Former NFL player, author and speaker Jeff Kemp has teamed up with Fatherhood CoMission as an ambassador to help inspire leaders and influencers to champion Fatherhood both inside and outside the Church through clear, compelling evidence of God's design for dads as noble difference makers in their families and the world.
After 11 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback, Jeff decided it was time to take his leadership skills he learned on the field and apply them off the field by working to improve the lives of children by strengthening marriages and families. Because historic and modern research all identify fatherlessness as one of the greatest social evils of a generation, Jeff is committed to stand in the gap by raising awareness that "dads matter" and that every child needs an involved and intentional father or father figure.
Q: Jeff, thank you for doing this interview with us. Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I grew up as oldest of 4 kids moving from San Diego to Buffalo to Wash DC with my dad's pro football and congressional career. I was a late blooming kid and athlete. Went to Dartmouth and after drifting from God for 4 years, chose to follow Jesus at the very end of college after "success" and "fun" left me empty. Choosing God as my purpose (Romans 8:28- 29) released His plan...making great Christian friends on teams, meeting my wife Stacy, be discipled on our teams and shaped by our insecure NFL career to gain identity in Christ, not football and to trust in God's sovereignty, goodness and control...eventually finding our purpose in helping others on our teams and using the football platform for sharing Christ, speaking and ministry/non-profit work to help kids, families, marriage and dads.
Stacy and I have been married 38 years, and both loved raising our family of four sons. All are married with a child or two. We have 5 grandsons. The whole family has been big into snow skiing and now grandparenting, visits and tennis are central for us. Stacy mentors young moms and I mentor and invest in men, helping them grow through intentional deep friendship and huddling weekly.
Q: You have a heart to champion for fatherhood and helping fathers. Why and how did this passion begin?
I had an incredibly encouraging and loving dad who made a big mark on me. I absolutely loved being a dad to our four sons. But, I've seen how many kids are hurting, wounded and facing a huge deficit because their dad is not loving, engaged, constructive or even present in their lives. I've always been concerned about society, children and families which make or break the health of society. I've studied the research.
Our Nation's FATHER DEFICIT and Father absence is a problem driving nearly all the other problems kids face -school/drops outs, depression, substance use, crime, suicide, poverty, abuse, promiscuity. Compassion and seeking a solution to the myriad problems children and society face drives us to encourage, help and resource fathers...as we champion fatherhood...and marriage which is crucial for the long run. Fatherhood is at the center and essence of civilization. God is a father and designed fatherhood as central to how we humans thrive, multiply and invest in our future and legacy. God has a huge heart as a Father, for fathering and for bringing the hearts of fathers and children together...and to Him, the perfect Father.
Q: In your years of helping dads, what are the top three issues most fathers face in the area of raising their children?
1. HIS OWN HEART IS DAMAGED (He needs to forgive his dad, receive Father God's love and identity affirmation). The wound, vacuum and poor example of their dad - this damages the man's identity, his sense of manhood, his confidence to father, and his ability to love, nurture and train his kids. They lack the example and power to Father (even though Father God and Jesus provide that to us all.)
2. TOO LITTLE TIME & RELATIONSHIP BUILDING WITH HIS CHILDREN. Career and work dominate a dad as he strives to earn his identity...and he gets too busy, distracted, travels too much, is around too little. Sometimes he mistakes making money and buying lifestyle as good father, as if economic provision is the dominant aspect of fathering...too busy...too little time with his kids...too transactional instead of relational...falls into the "conditional performance mindset" and approach he uses at work and skips over relationship with his kids to push performance, only praising performance success and criticizing anything else.
3. NO GAMEPLAN OR COACHING ON BEING A DAD. No Coaching - No Teamwork - No Blueprints. Not looking to the Bible and God for the blueprints. Lacking role models, and not meeting often with a mentor or huddle of couple close friends/dads, most dads just kind of stumble their way through it, hoping they'll do better than their dad, but picking up many of the same or opposite problems. Fatherhood is not a solo sport. Connect with other dads, a mentor, get some resources, study the bible and do fathering God's way.
Q: What are some issues children wish their fathers knew while they were growing up?
