatively affect a child’s GPA and their ability to do well in school.
A subsample of Black adolescents from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health revealed the impact a father figure (i.e. non-biological fathers) can have on the education of a child. The research showed that:
Female adolescents and participants who had a parent who attended college were more likely to believe they would finish college.
Adolescents with nonresident, biological fathers were less likely to expect to finish college.
Communication about school yielded the most significant positive influence on participants’ grades.
Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, they studied the influence of six different categories of father type—resident biological fathers, resident stepfathers, resident adoptive fathers, non-resident biological fathers, unknown biological fathers, and deceased fathers—on adolescents’ school performance from seventh through twelfth grade. The researchers found that:
Adolescents with resident biological fathers had higher school performance than adolescents with nonresident fathers.
Adolescents with stepfathers had higher rates of school failure than those who lived with their biological parents.
Adolescents without a resident father figure and didn’t know the identity of their fathers had the highest risk of school failure.
Better able to control their emotions – these children were less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems and four times less likely to have a mood disorder.
Better physical health – children with involved fathers were less likely to be overweight and 2 times less likely to die as infants.
Healthier relationships – a good, involved father’s views affect what his daughter looks for in a boyfriend or husband. His views affect what kind of dad or husband his son will become.
Feel safe and confident – children are safer when their dad lives with them. Children that grow up without a father are at a greater risk of child abuse.
Less likely to use drugs and alcohol – children who abuse drugs and alcohol do so because they lack the love and connection a father and other family members provide.
Perform better in school – when a father is present children are more likely to get A’s, 2 times less likely to repeat a grade and less likely to have behavioral problems in school.
Less likely to be poor – when a father is present children are 4 times less likely to live in poverty
More likely to stay out of trouble – fathers play an important role in keeping children from taking harmful risks and committing crimes.
Effects of Father Absence on Children
Father absence places children and communities at a greater risk for many of the problems that law enforcement deals with daily.
The data supports the root cause for most problems in society today could be prevented if fathers were present and actively involved in their child(ren)’s life. The research points to the importance of father involvement as a protective factor against these top five areas that effect a child’s well-being.
Higher Rate of Depression and Suicide – The quality of father involvement is associated with higher levels behavioral problems. Research found that children with stable father figures had better cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes.
Greater Chance of Substance Abuse – The quality of a father’s involvement has direct correlation to early substance abuse regardless of gender. An absent father, children with abusive fathers or those that abuse drugs are at a much higher risk.
Higher Rate of Crime – Father absence has been closely linked to criminal activity for young men and was a predictor for higher rates of youth assault. Also, a poor-quality relationship has an impact on delinquency.
Earlier Sexual Activity – Studies link earlier and riskier sexual behavior to father absence. Adolescents from father-absent homes were 3.5 times more likely to experience pregnancy than were adolescents from father-present homes.
Poor Educational Outcomes – The duration of a father’s absence has been proven to be a factor in a child’s educational success. The lowest achievement and highest risk of school failure was from adolescents without resident father figures.
Effects of Father Absence on the Mother’s Well-being
If the dad is involved, it means good health outcomes for mom and baby.
Fathers not only effect their child’s well-being with their absence but the mothers of their children as well. Contemporary culture encourages promiscuity by redefining freedom and prioritizing autonomy over responsibility. When sex outside the marriage becomes normal, it is mostly the women who are left on their own to raise the resulting children.
Antenatal depression can creep up in the absence of a husband/partner. It has been shown that mothers who are either married to, or co-parenting with a father have less stress in their parenting. Even if it is just a matter of helping with chores or interacting with your child it provides less stress for the mother.
In a national sample of women ages 10-19 who experienced pregnancy, it was observed that a lack of partner support correlated with harmful birth outcomes. Low birth weight that often results in child loss was less likely in pregnancies where the pregnant mother was receiving partner support. Specifically, teens that are pregnant and have partner support are less likely to have preterm birth. If the dad is involved, it means good health outcomes for mom and baby.
