Book Review: Fatherless Generation by John Sowers

Fatherless Generation by John Sowers (Cover)

“Dad.”

It’s a word that brings to mind either some of your happiest memories… or some of your deepest resentments. For too many kids (and young adults) in North America and around the world, “Dad” is a shadowy figure, a fading memory, a hurt feeling; but never someone they knew deeply.

Some boys look for approval in gangs; others channel their resentment toward an unhealthy work ethic, wild behavior or excessive competitiveness. Many young women seek out affection from boys (and “men”) who are only too happy to oblige.

This fatherless generation has never been more unsure of their place the world and the results have been devastating

That’s why John Sowers, the president of the Mentoring Project, wrote Fatherless Generation. In this short book, Sowers relates the tragic experiences of fatherless boys, girls, men and women (including himself), while showing readers that there is hope to change their stories; to be a part of transforming their lives and helping them discover the God who is the Father to the fatherless.

Throughout the first half of the book, Sowers shares his experience growing up without a dad, along with those of several others who originally shared their story on his MySpace page. And the damage that’s been inflicted, the pain that all have suffered, is palpable. Young women share how they were Daddy’s princess—until he left. Some write that they don’t hate their dads, but they can’t forgive them either. Hopelessness and despair are the undercurrents of every story.

What I appreciate about how Sowers presents these stories, including his own, is that it’s not sensationalized, manipulative or voyeuristic. He is careful to protect the dignity of every person whose story he shares, as raw and often heart-wrenching as they are. This is extremely difficult to accomplish as, too often, in seeking to protect the individual’s well-being, their story can be reduced to emotionless propositions.

As careful as he is with the stories he shares, his use of statistics is equally so. Rather than overwhelming readers with data, he uses it to support the stories shared—the lives affected by not having a father in the home. They’re effective and disturbing.

For example, Sowers writes on pages 36-37 (perhaps the only really stats heavy section of the book), that children from fatherless homes account for:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides
  • 71 percent of pregnant teenagers
  • 90 percent of all homeless and runaway teenagers
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorder
  • 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
  • 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison

For those who have ever doubted the impact of an attentive father in the lives of children, one needs only look at this and see that dads really do make a difference. The impact of being fatherless is so overwhelming, that it seems like there’s nothing that can be done, doesn’t it?

But there is a solution: caring men and women becoming mentors to a fatherless generation.

In part two of Fatherless Generation, Sowers shares how godly mentors spoke words of life and encouragement, taught him to be a man and ultimately transformed his life.

“Both of these men sacrificed their time in order to be mentors and father figures in my life, and because of their sacrifice, I came to see that being a man was not really as intimidating as i had made it out to be. I learned that i didn’t have to be afraid of other men. I learned that I didn’t have to be afraid of becoming a man myself,” writes Sowers (pp. 91-92).

The love that Sowers has for these men is obvious, as is his passion for seeing Christians take on the role of mentoring a younger generation. In doing so, by showing love to those who believe they are unloveable and modelling maturity to them, there is a powerful opportunity to be a witness to Christ and see lives transformed both in the temporal and eternal.

In this way, the book carries through it the implicit reality of the gospel (which, in terms of presentation, has its strengths and weaknesses). Sowers touches on aspects of the gospel to be sure (see pp. 82-84), and does speak of a desire to see the fatherless come to know the God who is Father to the fatherless, but it’s something that I would have preferred to see beefed up a bit more.

Reading Fatherless Generation hit close to home on a number of levels. The first is that I could relate all too well to the stories Sowers shares, because they were my story, too. I grew up without my dad being much of a physical presence in my life and that led me to try to be his opposite, or at least what I perceived his opposite to be. In doing so, I also sinfully treated him with thinly veiled contempt. In recent years, by God’s grace, our relationship has experienced much healing and I’m thankful for this. But not everyone has that opportunity.

Secondly, I have three boys living near me who don’t have a dad, and I don’t know how much interest their dads have in them. Perhaps they’re waiting for someone to speak words of affirmation into their lives?

Finally, as the father of two young girls, it reminded me of the powerful influence I am on Abigail and Hannah (for good or bad). I pray that my girls truly know how much their daddy loves them, and that my influence will be a godly one.

