Jon Tyson wanted to get fatherhood right — and be able to pass on what he’s learned to other fathers.
Tyson said he’d seen too many men who grew up, floundering their way through life with little purpose and mission because their dads didn’t teach them anything about being a godly man.
“I’ve been a pastor for 25 years now, and I’ve counseled hundreds and hundreds of men throughout the years, and it is very rare to find men who aren’t dealing with some profound father wound,” said Tyson, lead pastor of Church of the City of New York and author of “The Intentional Father: A Practical Guide to Raise Sons of Courage and Character.”
“There is a ghost in their story that haunts them and they don’t know what to do with it.”
While Tyson found many books on the topic of fatherhood written by “older, wounded men,” he said he kept searching for the “go-to book,” the manual from a dad who got it right.
“That was my goal,” Tyson recalled. “I wanted to give people a plan to become an ancestor, not a ghost, and a pathway to how to be intentional, not just involved in their kids’ lives. ”
Tyson recently partnered with Barna Group for a webinar for men to talk about godly fatherhood, and his book that focuses specifically on how fathers can raise Christian sons amid today’s challenges.
Barna Group President David Kinnaman said navigating fatherhood in today’s culture is especially daunting as 70% of kids who grow up in church leave the faith when they go to college.
Discipling screens instead of discipling fathers
“I believe we have a crisis, a true crisis of raising young men, and women too, and I believe we have this crisis for a lot of reasons,” Kinnaman said, noting “screens are discipling” young people and creating confusion on many fronts related to manhood.
“There is an important conversation about toxic masculinity, about gender roles, about where men fit and don’t fit in our society, the expectations of manhood. There is a whole set of challenges there,” Kinnaman explained. “Pornography is huge part of the issue … with the swipe of a finger, people can find explicit sexual images in videos. It’s a shaping influence of this generation.”
But there is good news, Kinnaman added, noting 76 percent of practicing Christian fathers say they’re “focused on teaching their son about how to be a Christian man.”
Most fathers, Tyson noted, fall into one of five areas: irresponsible, ignorant, inconsistent, involved or intentional. While each can start off with good intentions, ultimately becoming an intentional father should be the goal.
“The intentional father is someone who takes a specific, customized approach to raise their kid in order to be the dad his child needs and to release them into their legacy,” Tyson said, adding that being an effective father goes beyond merely staying involved with children, but figuring out a way to be purposeful.
“The intentional father does what the involved father does, but … he says, ‘I’m going to figure out the keys to the heart of the kid that God has given me.’”
During the webinar, Tyson shared about leading his son, Nate, who is now 21 and in college, on the journey toward spiritual manhood. Tyson spent years of research looking into an effective way to disciple and teach his son about what it truly means to be a man of God.
Tyson would go on to create what he called “the primal path,” what he used to teach his son and what has become an online course to help fathers guide their sons on their journey.
What being a man is not
Being a man is not about being a “generic, anemic sort of man,” one who is more about what they don’t do or one who is burned out from work and the stresses of life.
“I‘ll tell you that’s not inspiring to a 13-year-old,” Tyson said. “They don’t want to look up at their dad and go, ‘Dad’s really busy and overwhelmed by life and tired. Gosh, I can’t wait to be busy and overwhelmed and tired.”
When it comes down to it, Tyson said, the core of being a godly father is leaving a son with an image of manhood that will help strengthen him in living out his faith, someone who is “alive in the world,” loving his family and “not sleeping through life.”
“Hopefully those things sound like Jesus. … I want people to be like Jesus,” Tyson said. “Jesus is the best man who ever lived. Jesus knew when to get angry and He knew when to weep. Jesus knew when to fight and He knew when to engage. Jesus knew when to answer and when to ask a question. He mastered the art of living.
“And ultimately, I’m hoping my son says, ‘The ultimate thing I like about my dad is that he reminds me of Jesus.’”