A study conducted in 2018 revealed that when fathers showed low sensitivity, high intrusiveness, and provided little opportunities for child social engagement, the family process was less cohesive. This implies a decrease in the family’s harmonious, warm, and collaborative style.
Correlation Between Absent Fathers and Mass Shootings
By Spring of 2022 there had been 250 mass shootings which had killed more than 256 people and injured 1,010 through the end of May. Many of the young male perpetrators had problems going on at home. Whether the father was physically or mentally absent the shooter were lacking a father. Mass shooters have been known to have a mental illness, delinquent behavior, and violent tendencies. They also frequently do not attend school, hate it, or are failing out. These are all problems shown to be caused by an absent father.
A large factor missing in the life of mass shooters is a positive psychosocial influence. In a study conducted by the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology it was shown that 85% of the mass school shooters they researched suffered with depression. When they spoke of depression this included diagnosed depression or significant symptoms including suicidality, anhedonia, hopelessness, guilt, and sadness.
This lack of a positive psychosocial influence meant:
a lack of established academic or other goals in their lives
little to no encouragement to make goals for their lives and seek to complete them
Researchers concluded that children with a positive psychosocial influence are less likely to engage in mass violence.
In 2016, psychologist Dr. Peter Langman compiled biographical data on 56 American school shooters. He found that 82% had grown up in dysfunctional family situations, usually without two biological parents at home. The trend sadly continues. The shooter in Uvalde, Texas had not lived with his father in years. The Sandy Hook shooter hadn’t seen his father in the two years leading up to that massacre.
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:
Federal benefits programs that improve whole communities or individuals regardless of income.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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 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 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, 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 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 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.
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.
Predictors of Father Absence and Engagement
Fathers involved with their children as infants tend to remain involved as their children age.
Researchers that have analyzed predictors of father involvement found that living situations, marital status, substance abuse and self-esteem were significant predictors of father involvement. Age, race, employment status, income, depressive symptoms, social support, and stressful situations were not. Their findings indicate the need for more comprehensive fatherhood programs.
The influence of race and ethnicity on nonresidential father’s involvement in terms of time, engagement, shared responsibility, and coparenting with mothers was researched. The results found that black fathers shared responsibilities more frequently and displayed more effective coparenting than both Hispanic and white fathers.
Impact of Marriage
Researchers found that fathers who either were married to the mother or cohabitated demonstrated the highest levels of father involvement. The findings also revealed:
children born to cohabitating parents were five times more likely to experience the separation of their parents compared to children of married couples
fathers who transitioned to marriage increased their level of involvement over time at a faster rate than the continuously married fathers
82% of married fathers played with their very young coresidential children (under the age of 5) every day compared to 68% of cohabitating and unmarried fathers
single parent and cohabitating households are more susceptible to family instability, which subsequently hinders early child cognitive development, than married households.
What the Bible Says About Fathers
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.
An article published by Got Questions Ministries identified ten characteristics of a godly father. Some men who want to be good fathers have little understanding of what a godly father looks like. Here are the 10 characteristics identified:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Building Fathers Into Real POPS
Being a strong father is making a commitment to being the best POPS, Protector, Order keeper, Provider and Stabilizer to your children, families and communities.
Protector – Keeping Kids Safe
Mature, responsible fathers play an indispensable part in making homes, neighborhoods, and schools safe for children.
Order keeper – Prevention and Pride
Fathers are vital to the well-being of families and preventing family and community violence.
Provider – You are your child’s biggest resource
Effective fathering includes providing for your children’s financial, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs.
Stabilizer – Encourage, Empower and Engage
The biggest key to a stable family and community is active, loving, committed, engaged, and involved fathers.
Breaking the Cycle of Father Absence
It is time to address this epidemic of fatherless homes. The facts prove this is a major problem that only continues to grow. It hurts families, communities and most importantly children. It has become a large cost on society both emotionally and financially. It is time to take a stand.
