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Who Let The Dads Out?

Inspiring ideas for churches to engage with dads and their pre-school children

Mark Chester

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A compelling vision and inspiring example alongside tested practical steps needed to make this happen.
Mark Molden, Chief Executive, Care for the Family

Content

Parent and toddler work can transform relationships and strengthen families, yet sometimes men may have very limited access to the parent and toddler world.

This book tells the story of how Who Let The Dads Out? came into being. It gives a practical guide for setting up and running the monthly sessions, complete with theological background, real-life case studies, helpful hints and tips, and twelve easy craft ideas.

Foreword by Mark Molden, Care for the Family.

Visit the Who Let The Dads Out? website at www.wholetthedadsout.org.

Mark Chester introduces Who Let The Dads Out?

'I bumped into a friend recently, and she noticed my furrowed brow. I was feeling under enormous pressure and the sensitive soul that she is changed my mood completely with just a few encouraging words. She told me that her friend's husband went with his son to a dad and toddler group. "He wouldn't step foot inside a church normally," she said, "but he won't miss a Who Let The Dads Out? session." It was music to my ears.

'Who Let The Dads Out? began in March 2003 at Hoole Baptist Church in Chester. Some mums on a parenting course at the church complained about how little the fathers of their children and their children spent together, so we responded by setting up a special session for dads and their toddlers.

'A Who Let The Dads Out? session is simple. A church takes a normal parent and toddler session, moves it to a Saturday, incorporates masculine touches, such as bacon butties and newspapers, and targets it specifically at fathers and male guardians and their children. It is a format that has worked in many churches and has had a positive impact on people's lives.

'Dave is a stay-at-home dad to three sons. It is a lonely business, and Dave was desperate for contact with other fathers. At his first Who Let The Dads Out? session, he couldn't quite believe seeing so many dads in one place having fun with their toddler children. He quickly became a regular.

'As the children at Who Let The Dads Out? grew older and started school, we launched a new group called School's Out, Dad's About (SODA) Club. When Dave's children started school, he took them along to SODA Club.

'For those dads who wanted to explore their fathering roles in more depth, we also offered a parenting programme specifically for dads called Daddy Cool! and Dave joined this too. The last session of Daddy Cool! is about passing on values and beliefs, and, perhaps surprisingly, many of the men found this the most enjoyable session, so we set up a group for men to explore very basic aspects of faith and spirituality, called Soul Man? Dave became a member of the group.

'A few years later, and Dave now goes to church with his family. "I do have faith that things will work out," he says. "I pray about family issues and concerns, and I often pray with the boys at bedtime. My faith has deepened and I get more from church than I used to."

'Led by our team at Hoole Baptist Church, the Who Let The Dads Out? initiative has grown steadily since 2003, and now many churches throughout the country have set up their own groups to engage with fathers and their children. The support churches receive will be boosted in April 2012 when my books Who Let The Dads Out? and School's Out, Dad's About will be published by BRF. The books contain a mix of theology, philosophy and practical guidance about how to set up and run all of the groups. Enjoy!'

Download craft templates from the book

Endorsements

A compelling vision and inspiring example alongside tested practical steps needed to make this happen.
Mark Molden, Chief Executive, Care for the Family

Who Let the Dads Out? is a brilliantly simple concept. A WLTDO? group run by a local church gives dads and granddads an opportunity to spend time with their children in a safe environment, playing, enjoying bacon butties and meeting other men in similar situations. In a society which doesn't make much provision for blokes to spend time with their children, WLTDO? groups are a great way of helping dads enjoy being the best they can be for their children.
Lucy Moore, Messy Church Team Leader

Author info

Mark Chester is the Founder of Who Let The Dads Out? and joined the BRF staff team in July 2013 to support the growth of the movement. He is a writer, speaker and consultant specialising in fatherhood, with a ministry to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.

Reviews

From The Good Bookstall - August 2012

I have been a member of an established (non-church) dads group for several years. Recently my role has changed to that of group leader, albeit with much support. With this in mind, I was asked to review this book by the TGBS Editor, a member of a local church.

I found this book to be well written, in a thoughtful style that was neither condescending nor excessively deep. The author's ideas and experiences are conveyed clearly, with several points of discussion along the way. There are differing approaches to dealing with the various age ranges, which I found interesting.

Numerous, clearly defined measures are suggested for group organisers to follow. Some are rather obvious but many others are less so. There were many simple, practical steps suggested, particularly regarding how to make new dads feel at ease. From my own experience of various parent/toddler groups, this is easily overlooked for men. Even we can feel shy sometimes!

Although the book is written from the church's viewpoint, it highlights issues that are common to any parent group, male or female. This includes the stigma that can be attached to joining a group that is perceived as being run by 'do-gooders'.

This was a well informed read, as a Stay-at-home-dad and group leader myself I can safely say the author knows his stuff.

Reviewed by Tim Gluyas, Leominster


From The Church Times - June 2012

An increasing number of churches seek ways to restore connections with men. Typically, these initiatives involve sport, food, discussion, and beer. How refreshing, therefore, to discover Mark Chester's two books.

Who Let the Dads Out? and its companion School's Out Dad's About offer churches inspiration and practical ideas for engagement with dads and their young children. Chester, who works as a community family officer at Liverpool Football Club, argues that "if we want to see faith in God passed down through generations of families", then we must make a determined effort to "reach out and support relationships between fathers and children".

The first book begins with a short section exploring the importance of fatherhood, and identifying some of the obstacles that men face today in finding faith. It is a helpful introduction, but not much more.

The second section tells the story of the first Who Let the Dads Out? sessions (described as like mums and toddlers with bacon butties and newspapers), led by Chester at his church in Hoole, Cheshire; it leads into some useful practical guidance about setting up such a group. The book concludes with a craft idea for each month of the year.

The second book describes three further initiatives that will help churches develop the contacts made through father-and-toddler groups: School's Out Dad's About, a club for fathers and infant-school-age children; Daddy Cool!, a five-session parenting programme; and Soul Man?, a group where men can discuss faith. The book is full of ideas and practical guidance, and it is rooted in experience.

These two books do not provide an in-depth look at fatherhood, or a nuanced exploration of male spirituality. Indeed, they are somewhat superficial and often frustratingly brief. Not all fathers or male carers will have the time or inclination to participate in the activities described. Many of the questions of identity and faith which men face are complex and deep-set. There are no quick fixes.

What Chester offers, however, is a passionate challenge to congregations to take a fresh look at their engagement with men and families in their communities. His two books are an invaluable set of tools that will help any church develop this important aspect of mission. What, in the end, is so appealing is that this is not simply another guide to outreach among men; rather it is a call to bring enrichment to an area in which many fathers struggle - their relationship with their young children.

Canon John Kiddle is Director of Mission in the diocese of St Albans.

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841018850
  • Published: 23 March 2012
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 128