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Who let the dads out? - Mark Chester

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Who let the dads out? - inspiring ideas for churches to engage with dads and their pre-school children
Mark Chester
Paperback / softback
Barnabas for Children
UK Publication Date

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.

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Mark Chester is a writer and speaker. He is the founder of Who Let The Dads Out?, a movement of churches reaching out to fathers and their children, and works for BRF to support the growth of the movement. He is married to Su, and with their two children, Megan and Billy, they worship at Hoole Baptist Church in Chester. Mark still plays football as often as his body allows, hits a golf ball badly, jogs reluctantly and swims slowly.

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

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.

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

Keyword Index
Christian education of children.|Father and child - Religious aspects - Christianity.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages

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