Fathering Strong was built with the purpose of reaching fathers where they are. Our platform provides fathers a network for peer support, mutual encouragement, and educational resources to maximize their efforts to enhance their relationship with their children, small steps at a time. The Fathering Strong community seeks to build godly fathers all over the world as they connect and share their experiences and struggles while getting the support they need to grow within their own faith journey. We believe fathers are better together.
Fathering Strong is an online community where dads can share their stories, and learn from others, as they become better fathers through building mutually beneficial relationships with other fathers and with Jesus Christ while applying biblical principles.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, 18.4 million children are living without a biological father. Out of the 73 million children in the U.S., 23% are without a father in the home. Since 1968, this number has doubled and continues to increase.
The report entitled, “Fathering Strong – The Real Epidemic Today,” reviews the latest statistics on the effects of absent fathers. The research is overwhelming and makes the point with clear and unequivocal evidence that children need good dads.
Urban Light Ministries, a Christian-based nonprofit, has over 30 years of experience working with thousands of fathers and facilitating a wide variety of fathering programs. Young men entering these programs seek the nurturing and counseling they never received from their father. The majority of these men do not have a relationship with Christ nor understand the positive impact this relationship can have on their lives and the lives of their children.
Fatherlessness is clearly the root cause of most of the troubles in today’s society. This “Fatherlessness Pandemic” is why Fathering Strong was created. Fathering Strong is an online platform that brings together a diverse community of men to encourage, inspire, learn from, and mentor one another so that they can become their best as fathers while building stronger families and communities in which they live.
Reaching Fathers Where They Are
In today’s digital world the best way to stay connected with young fathers is through their smartphones. Eighty-five percent of all U.S. adults own a smartphone. Each day they spend an average of over three hours on their phones and check them over 58 times. Smartphone automatic notifications are the most effective means of reaching the target audience for Fathering Strong and provide continual reminders of the importance of being a good father.
The purpose of Fathering Strong is to be a resource of information and provide the necessary tools to become a better father. Fathering Strong helps create a community where men can encourage, inspire and learn from each other. The most effective way is to do this was to reach men where they are multiple times per day – on their smartphones.
Fathering Strong is a web-based community with a smartphone app where men can engage both online and in person within their own communities. The program provides many ways to connect whether it be by interests, stages-of-life, or geography. Each point of connection drives accountability and is easily administered and controlled within the program.
What is Fathering Strong?
Fathering Strong is an online platform and community that connects fathers allowing them to build relationships with others and be a part of building stronger fathers. It is also for those seeking the need for a father figure. It is putting together all of the functionality and engagement of a Facebook Group, Social Media platform, live event program, online course platform and content platform in one place that is controlled and moderated by individuals experienced in fatherhood programs. It provides notifications on upcoming events, updates or new conversations direction to the users smartphone. It is also web-based and can be accessed on any devise connected to the internet such as a desktop, laptop or tablet.
This resources is free of charge to all participants through donations and private funding. Some parts of the community are private based on certain interests or groups and are invitation only. Other areas of the site are available to all users. The access and privileges are based on how the group moderators and discussion leaders wish to set them. This maintains privacy and accountability within the areas of the site where it may be required.
The primary targets for Fathering Strong include:
Experienced Fathers Seeking to become Mentors
With so many children growing up fatherless, the need for good fathers is greater today than ever before. The good news is that many men are seeking support and affirmation in their quest to becoming great dads. Fathering Strong was created to connect fathers to each other and strengthen their relationship with the Heavenly Father. In doing so, we envision the number of present, mature, and responsible fathers increasing, and therefore, so will the number of nurtured children and stable families.
The site is currently divided into three main areas that are easy to navigate on any device.
