Five principles for successful outreach to fathers (and father figures)

Giving thanks for fifteen years of Who Let The Dads Out?

A small beginning - and a big heart for fathers

Fifteen years ago this spring, a Baptist church in Chester decided to launch a monthly toddler group for dads. As he tentatively opened the doors, wondering if anyone would come, little did group leader Mark Chester imagine what God had in store for Who Let The Dads Out?. Today the programme brings 8,000 fathers and father figures into over 260 church groups throughout the UK and elsewhere - with numbers constantly rising.

Back in 2003, the future may have been uncertain, but the mission was clear. 

A ministry to men that helps build strong family units, invigorate local communities and encourage the Christian faith to be passed on.

Five principles for ministry to fathers

With many churches struggling to engage fathers, the Who Let The Dads Out? vision was bold - and guided by five key principles.

1. Inspired by the Bible

It was a verse in the Old Testament that spoke to Mark of God's intention for the father-child relationship. It had struck him that while churches all over the country ran busy mothers and toddlers groups, very few seemed to be helping dads and children to bond through spending quality time together.  

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.

Malachi 4: 5-6

dad playing hama beads with son

2. Meeting men at their point of need

Sometimes new fathers come to Who Let The Dads Out? groups looking for help with introducing their kids to spirituality. But more often the need is simply for friendship …  or a place to chill out with their children that won’t cost the earth (especially if they no longer live with them) …  or for advice, help and support on anything from relationships to working life or finances.

Being a father to young children can be a great joy but it can also be tough, and dads can sometimes feel as if they are on a treadmill. It’s especially important that churches support families through these challenging years – not just mothers and their children, but fathers too.

Mark Chester, Who Let The Dads Out? Founder

3. Welcoming all

Who Let The Dads Out? believes that grandfathers, stepfathers, godfathers, father figures and other male role models all have a vital role to play in the lives of children in the community. Men of all ages, backgrounds and faiths (or none) are welcomed.

Mark Chester

Our first step is not to ask, ‘Why don’t fathers engage with the church?’ The challenge isn’t for them to join us in the church, but for us to join them in the community, and to express and share our faith naturally with them.

Mark Chester

4. Offering fun, food and friendship

Dad reading to children with bacon butties

Who Let The Dads Out? offers a welcoming, non-threatening place for men of all ages to relax, be themselves, engage in fun activities with the children in their lives, and enjoy a cuppa and one of the 100,000 bacon butties (or similar) that Who Let The Dads Out? groups serve every year.

5. Promoting best practice across the denominations

group of delegates from Who Let The Dads Out? training session

For years now the Who Let The Dads Out? team have been supporting churches of all denominations to develop this ministry. They offer a range of low-cost training events to inspire and encourage others who want to know more about how to engage with fathers, or share best practice. 

Great things happen when we let the dads in!

In their own words, two fathers describe the difference Who Let The Dads Out? has made to them.

My wife and son went to live a two hour drive away ... These groups have made a big difference to our time together. Each one has given us a warm welcome. It has been a great way to meet other local dads … and it has made me aware of the church.

It was partly my conversations with the leaders that made me want to explore more about what motivated these guys and why they did what they did … I found out about a Men's Alpha course through Who Let The Dads Out? and I signed up, along with twelve others. As the weeks went by, this course changed my whole way of thinking and was very powerful. I started to read the Bible and realised how this could change your life for the better. I was fascinated by the discussions, and towards the end of the course,
opened my heart to Jesus.

Would you like to help?

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