Shaping a new view of fathers

How Bluey is Shaping a New View of Fathers: Lessons for the Church

Shaping a new view of fathers.

The Australian animated preschool television series Bluey is shaping a new view of fathers. Bluey is a seven-year-old blue Heeler puppy with abundant energy, imagination, and curiosity. She lives with her father, Bandit, mother, Chilli, and younger sister, Bingo. Bluey isn’t just a cartoon for children; it’s about more than a dog family. It’s just as much about parents and parenting as children and childhood.

I love Bluey, not just because it’s my grandaughter’s favourite show. Unlike some shows where fathers are portrayed as dorks, dimwits or dunces, Bandit is emotionally intelligent, patient, helpful, playful and meaningfully invested in his children. He watches cricket, gets cranky when he’s hungry, makes dad jokes, has stinky armpits, and burps and sneezes when he eats sauerkraut. He’s my favourite character because he’s genuine, relatable and, for the most part, a good role model.

Undermining the status of fathers.

Bluey is breaking new ground. Since the 1960s, popular media has tended to portray fathers as incompetent, emotionally disconnected and less adept than mothers. As the National Fatherhood Initiative identifies, “From Jim Anderson in Father Knows Best to Al Bundy in Married…With Children and Jay Pritchett of Modern Family, TV dads are usually portrayed as foolish, no matter what race or socioeconomic status is depicted.”

Negative stereotypes have significantly undermined the status of fathers, with adverse repercussions. While parental gender prejudice may not be causation, it correlates with a decline in children’s well-being. This is disconcerting. Family violence, mental health, gender confusion, loneliness, and addictions are on the rise. If attitudes and perceptions about fatherhood don’t change, the struggles and suffering of children may be exacerbated.

Lessons for the Church.

So, how can the Church positively inform and shape attitudes and perceptions about fathers? Here are five practical suggestions:

  1. Teach and model biblical principles.

The biblical foundation of faith should be the bedrock of fatherhood. To rightly shape a father’s competency and parental involvement, we must energetically teach and model biblical principles and practices (e.g. Matthew 28:19-20, Titus 2:7-8). We can do this by enlisting spiritually mature grandfathers as mentors, establishing Bible study groups for fathers, sharing biblical resources, and preaching to fathers (not just to men).

  1. Affirm roles and responsibilities.

A father’s influence and impact matter! His leadership in the home is vital for his family’s health and growth. Yet many fathers lack confidence, leaving mothers to do a disproportionate portion of the parenting. We must, therefore, teach fathers the Lord’s plan for them to provide for, protect, train, and love their children (e.g. Proverbs 22:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, 1 Timothy 5:8). This is a game-changer. When pastors, teachers, family ministry leaders, counsellors, and children’s ministry volunteers intentionally affirm the father’s God-given roles and responsibilities, they enhance the father’s capacity to nurture his children’s faith formation.

  1. Create momentum.

How we talk about fathers creates a unique feeling, action, and energy. Are local churches championing fatherhood? Does Father’s Day happen once a year, or are fathers thanked more frequently? And what’s being done in the church to spur fathers on and sustain them in their efforts to be godly parents? Create momentum. Honour fathers (Exodus 20:12). The incredible life-giving contribution a father can make in his family should be regularly, not rarely, celebrated and advanced.

  1. Encourage play.

This suggestion brings us back to Bluey. The cartoon is about play, which is crucial for children’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual development. While play is essential for children, it’s also necessary for fathers. When fathers play with their children, they become more patient, creative, thoughtful and dedicated. So, use play as a springboard for ministry – plan and schedule events where fathers and children can play together (Zechariah 8:5). Also, teach fathers how to use forms of play, like Godly Play, to nurture the spiritual lives of their children.

  1. Call fathers to account.

If we want God’s Word to shape family life, there are times when fathers need to be called to account (2 Timothy 4:2-3). When a Christian father neglects his biblical responsibility to lead his family in the way of the Lord, a pastor or leader in the church should gently and humbly help him get onto the right path (Galatians 6:1). In many churches, this isn’t being done. Please don’t shy away from it. We assign some fathers to the spiritual scrap heap when we neglect correction.

Transforming perceptions.

Bluey is transforming perceptions of fatherhood one episode at a time. If a children’s show can change the narrative of popular fatherhood, surely the church could do much more. So, ask God to help you teach and model biblical principles, affirm fathers’ roles and responsibilities, create momentum, encourage play, and call fathers to account. Will God the Father help? Absolutely! He’s pro-dad!

Praying for fathers.

God, out of your glorious riches, strengthen ___________ with power through Your Spirit in his inner being so that Christ may dwell in his heart through faith. And I pray that being rooted and grounded in love, he may have strength, together with all your people, to grasp how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that he may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).

How is your church shaping a new view of fathers? For the benefit of others, please share in the comments.

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