At the risk of dating myself, I was a young girl during America’s race to space. I don’t remember much about seeing man’s first steps on the moon, but I have a vague memory of our black and white television broadcasting the historic event. It would be years before a woman was a NASA astronaut, but I remember my father instilling this thought in his two daughters: “You can be anything you want to be.” This may seem rather cliché today, but for girls growing up in the 60s and 70s, it was groundbreaking. Those days were not just giant leaps for mankind, but giant steps for women in general.
What I didn’t realize then, but I do now, is the fact my father gave me a great gift—the thought that women could lead in a variety of ways. As one of four boys, he enjoyed the difference of fathering daughters. A farm boy who grew up spending more than 30 years of his life in a technology manufacturing plant, he worked hard to provide for his family, earning both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in business while my sister and I were still in school. During those years, he saw changes in culture and changes in the way women could lead in the marketplace. A couple of years ago, I remember him telling a professor who taught young women in Dubai, “If you can educate women, you can change the world.” My dad isn’t a feminist. He just believes women make a difference.
While our blog readers are mostly women, this weekend is Father’s Day. Not only do I want to honor my father and fathers everywhere, I want to encourage you to help the men in your life embrace and empower your daughters. I want them to consider ways they can raise godly girls and help them embrace their gifts and abilities. Here are ten ways my dad did this for me:
1. Church matters. There was never a question on Sunday morning of whether we were going to church. It was matter of fact. My father knew the importance of being in God’s Word as a family and as a church family. Going to church wasn’t legalistic; it was life-giving. He also knew a relationship with Christ was more important than attendance, but faithfulness was an attribute to emulate. As leaders, model faithfulness.
2. Fight for what is right. My father has a strong sense of right and wrong, and it rubbed off on his daughters. I still remember sticking up for what I thought was right in the fifth grade and getting into a fist fight with another girl (that’s another post for another day). Knowing I was in big trouble, my dad picked me up from school. As I slumped in the backseat, he asked one question: “Did you hit her hard?” I can laugh about it now, but I knew in that moment there are some things worth fighting for. As a woman in leadership, I still have to fight for things that matter. It’s just best to not slug it out on the playground.
3. Hard work never hurt anyone. My parents have an extremely strong work ethic. They didn’t take sick days, and they persevered when things were tough. I’m grateful for that example. Women leaders often are noticed for their work ethic and ability to persevere during tough times.
4. Respect authority. Whether this was in the home, at church, or at school, I knew God placed authorities over us and they deserved our respect. I never heard my father criticize the pastor’s sermon or talk badly about a boss. This doesn’t mean he didn’t privately have a different opinion at times, but he was careful to know when to speak and when to listen. I still have authorities and my leadership potential is often related to the way I show respect to those who lead me.
5. Truth and integrity is vital. I remember trading in the first car I purchased after college. My dad went with me to the dealership to make sure I was treated fairly. When the salesperson asked me about a pinstripe on the side of the car that didn’t match the original, I hedged the question. Later, in private, my dad made it clear I needed to be more upfront about the repair and to always be truthful in my business affairs. As a leader, I must continue to be above reproach in every aspect of ministry.
6. Generosity and service are not flaunted. I have watched my dad give faithfully and consistently in both his finances and his time. Yet, he has never made a production out of being generous. He just quietly lives the life of being a good steward over what God has provided. Women leaders also show generosity in both their finances and time. Give without expecting anything in return or recognition.
7. Humility wins over ego. This coincides with number 6, but my father is the epitome of humility. C.S. Lewis defined humility best when he said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I think he must have known my father. Leaders who show humility gain the respect of those they lead. They care more about others than their own egos.
8. Life is not fair. Doesn’t every parent say those words? It’s true. Life isn’t always fair, but it’s how you respond that sets you apart. Like all of us, my dad experienced disappointments, but he never responded in bitterness. Leadership isn’t always fair, and there are times I want to whine. Instead, I must realize things don’t always go my way—and that’s a good thing.
9. Vacations are important. We didn’t always go on exotic vacations, but our family took time to see new things and learn along the way. Some of my best memories are long road trips traveling to a new state or experiencing a new place. My parents didn’t go on vacations on their own until my sister and I were grown, and I appreciated that they wanted to always do things together as a family. As a leader, there are times I need to unplug. I need to find time to refresh my soul and reconnect with those I love.
10. Cake for breakfast is perfectly acceptable. In other words, there’s a time for everything, and sometimes it’s OK to indulge. I can promise this was not a daily occurrence in our house, but we can laugh about sneaking chocolate cake when mom wasn’t watching. As a leader, create times to do something fun and out of the normal routine. Bring treats to your leadership team or spend time with other leaders who make you laugh. As Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
By the way, Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful dad, to my husband who is an incredible dad, and to my heavenly Father who is a good, good Father.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.