Who Let The Dads Out?
Many testify to the life-changing impact of a ministry to support fathers and their children at its 15th anniversary, writes Tony Sharp
Turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 4:6) … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17).
An event to mark the 15th anniversary of the birth of the Who Let The Dads Out? took place at Hoole Baptist Church (HBC Chester) recently. The movement had begun in the exact same place on the 29 March 2003.
Dads, teenagers, plus wives and partners gathered alongside the current ‘crop’ of fathers, father figures and their children to celebrate, eat bacon butties and cake, and to reflect on the role Who Let The Dads Out? has played in their lives.
The Who Let The Dads Out? ministry exists to inspire and resource churches to support fathers, father figures and their children. It challenges churches to specifically and intentionally reach out to the dads in their communities so that they can form friendships, provide encouragement, and give men and their families the opportunity to explore the Christian faith.
Starting from that one group at HBC Chester in 2003, the movement has grown steadily over the intervening years as churches across all denominations have given it a go. Some have worked with dads and toddlers, others with dads and older children, some have catered specifically for dads who care for children with special needs. All are united by Christian love and a passion to support and share faith with whole families, whatever their shape, size and context.
Now in 2018 there are more than 250 churches registered on the Who Let The Dads Out? website, with around 20 per cent of those being Baptist.
Part of the Bible Reading fellowship (BRF) since 2012, the Who Let The Dads Out? ministry team of Mark Chester and Tony Sharp (who both still worship at HBC Chester) focus their efforts on building that sense of movement across all the registered groups so that ideas and encouragement can be shared regionally, nationally and even internationally. This is supplemented by theological and practical training on Ministry to Fathers that the team deliver through training days/weekends and a regular programme of speaking engagements.
As former Baptist Union President Chris Duffett has said, Who Let The Dads Out? is a ‘catalyst outreach’ that builds relationships with fathers and their children and offers support, both practical and spiritual.
Indeed several of the dads who attended the reunion reflected on both the practical and spiritual support that the group has provided. Dave, Hywel and Simon spoke of how the Who Let The Dads Out? group had been the place where they had established the man to man friendships that are still going strong over a decade later.
Martin stood with his son Alex and explained how the group had been the opportunity for Alex to find his way into HBC and inter-church youth groups where his own faith continues to form and grow. And another Dave pointed to his own faith journey as he attended Who Let The Dads Out?, a Daddy Cool! parenting programme, and a Soul Man? discussion group: he has moved from questioning whether God exists, to being a man convicted of both the reality of God and of his paternal love demonstrated through Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile Adam, one of the current attendees of the group, has testified to his recent conversion as he got baptised on the 8 April.
Who Let The Dads Out? at HBC Chester now meets twice a month (once at the church and once in a local pre-school), and typically draws together around 13 dads and 20+ children each time. Variations on this model are taking place all across the UK and beyond. Some are larger in number, others smaller, but all have stories to tell of how the hearts of fathers and children are warmed to one another through the backing of church leaders and a few simple actions by a dedicated team of volunteers who give time once or twice a month to intentionally and specifically reach out to the fathers in their community.
And don’t forget the bacon butties!