Steve Wood – Why the New Evangelization Needs a Focus on Fathers
Steve Wood of Dads.org has written a compelling article on the need for men, particularly fathers, to become a major element of the New Evangelization. To date, there has been almost nothing from the Vatican, USCCB and academia on the need for increased focus on men.
Here is what Steve has to say:
The New Evangelization may be a disappointment when it comes to evangelizing families if it neglects a focus on fathers. The call for a New Evangelization is a desperately needed initiative especially when it is directed at baptized Catholics who are secularized and distant from the Faith. A serious hemorrhage of Catholics, especially youth and young adults, is due to what St. John Paul II termed an “invasive secularism.”
Key to the long-term success of an evangelistic effort that results in widespread cultural transformation is the targeting of specific “people-groups” (a term used in missions and in evangelistic planning) that are keys for the conversion of others. In other words, instead of trying to evangelize everyone, the focus is put upon those who in turn will be instrumental in the conversions and reversions of others. As far as I can tell, the key “people-group” for the New Evangelization of families has yet to be identified, namely fathers.
Yes, it’s encouraging that we now have annual Catholic men’s conferences in many places, but that’s a long way from a full-court, year-long, and multi-faceted effort at evangelizing fathers.
The Southern Baptists, who are effective evangelizers, published these remarkable results from research done by their church resource division:
• If a child is the first in the family to become a Christian, there’s a 3.7 percent probability that the rest of the family will become Christians
• If mom is the first in the family to become a Christian, there’s a 17 percent probability that the rest of the family will follow
• If dad is the first in the family to become a Christian, there’s a 93 percent probability that everyone else in the family will follow his lead
I reported similar striking findings in my book, Legacy, from an important Swiss study that asked the question, “What causes a person’s faith to carry through from childhood to adult religious belief and practice?” Here’s what I wrote summarizing the results:
“The study found that the one overwhelming critical factor is the religious practice of the father. Dads determine the church habits of their children, and thus, to a significant degree, their eternal destiny.
Can’t mom also do this? Shockingly, the study reported that ‘If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in fifty will become a regular worshipper.’
Yet, ‘If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular).’”
From these statistics, I can predict that if the New Evangelization fails to focus on fathers it has a great probability of being a failure in re-evangelizing families. On the other hand, the good news is that it’s possible to turn things around if a laser-beam focus is placed on fathers.
Unfortunately, many in the Catholic world believe that the greatest need in the Church and in the family is to advance the role of women. Yet, the best way to help young Catholic women is to create a large marriageable pool of mature young Catholic men. It seems that too many younger men are smoking pot, checking off exciting adventures on their bucket list, avoiding commitments to marriage, and playing video games half the night. In a similar vein, the highest need of married Catholic women is to have strong self-sacrificing husbands who are attempting to follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph. So, for the New Evangelization and for the good of women in the Church there should be a prime focus on reaching fathers and fathers-to-be who have an inactive faith.