Early one Saturday morning, a decade ago, a group of hopeful, but not particularly expectant, volunteers gathered within the walls of a small Baptist church in a suburb of Chester. We stood in a huddle and prayed that God would bring to our building the fathers and children from the streetssurrounding it, and then we opened the doors and waited. First came one father and his excited children and our hearts lifted. Then another came and another, and within half an hour the church was echoing with the sounds of children playing and men chatting about cars and football and their kids.
Gallons of tea were drunk and the grill went into overdrive to keep up with the demand for bacon butties. That morning, 20 dads and their children took part in the first ever Who Let The Dads Out?
parent and toddler session at Hoole Baptist Church. Much has happened since.
With such a positive response we realised that Who Let The Dads Out?
had met a need and so we began to run a session every month. We developed follow-on projects, such as the Daddy Cool! parenting programme and Soul Man? sessions for men to explore basic questions of faith and spirituality.
We also launched an after-school group for dads and their older children called School's Out, Dad's About (SODA) Club. Who Let The Dads Out?
became a catalyst for a wider programme of outreach and ministry to the dads and male carers of our community.
Other churches heard about what we were doing and, from this humble Baptist beginning, Who Let The Dads Out?
grew into a national movement that crosses church boundaries.
Evangelist and former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain the Revd Chris Duffett believes Who Let The Dads Out?
is a much needed ministry for our time.
'It connects the church with men in their communities like no other initiative I have seen,' he explained. 'It's a 'catalyst outreach' not just a one-off gimmick or methodology. Who Let The Dads Out?
builds relationships with fathers and their children and offers support, both practical and spiritual. What a valuable resource to the Church in a time when men in our communities have little or no understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.'
But the journey has not always been easy. In 2010, the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) heard about what we were doing and commissioned me to write two books which could be used to promote Who Let The Dads Out?
We were delighted, but we also knew that we would struggle to cope with the accelerated growth of the national movement. The initiative had become pot-bound and needed to be re-planted. But where?
As we prayed over several months it became clear that BRF should become the next custodians of Who Let The Dads Out?
. On 12 March 2012 they adopted it as one of their core ministries alongside their other projects, such as Messy Church, Faith in Homes and Barnabas Children's Ministry.
As with anything that is re-planted it can encourage a growth spurt and that has happened over the last year. There are now 100 churches in the UK which have registered a Who Let The Dads Out?
group and one in New Zealand.
Who Let The Dads Out?
is a simple idea but with profound consequences. The last verses of the Old Testament talk about 'turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers' (Malachi 4:6) and that is exactly what we are in the business of. You could even call it heart surgery! It results in stronger families and stronger communities - ones in which faith in God is passed from one generation to the next.
When Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple to foretell the birth of John the Baptist, he echoes Malachi's prophecy and says that John the Baptist would come "to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children" in order "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1: 17).
Who Let The Dads Out?
is not just a Saturday morning social club; its purpose is much more serious than that. Like John the Baptist, we believe God gave us this ministry 'to make ready a people prepared for the Lord'. Ten years on, we are still praying that the Holy Spirit begins the process of preparing the dads and children of our communities to follow Jesus by leading them to our churches on a Saturday morning for a bacon butty and a bit of heart surgery.