Fatherless Generation shines a light on the trials of all who are going to bed tonight without a dad. Their challenges are real. Their pain is deeply felt. But they don’t have to live their lives feeling shame, anger or resentment. This book offers its readers an opportunity to be a part of transforming the lives of a fatherless generation. Are we willing to take the first step?


Title: Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story
Author: John Sowers
Publisher: Zondervan (2010)

One of the Greatest Gifts a Man Can Give His Family…

…is modelling repentance.

A few weeks back, Mark Driscoll preached through Luke 11:5-13 and spoke well to this as he examined verse 13:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Here’s the transcript for the video:

Gentlemen, one of the most powerful things you can do is acknowledge your own evil to your wife and children. This is telling your wife and your children when you’ve sinned and it’s owning it and naming it. All right, Jesus says that earthly fathers are evil. So when we do or say or fail to do good and we act in a way that is evil, it is very helpful for our families to see us repent of sin. Some of you have never heard your dad say things like, “It’s my fault. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” You’ve never heard that. Because even when your dad was wrong, he didn’t acknowledge it. He didn’t confess it. He didn’t agree with Jesus, “Yeah, that was evil.”

And so fathers, if you want to create a loving, nurturing, godly home, you model repentance by acknowledging your own evil. If you want to raise really stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, religious kids, tell them to repent of their sin but never repent of your sin. Tell them when they say or do evil, but do not acknowledge your own. You will then create a very religious culture with very discouraged children who will realize that they live under a father who is aware of their sin but ignorant of his own and that he is a cruel taskmaster and overbearing hypocrite.

So it’s important for us fathers to tell our children, “I want to be the best father I can be. God the Father is the perfect Father. You need him. I need him, too, because we’re both sinners that he’s working on and he’s dealing with our evil.”

Modelling repentance is not easy. Abigail looks at me like I’ve got two heads sometimes (she’s still in that age-range where Daddy apparently can do no wrong), but it’s slowly) helping her to understand that it’s okay to admit our sins and ask for forgiveness from those we’ve wronged.

I’m not sure if it will ever get easier, but I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit in her life.

Receiving Grace upon Grace – Introducing our New Daughter

On Friday March 12 at 5:14 am, Emily and I welcomed our second daughter, Hannah Grace, into the world.

Probably the hardest part (for me) this time around was choosing a name. Names are really important. Biblically, they define people to some degree. The names of Naomi’s sons, Mahlon & Chilion, for example, meant “sickness” and “wasting away.” They died in Moab, leaving their mother without grandchildren. Naomi herself, after the death of her sons renamed herself “Mara” because the “Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

So, what you name your children is kind of a big deal. And for Emily and I, agreeing on a name was extremely difficult at first.

We initially wanted this baby’s name to convey an idea of strength combined with femininity. (Tall order? Maybe.) After batting around ideas for several weeks, we managed to agree on a middle name: Grace, meaning “favor” or “blessing.”

More time went by and we were short-listing names, crossing off others… Eventually we came to Hannah. I liked it, but didn’t recall the meaning of the name.

I asked Emily, “How about we call her Hannah Grace?”

Her response, “But ‘Hannah’ means ‘grace;’ wouldn’t that be weird?”

Then I remembered:

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
John 1:16

The last year has been an incredibly challenging one for us; ultimately all of our difficulties have worked out for our good though it’s not always been comfortable. But through them all, God has been with us and He’s been incredibly gracious to us, so much so that I think I take it for granted.

He’s poured out grace upon grace in our lives, blessing after blessing. And the chief blessing is that He has not only shown us how to live in the Law but that He came to live that life for us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That His perfect life was given to me in exchange for my sinful one by faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus.

Naming my daughter Hannah Grace is a tangible reminder of this for me.

God willing, the next several years are going to be exciting. Seeing my girls grow up, teaching them about Jesus and someday walking them down the aisle… To see this family grow into all that God has planned for us is going to be a wonderful gift.

Christmas Daddies: Building a Memory

Yesterday, was the big day: My Christmas Daddy-Daughter date with my lovely daughter, Abigail.

This was a really important one for me; I really want to make sure she has some great memories (as much as I can help, anyway), so I did my best to pull out all the stops. First up, her favorite breakfast: French toast (it was delicious).

After a lovely breakfast, we were off to the main event: Sesame Street Live!

