What Defines a Father?

Help your child embrace God as his or her heavenly Father.

The Christian faith acknowledges Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God. Yet Jesus taught His disciples to address God as “our Father in heaven.” Since Jesus is the only Son of God, why did He invite us all to call God “Father”? To answer this question we must figure out what defines a father.

Obviously, Jesus holds a unique position as God incarnate, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Consistent with His teachings, however, believers have always used the word Father when referring to God. One of the most important creeds in Christian history begins with the phrase, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” This simple affirmation carries several important truths our children need to understand. Here are some of those essential truths:

Father = Source

Our earthly fathers are an important source of our genetic makeup. But God is the ultimate source of our lives. He knew us before we were conceived and formed us in the womb.

Father = Provision

Fathers find joy in giving to their children. That’s because a chief role of fatherhood is to provide. Jesus used this reality to explain the goodness of God when He said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

Father = Correction

Children don’t like discipline, but it fosters security knowing Mom and Dad love them enough to correct wayward behavior. Good parents mirror the fatherhood of God when they administer the short-term pain of discipline to shape a child’s long-term character. As the Bible says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6).

Father = Love

As a parent, you’ve probably received a small taste of how God feels as “our Father in heaven.” When parents look into the face of their newborn baby, they know they will love the child no matter what. That’s exactly how God feels about us.

The following activities and discussion questions are designed to help your children embrace God as their heavenly Father. As you use these resources with your kids, may our Father’s love become real to them in a new way.

— Kurt Bruner

What Defines a Father

  • God is the source of our existence.
  • The Lord provides for us.
  • God corrects us.
  • The Lord loves us unconditionally.

Family Memory Verse

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

Scripture Study

For a more in-depth look at God as our Father, read these Bible passages:

YouTube video

Preschool Activity
School-Age Activity
Tween Activity
Talk With Your Teen
Dinner Talk

Preschool Activity

Allow your child to dress up in Daddy’s shirt, tie and shoes. (Single moms: Borrow these items from a neighbor or friend.)

Ask, “Does wearing these clothes make you a daddy? Why not?”

Explain that it’s not a daddy’s clothes that make him a daddy, but who he is. Tell your child that a daddy is someone who protects and loves his child. God is a special Daddy who gives us life, protects us and loves us. We are all His children.

To help reinforce the point, here’s a rhyme that is sure to bring a smile — and you don’t have to be a skilled Sunday school teacher to pull it off:

God loves me (Point to yourself)
And God loves you. (Point to your child)
Like a daddy
He protects us, too. (Make a roof over your head with upraised arms)

He knows what we need. (Hold hands out, palms up)
He hears our prayer. (Fold hands in prayer)
We can talk to Him (Open and close hands to mimic a hand puppet)
Anytime, anywhere! (Spread arms apart, with palms facing up)

God is our Daddy
Who is never far. (Shake head as if saying “no”)
He’s always with us (Cross arms in a hug)
Right where we are. (Point down to feet with both hands)

—Jackie Perseghetti

School-age Activity

In the evening, plan for some “big chair” time with your children. Encourage them to climb onto your lap for snuggling, reading a book or talking about their day.

During your time together, tell them that God is their heavenly Father and they are His children. He wants a relationship with them and invites them to call Him “Abba” (Papa).

Tell your kids that God desires for them to come to Him, just as they came to you and spent time on your lap. They can talk to God about their lives and their problems. Explain that God understands their fears and concerns just as Mom and Dad do.

If your children are receptive, have them take turns praying to God and talking with Him as they would a father. Afterward, close with a short prayer for each child, followed by hugs and kisses.

—Jerry Bowen

Tween Activity

Help your tweens get a visual image of the fatherhood of God by playing the “Dad on Deck!” game. Here’s how it works.

Take your tweens to a mall and sit on a bench to watch people. As they walk by, encourage kids to say, “Dad on Deck!” whenever they see a man they believe is a father. Have kids share clues that support their “Dad on Deck” claims.

For instance, dad clues might include: a man and a teen who share an obvious family resemblance (father = source); a man buying snacks for a child (father = provider); a man disciplining a misbehaving child (father = corrector); or a man holding a child’s hand (father = love).

Award one point for every clue your tweens come up with. See who can score the most points.

Afterward, discuss together:

  • How easy or difficult is it to spot a dad? Why?
  • Why do you think God chose to describe himself as a Father?
  • Read 1 John 3:1. Because of the Father’s love for us, what are we now called?
  • What are your heavenly Father’s responsibilities toward you?
  • What are your responsibilities as God’s child?

Wrap up with prayer, thanking God for His fathering presence in your lives.

—Mike Nappa

Talk With Your Teen

Have you ever wondered what kind of pictures come to mind when teens refer to God as “Father” in the midst of a youth culture so prone to fatherlessness and a media culture so inundated with messages belittling fatherhood? Yet Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father in heaven” because He was confident in the character and the heart of a heavenly Father. This month’s faith lesson provides the perfect opportunity for you to talk with your teen about fatherhood — what it is and what it can be when we see the heavenly Father as our model.

Consider the following questions for discussion:

  • What words come to mind when you think of a father? Why?
  • Name a few TV dads that have been popular over the years. What words best describe these Hollywood father figures?
  • How do those TV dads compare to fathers you’ve known in real life? How do your friends talk about their fathers?
  • Jesus instructed us to approach God as our Father when we pray. Why do you think that word picture can be either comforting or threatening to teens? How does it make you feel?
  • As a parent, how can I better model the Father heart of God? Will you please pray for me as I endeavor to know God the Father in a way that helps me to display His “father” qualities in my own parenting?

—Pam Woody

Dinner Talk

During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’ ” (Matthew 6:9-10). By providing this example of prayer, Jesus emphasized the importance of relating to God as our Father, and He modeled both the reverence and the familiarity with which we should approach God.Helping your child to view God as his Father will foster within him a deep sense of security and a greater intimacy with God.

Navigate family life with grace and love!

Daniel P. Huerta, Focus on the Family's Vice President of Parenting, presents a collection of seven powerful character traits designed to help parents grow and thrive while raising Godly children.

Ask your child:

  • If you were to describe the perfect father, what would he be like?
  • What do you know about God that makes Him the perfect father? How does knowing this affect your choices and your actions?
  • Referring to God as “Father” implies a close relationship between you and Him, and there’s security in knowing you have this special relationship. How do Isaiah 64:8 and Galatians 4:6 prove you can feel secure with Father God?
  • What are some ways that you can better get to know God as your Father? (Here are some ideas: read your Bible, learn more about Him at church, pray, watch how dads that love God relate to their children.)
  • The Creator of the universe loves us enough to call us His children (1 John 3:1). How can we show Him how grateful we are that He loves us that much?

—Jennifer Walker

Final Thoughts on What Defines a Father

Ultimately, we can look to our Father in heaven to define what a father is. Our heavenly Father is perfect and will not fail us. If you are a father, spend time in the Word to see all the Lord has done for you. If you are a single mother, remind your children of the love the Lord has for them. What an amazing Creator we have that He would call us His children!

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