My Father's House: Outreach for Divorced Fathers
Fathers and their Children
There is a Place for you
My Father’s House- a recovery program for men who are either recently divorced or separated.
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2
An article from 2010 cited studies in the UK and US stating some startling statistics. Among them are the following. Most significant is the fact that men are 4 to 10 times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Kerry L. Knox, Ph.D., director of the Canandaigua Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stated “Men in the overall U.S. population just haven’t been the focus of a lot of suicide-prevention efforts.”
Thomas Joiner P.h.d. , a professor at the University of Florida, estimates that “romantic disruptions” and other relationship issues trigger depressive episodes in about 75 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 40 who commit suicide. Macdonald stated “Many men are overwhelmed by social problems like unemployment, family break-ups and not having access to their children."
(quoted from “The Spearhead” in an article titled MALE SUICIDE RATES AND CAUSES)
It is my opinion that it is the italicized, emboldened portion that is the main factor in a decision in favor of self-harm, at least for some men. The pain of losing contact with his children is extremely intense. Adding to that pain is the unspoken understanding that it is the weak man who asks for help, who shares his grief, or exposes himself emotionally. I think it should be all but a given that men in this situation have at least considered suicide. My Father’s House, would be a hand that reaches out to those men, offering viable, Bible based alternatives in a safe, respectful, and peaceful environment.
My Father’s House is a ministry established for and dedicated to the support and restoration of the separated/divorced man. It is this man who is at the greatest risk for hazards such as bankruptcy, turning to substance abuse, promiscuity, and suicide. It is this man who has hit rock bottom and believes himself to be isolated and alone. It is to this man that we extend the “right hand of fellowship” and submit to him the offering of a better way; a reminder that God is not finished with him.
The Divorced Father's Prayer
Lord I am hurting. I miss my children. I miss the familiarity and routine of a family. I feel alone. There are times when I don’t know how I will make it through another day. I fear what the impact of divorce will be on my children yet I know that you are bigger than my circumstance and greater than my fear. Today I refuse to listen to the voice of fear, but in every situation in which I find myself I will listen for Your voice and Your leading.
I will ignore any voice that tells me I am worthless, stupid, or less than a man. There is much I do not know, but this I do know: It is You who posesses “the words of life.” To You and to Your word I will listen. I know I am weak but Your word says that in my weakness Your “strength is perfected.” When I feel weak it is not a sign of defeat, but an opportunity to let Your strength be seen in me as I overcome trouble in ways I never could have without You. Help me to live my life completely for You today and every day that it may “go well with me and my children.”
A Home For Divorced Dads
Do you think there is a need for such a place as "My Father's House?"
Possible Site Locations
- unused schools with rooms that could be converted to sleeping/living quarters
- hotels/motels for sale
- religious buildings not in use or for rent
- YMCA buildings
- Habitat for Humanity interventions
Solicitation of government assistance or grants is also an option for obtaining help for renovations of buildings and properties suitable for My Father's House purposes. There are philanthropic agencies willing to contribute time and money to this endeavor as well.
Dad and Son at Play
Dedicated to Divorced Dads
The capsule below features a song I wrote shortly after my divorce in 2010. The song is called "Pick Me Up."
Pick Me Up
What a Workshop Session Looks Like
- Establish branches initially as programs offered by participating churches. This could mean having meetings with men in the previously mentioned situation using church space.
- Submit flyers to ER’s and mental health facilities for hand outs to men in need of “My Father’s House” services with contact information, brief description of services, code of conduct and mission statement
- Provide safe areas for fathers to interact with their children during their parenting time.
- Solicit health care professionals to donate time in the form of hour workshops on relevant topics such as suicide prevention, biblical parenting, maintaining the parent/child relationship, etc.
- Provision of healthy snacks
- Prayer time before and after sessions asking God’s blessing and guidance
- Programs designed to fit different levels of activity/ability bearing in mind that physical exercise is a stress reducer as well as an effective tool when dealing with depression.
Research has demonstrated that exercise and vigorous activity is equal to medicinal treatment when battling depression. With that in mind we propose the following list of activities conducive to participation for dads and kids. The list is far from exhaustive. (no pun intended)
- Disc Golf
- Putt Putt Golf
- Ping Pong
- Nature Walks
- Touch Football
- Scavenger Hunts
- Dodge Ball
Inside the building I see a library complete with family friendly videos, children's books and audio books; a rec room with ping pong and air hockey tables; a craft/arts room, music room, and kitchenette. Dieticians could come in and give classes and demonstrations on healthy eating and food prep. My Father's House would not only be a safe place for fathers to take their children during parenting time, but it could also be a very productive learning environment as well.
This might sound a little crazy, but what if there were a play house/theater, a place to watch and participate in plays? If it can be imagined it could be done. Spending time with dad wouldn't be awkward or sad or strange. It would be a time the children would look forward to. Money would not be a determining factor as to whether or not the kids would enjoy themselves. After my divorce there were times when the only thing I could afford to do was take the kids to a park or rent a movie. I wish My Father's House had existed then. It can now and, with God's help, I hope to make the dream a reality.
Ideally, it would be helpful if a church, rotary club, library, or other civic organization could donate or reasonably rent space and time for our club use.
There are many outreaches geared toward women, and thank God for them. They are needed. However, we have reached a time in the history of our culture that deems it necessary to reach out to men who have been recently divorced. Such an outreach would teach men how to preserve the relationships so vital to their children's lives as well as their own. It would encourage healthy outlets for the hurts universally brought on by divorce. This is not a comprehensive presentation, but I feel we have to start somewhere. The statistics and ideas I've presented in this article scratch the surface of an ever growing problem. I would be very interested to hear more ideas from readers in the comments section.
© 2018 Leland Johnson