We took a few photos:

The Sesame Street players take the stage and all the kids go wild. Well... except for the ones who cried.

[Read more…]

Christmas Daddies: A Gift Idea


An interesting challenge is finding gifts that are just right. As fun as things like Dora, Diego, and the Little Einsteins are for my daughter, it’s also important that I’m getting her gifts that are interesting, engaging and edifying. So if you have the same kind of trouble I do, I wanted to try to help out with a gift idea.

Here’s one: The Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition


Here’s the product description:

Every Story Whispers His Name…

Written for children ages four and up, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the one story underneath all the stories of the Bible and points to the birth of a child, the Rescuer, Jesus. Complete with 44 Bible stories, The Jesus Storybook Bible paints a beautiful portrait of Jesus and invites children to see that he is not only at the center of God’s great story of redemption—he is at the center of their story too. Children and adults alike will be captivated by the beautifully written narrative and the original and unique illustrations by accomplished artist Jago. Lloyd-Jones’ powerful gift of storytelling draws the reader into the greatest adventure of all time in an exciting page-turner that kids (and adults) find hard to put down.

Since its release in 2007, The Jesus Storybook Bible has become a must-have for children and adults and has grown into a brand that includes: a Spanish edition, an ebook for large and small group presentations, and the new Deluxe Edition, which includes the complete book on audio CD, read by award-winning British actor David Suchet. The audio from the Deluxe Edition is also available separately.

I bought the regular edition of the book for Abigail last Christmas. It’s still a bit above her comprehension level (it’s intended for children over age 4), but it’s far and away the best children’s Bible I’ve seen so far. The stories have depth but are easily understandable and all remind children (and parents) that Jesus is the Hero of the Story.

It’s really great stuff.

If you’ve got some great gift ideas, pass them along in the comments section.

Christmas Daddies: Building Traditions

Christmas is a couple weeks away. That probably fills some of you with glee. And others with dread.

Me, I’m somewhere in between.

I’m learning to enjoy Christmas as a daddy. It’s a lot of fun to see my daughter get excited about everything that’s going on (most of which she doesn’t understand yet). And it’s a privilege to try to help my lovely wife overcome her Christmas anxiety (long story).

But something that’s been a bit difficult for me: Starting family Christmas traditions.

As far as I recall, we didn’t really have any traditions in our family growing up, although by the time I got into my teens, it became common for us to have lasagne instead of turkey for our Christmas meal.

One of the things I really want to do as my children get older is start reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol together, as well as other appropriate Christmas stories. But I suspect that’s still a few years off.

So this year, we’re going to try to start two new traditions: Building a gingerbread house and reading the birth of Christ from Luke 2.

I suspect the gingerbread house will be fun because:

  1. My daughter loves gingerbread
  2. I love gingerbread
  3. My wife loves chocolate candy
  4. There is an icing pack for Abigail to squeeze

Reading Luke 2 as a family will be beneficial because it’s a reminder of who and what we’re celebrating at this time of year.

So, my fellow dads (and moms, too), what traditions are you building into your family?

Let’s share some ideas.

Everyday Theology: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Continuing to look at some of the more common ideas we have about, or relating to in some way, God, we get to this saying:

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

The saying, a common one used in arguments surrounding corporal punishment of children, is an adaptation of several of the sayings in the book of Proverbs, notably:

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die (Prov. 23:13)

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Prov. 13:24)

From Reacting to Overreacting

Frequently, this adage is used to advocate for corporal punishment, in the form of spanking. However, there are some that would suggest that it advocates for the abuse of children. To use this saying, or any other, as justification for child abuse goes far beyond the bounds of its original meaning, and is a notion that must be rejected, whether you are for or against spanking as a parent.

It is never acceptable for any parent to shame, berate, or belittle their child.

For the Christian, we are never given permission to punish our children. You will not find an example of this for us to follow anywhere in the Bible.

The example and command we are given is to constantly and consistently discipline our children, just as God disciplines His. [Read more…]

A Great End to a So-So Day

Today was, in large part, a day I’d like to forget altogether. But there’s something about spending some time playing with my little girl that’s refreshing. It’s amazing what a few minutes of fun can do.

Praise God for toddlers who want to do nothing more than “Daddy run!”

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