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Investing in Fathers, Changing Communities

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David Cozart

David Cozart

This weekend many of us took time to celebrate the fathers that have made a difference in our lives. Be it a life lesson, time spent together, or even the occasional “dad joke,” fathers make a tremendous impact in our lives.

At the same time, Father’s Day can be a difficult time for many. Whether it is remembering a loved one lost or revisiting memories of an absent father.

Over a decade ago, Lexington Leadership Foundation identified father absence as a significant issue effecting their community- causally related to negative outcomes in children, families, and communities. Poverty, crime, childhood obesity, infant mortality, poor grades/school dropout, teen pregnancy, emotional/mental disorders, behavioral issues, substance misuse, and many other issues are more likely to manifest when fathers are not present and positively engaged. 

As the Director of Lexington Leadership Foundation’s Fatherhood Initiative, I believe father absence is an UPSTREAM issue and that promoting fatherhood engagement in our cities and across systems will help our communities become places of peace. That’s why we have been encouraging Lexington’s fathers to participate actively in their children’s lives in positive and impactful ways, a mission that is directly tied to better outcomes in families and for the community at large.

We see that fathers have a desire to be involved in the lives of their children. Just as we have a yearning for Jesus, so do fathers have a yearning for their children. However, many need more tools and instruments to meet this desire and be more involved. And so the Fatherhood Initiative set out to do just that!

The initiative hosts classes at neighborhood-based sites throughout the city, focused on responsible parenting, building healthy relationships, and economic stability. The 12-week curriculum seeks to walk with men through their life experiences doing 3 things:

  1. Amplify the fact that fathers are valuable and their engagement is valuable, because that has not always been the narrative
  2. Start addressing any barriers that the father may have to positive engagement;
  3. Help them overcome any barriers in economic sustainability.  This is all done by and with staff and volunteers of faith and goodwill.  

Most recently, we were blessed to open the Center for Fathers and Families, a place dedicated to this important work and helping up to 350 fathers develop nurturing relationships with their children.

Investing in fathers in this way does not merely encourage happier families — though that would be reason enough to participate. In the midst of all this we are seeking spaces for the Holy Spirit to break in and transform men. When we address father absence and promote father engagement across sectors and multiple disciplines, we exponentially impact all of the issues we’re seeking to address in society as well as across the Body of Christ.

So this week, and every week, we rededicate ourselves to investing in fathers to change communities and transform Lexington into a city for God!

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Celia Vigil

Communications Fellow

What book, movie, quote, or tv show has most shaped your understanding of leadership or the city?   

A quote that has shaped my understanding of leadership and the city is, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

While the amount of work there is to do to transform cities is great, this quote reminds me that we are freed from having to complete it all, though our obligation to continue remains. We may never see a huge transformation in our lifetime. The work stretches far beyond us. However, this does not make our acts of faithfulness in the day to day less significant, no matter how small they may seem.