The main, “all member access area“, includes the latest information on the topics addressing fatherhood and fathering skills. The information can be found in the Discover section, main feed or featured posts. An event section is also included in the main Fathering Strong section highlighting any events that are open to all members of the community.
The second section titled “Learning Communities” includes courses that are either self taught or lead by a designated trained leader or facilitator.
The third major section titled, “Connections and Forums” is the place for building specialized groups based on certain topics, interests, locations or other ways of bringing common fathers together.
The Online Community
The Fathering Strong Community is open to all members to discover information important to becoming a better father (Feeds & Discovery), join online and local events, chat with other members and review content by main topic areas using the highlighted hashtags.
The Learning Communities are dedicated to providing education on specific fatherhood topics through self study or guided learning. Each of the courses offered are their own “mini-network” that include all of the features of the overall Fathering Strong community such as events, chat and topic areas.
The Connections and Forum sections are “mini-networks” with full functionality that are either open to the entire Fathering Strong network or private for specific interest groups. The private groups provide a platform for more intimate discussions and conversations that are only available to members of that specific group. Full functionality including a discovery section, events section, chat and highlighted hashtags can be activated for any group. Each private group has a specified set of moderators that maintain the confidentiality of the group and approve entry into the group. Connections or forums are developed based on need and requests.
Ways to Connect with Fathering Strong
There are many ways to get started and begin connecting with other fathers and resources. These include:
Group Participation – find a group under Connections and Forums that resonates with the issues you are currently facing. Reach out to the moderator and ask to be invited into the group. Note: some of the groups were formed based on specific needs or current private groups and may not be open to anyone.
Study Groups – review the different offerings in the Learning Community and find one that interests you. Complete the ones that are self-study or ask the group leader access to ones that are private. Note: some groups were formed for specific reasons and may not be open to anyone.
Events – locate online events or live events in your geographic area. Register and attend the events.
Review the Many Articles and Posts – there is information that can help you become a better father that is categorized by major topics under the “highlighted hashtag” heading in the main Fathering Strong community. This information is updated on a weekly basis with the latest trends and research on fatherhood.
Make Your Own Post or Comment – start a conversation with others in the network. The more you engage the more you will get out of the community. You will find inspiration in meeting others dealing with the same issues as you and who can provide you insight and encouragement.
Mentoring or Connecting with Experts – plans are under development to add a Mentoring section to the community where you can become a mentor to a father looking for assistance or you can sign up for a mentor if you are interested. Coming Soon!
Building the Kingdom Together
The greatest example of fathering is our Heavenly Father. Through the Holy Bible, we are given the greatest guidebook to fatherhood.
Being a man isn’t about proving to others how strong and capable you are. That’s ego. Being a man, and especially being a father, is about knowing how dependent you are on others to do your job well. Particularly how dependent you are on God. You are not meant to do this alone. Fathering Strong is your connection to others and a way to build a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
As stated in Eli Williams book, Father Love -The Powerful Resource Every Child Need, “A father’s heart this is filled with love for his children is a powerful resource for them. That love can and should be nurtured in fathers.” This can only be done through having a relationship with Christ. Fathering Strong builds on the fatherly responsibilities that God has assumed toward his children:
God provides for us (Philippians 4:19: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.)
God protects (John 17:11: I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.)
God encourages us (Psalms 10:17: You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,)
God comforts us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.)
God disciplines us (Hebrews 12:10: They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. )
Connecting with Fathers in Need
Over the past 12 months, Urban Light Ministries has leveraged the Google Ad Grant to reach individuals interested in fatherhood and receiving resources to help them become better fathers. Over 21,000 individuals have come to the site through Google Search. Over 4,000 have downloaded the 30-Day Fatherhood Devotional.
Website views have come from all over the country and from major cities such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles (see pie chart). People are seeking to learn how to become better fathers. The post on “Bible Verses for Fathers,” has been viewed over 10,000 times. Web analytics prove that men of all ages are seeking help on how to become better fathers, grandfathers, and mentors to their families and communities (see bar chart).
