Father On! How to call younger disciples to a level of greater maturity

David Nelson - Men's Pastor | Real Life Ministries Texas, Tomball, TX

“So, I was reading this book by Michael Foster and Dominic Bnonn Tennant called, It’s Good to Be a Man. It was interesting. He said that in Christianity there are something like two generations of literal or functional “clueless bastards.”

I said this quickly because I knew the term I used sounded incredibly derogatory, but the phrase is actually used in the book as an expression of tenderness lamenting the lack of spiritual parenting that many in our churches have regrettably never experienced. As I was inhaling preparing for the next phrase, I did not get my next words out in time…

“Clueless bastards?! What does that mean?” my thirty-something friend responded incredulously.

I had to explain that the absence of relational discipleship in churches over the past few decades has left a void where we have a multitude of believers who may be saved, but they are “clueless” (ignorant of the tenets of our faith and how to live them out) and “bastards” because they don’t have anyone to “father” (or parent) them.

I could tell my friend was processing why he was offended about what I said.

“Coach?” He inquired with tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.

“Yeah, Buddy. What’s up?” I said.

“I think I may be a ‘clueless bastard,’” he confessed.

“That ends today, pal…. I got you.”

I tell you this sad (but true) story because this seems like a somewhat original problem to churches in the Twenty-First Century, but it doesn’t seem new in the church at large over time. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 which says, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” Paul seems to address a problem of there being a “countless” number of “guides” who teach about Jesus, but few people “parenting” the people how to live out the amazing gospel they have received.

This sounds exactly like the problem Foster and Tennant define with their term “clueless bastards.” Paul’s solution? He told them to imitate him… He offered to parent them as a “father” and show them how to be Christians. We must do the same.

So how do we lead the younger generations to greater spiritual maturity? Here are some things that have worked for me:

  1. Personally invite them into relationship – I write the young men I wish to disciple hand-written, personal invitations expressing what I see in them and what my intentions of the relationship will be. For many, this is all that is needed to break down the perceived animosity between generations. The hostility many Millennials and Gen Z have towards the older generations is pent-up frustration over our unwillingness to engage them. I often get an enthusiastic “yes” from them before they put the invitation back in the envelope.
  2. Be transparent – Most of the younger generations want to know the same things we wanted to know about Christianity as we were coming up: Is it true? Does it matter? Does it work? We can go a long way in helping them want to go deeper by explaining to them our arrived conclusions to those questions… The good, bad, and the ugly in our journeys. We don’t have to seem like we have it all figured out.
  3. Help them belong – Even though some of the people we are talking about are in their 20’s or 30’s, many have never really been accepted in church since graduating from their youth groups. An example of how we combat this Real Life Texas is we have started inviting high school senior boys to our men’s retreat, and we do a ceremony where we invite them into the company of men in the church. It’s powerful for the men in attendance and the young men being commissioned.
  4. Put them to work – One of the most amazing things about the younger generations is that they want to make a difference. Many of them are quite gifted in areas of technology, etc. that could have a colossal Kingdom impact that some of us might not ever have envisioned. I do my best to have them “dream” what their contribution might be, and then I equip them to carry it out.

All the above are useful tips in getting the younger generations to mature in their faith, their habits, and help them see how their abilities can advance the Kingdom, but nothing works better than having someone walking with them that they can imitate who knows the truth, why it matters, and how it works.

That person is YOU.

Less instructors… More fathers (parents).



David Nelson
Men’s Pastor
Real Life Ministries Texas
Tomball, TX