Most of us know (with or without prompting) that the third Sunday in June is Father’s Day. Despite the commercialism attached to the day, it nonetheless remains a grand and glorious idea. For whatever reason (and there are many candidates), the importance and image of fatherhood in our culture has drifted from where it needs to be, and its effect upon us has been staggering. In far too many minds, fathers are viewed (and sadly sometimes act) as little more than suppliers of genetic material. No one is under the illusion that honoring fathers on the third Sunday in June is going to make everything right or solve all the issues related to our families, but it does hold a standard up before us we cannot afford to lose sight of. Honoring the ideal of fatherhood (and the men who are our fathers) is something we need to do because it is beneficial to all of us.

As a minister for over 40 years, I’ve seen a lot of fathers. I’ve watched how they interacted with their families. While there are no perfect dads, there have been many who were excellent fathers. What made them that way?

The first thing was they had a relationship with their heavenly Father. God was more than a word to them, and being a follower of Jesus meant just that. One dad told me that when his children were young, he had let his relationship with God go. He encouraged them to follow God, but he didn’t lead the way. Then one day his five-year-old son told him that he wasn’t following God if his father wasn’t. Dads can tell but never teach until they practice what they preach!

Another thing I’ve observed about strong fathers is they love and honor their wives. They let their children know the family doesn’t revolve around them—after God, it revolves around mom and dad. After all, they were there before the kids came along and they’ll be there after they leave. Children need to know they are not the center of the universe and home is the place where it starts. Children raised in this environment will have healthier relationships and greater security since they are anchored in something bigger than themselves. They also learn some great things about the marriage relationship.

Effective fathers also know their children. They understand their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and fears and dreams. There’s only one way to do this, and that is by spending lots of time with your children. For children, love is spelled T-I-M-E.

Strong fathers persevere. They are loving and responsible throughout all the seasons of life. Sometimes they feel like they’re doing a great job and being a father is a piece of cake; other times they’re clueless. Most of the time, they’re somewhere in between. But no matter where they are, they remain committed to their family.

Finally, being a father doesn’t end when your child leaves home. Once a father, you’re always a father. Your adult children don’t need you in the same way they once did, but they still need you.

Happy Father’s Day, dads. Your family needs you, as do your community and your country. We won’t be everything we can be without strong fathers.