Fathering Strong will continue to leverage the Google Ad Grant with a focus marketing strategy to lead people to the Fathering Strong community. Email marketing through the use of automated sequences and email campaigns will drive enrollments by using targeted landing pages with infographics and information guides to encourage email address submissions and signups.
Current Available Resources
Before the global COVID pandemic, Urban Light Ministries was developing fatherhood resources focused on online delivery. Through the experience of delivering online self-study courses, it became clear that a better way was required to increase participation and engagement. Building an online community where fathers can communicate and engage with others was important to building the bonds and driving the required results. Fathering Strong is built on an online community platform that improves participating and program adherence.
Th following resources are available and currently located on Fathering Strong:
POPS 101 is an introduction to healthy fathering principles. POPS is an acronym that stands for Protector, Order keeper, Provider and Stabilizer. This online study course includes a facilitators guide for group settings and is in both English and Spanish.
The 31-Day Father’s Devotional Journal was developed to provide the opportunity for fathers’ to search their own heart and soul to see if the instructions they are providing their children are in accordance with the will of God. The devotionals addresses the need to teach, encourage, instruct, mentor, praise, influence, guide and inspire.
The Power of Father Love 7-Day Devotional is hosted on YouVersion and was created to encourage, enthuse and empower men to be the best versions of themselves in their roles as fathers. The series offers men practical suggestions for growth as nurturers and spiritual leaders of their children and families.
The Good Dad Award is a non-profit national program that recognizes fathers from all walks of life. The mission of the award is to raise awareness and promote good fatherhood through a positive and meaningful recognition that can inspire and motivate others. The Good Dad Award™ is an annual award honoring the accomplishments and sacrifices of fathers in local communities. This program has been administered through Urban Light Ministries for the past two years and will be promoted on Fathering Strong.
Finding Their Place in Fathering Strong
Once someone joins the Fathering Strong community they are placed into an email sequence that will provide them with a step-by-step guide on how to get the most out of the online community.
The welcome steps will include:
Welcome message and information on the community including code of conduct
Automated guide built in the community that will provide a sequence of steps to :
Complete their profile
Download the smartphone app
Adjust their notifications
Start a Chat
Invite Someone to the Network
Take an introduction questionnaire to identify how they can best get involved which includes information on;
Describing their past and current relationship with their father
Identifying their fatherhood journey including relationships, number of children and current living arrangements
A self-assessment of what is their maturity level as a Christian
Identification of what they hope to achieve from joining Fathering Strong
This information will be held in confidence and used to place Fathering Strong members into the appropriate communities and forums within Fathering Strong.
Fathering Strong provides many different ways you and/or
your organization can get involved. As we continue to grow the community we need your help. We seek partners that can provide the skills, resources, and funding to help grow Fathering Strong and reach as many fathers as possible.
Some of the different ways you can partner with Fathering Strong include:
Become a course or community moderator
Facilitate a devotional group or study group
Help establish and/or lead a new community or forum
Be a podcast guest or guest blogger
Become a fatherhood resource provider
Become a mentor and help other fathers in need
Host online discussions or live meet sessions
Provide links on your website to Fathering Strong
Pray for the community and the fathers in the Fathering Strong network
Be a financial supporter
What Is It Going to Take?
Fathering Strong is an online community where you can build relationships with others fathers and become a part of building stronger families. It is a place for resources, connections and outreach.
Join the community – Go to FatheringStrong.com to sign up. It’s free to join.
Participate in discussion – Once you sign up, complete your profile and begin engaging with others in the community. Find topics and groups that best meet your needs.
Build groups of like minded men – Join groups of individuals just like yourself who are experiencing the same issues and challenges and discover ways to enrich your fathering.
Actively participate – Don’t sit back and watch. Get involved. The value of the community is in the participation. Build online and local groups where you can share your stories and learn from others.
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.
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.