One of every 4 kids will go to bed in a home without a biological, adoptive or stepdad. Many other kids. Have dads who travel all the time or stay busy with everything except taking time and interest in them. Kids want to know dad cares, loves them, believes in them, will be there for them, wants to know and relate to them. Kids want relationship with their dad...even teens who seem to push parents away.
• That dads care about what the child cares about, their interests, their friends, their fears and concerns, their joys
• That dads would tell kids more of their story and their struggles and imperfections so they know they're dad can identify and understand what they are going through
• Facing insecurity, risk, failure, rejection, popularity/peers, dating and sex stuff discussions.
• Kids want unconditional love...not just approval for performing...they feel pressure...
• They want time with their dad, hanging out, playing games, doing stuff outside, not being lectured or taught or pushed all the time...or ignored. They hate to feel ignored or like everything else in dad's life is a bigger priority
Q: Many of us are hurt because we do not have perfect fathers. How do we learn to forgive our fathers and not repeat their mistakes?
The deficit and vacuum and wounds left by our dad are Father God's invitation to seek Him, the perfect Father. We need to find the Perfect Father's epic love to sacrifice Jesus, forgive our sin and adopt us as His beloved sons who He looks at with the same fondness, pleasure and righteous standing which Jesus had and earned for us.
Ask Father God to re-father you. Read the bible as a son, pray as a son and write down questions for God asking Him to heal and clarify things for you. When we find that identity as beloved sons, we can look back at our dad's backstory, see how he was damaged and maybe just did the best he could with what he had. Regardless of his deficit or damage to us, we then need to set ourselves free from the trap of bitterness by forgiving our dad. That usually starts with an apology for whatever bad attitude or closed heart we've had. John Trent's dad was abusive because of alcohol and perhaps war trauma. John felt hatred for his dad, but knew he had to release it and turn the corner. He took the wood framed triangle military flag given at his dad's funeral and placed it on the piano where his daughters practiced and played piano. He honored his dad for that one big thing, forgave him in his heart and recast him as a "hero" to his granddaughters.
Write a letter to your dad. Apologize for whatever ways you have disrespected or dishonored or mistreated or harbored bitterness. Mention that you've sought love, forgiveness, identity and fathering from God the Father and Jesus...and that you forgive him for whatever has happened or not happened. Try to find something to respect, praise or honor. Write a tribute letter and thank you letter to your dad. Read it to him, like I did just before my dad passed away from cancer.
Q: How can fathers leave a legacy? Where do they begin?
Humility heals. Humble yourself before God. Humble yourself before your wife or their mom and ask for perspective, advice and help. Humble yourself and ask a mentor or other dads to talk through fathering and kid issues with you. Humble yourself and study to bible to shape your Fatherhood Strategy and principles. Humble yourself and get some coaching and content from sound Christian fathering videos, books and training. Humble yourself before your kids and apologize for the past...and for each mistake when you make the next one.
Open up and tell them your story, your past, your foibles and struggles and lessons learned. Building relationship and blessing your children by connecting at the heart level and encouraging their heart is crucial. Love is spelled Time, so apologize for the past and start spending time with them the way they need and enjoy.
Humility and apologies heal and invite God's strength, wisdom and bonding. No dad is disqualified. The past does not prevent a good future. But, only humility will build a new and good future. Show your children of any age your growing relationship with Father God and Jesus as a way to point them to faith. Clarify their identity for them - God gives it to them, and they receive it as His loved son or daughter (it's not earned). Build relationship with time, activities, encouragement and questions from here on out.
Q: What is the role of faith in parenting?
Faith is where we get our identity and the place where we point them to receive their identity. We parent best when we do so as a son or daughter of God who is spending time with God, consulting his word, asking for His help and trusting Him to be the best owner and parent to them...releasing them to Him. We are stewards of God's children. We don't live vicariously through our kids or try to control their life to a super easy successful life. That's damaging. Faith trusts God as owner of our kids. It listens to Him and does what He tells us to do for and with our kids. Faith releases your kids as they get older and does not intrude on grown children and their new family.
Q: Tell us about Fatherhood CoMission and how does it help families out there?
We are a network or fatherhood-strengthening groups and leaders. They are the stars. We're the all-star team. We champion the cause of fatherhood as we are by sponsoring the SHOW ME THE FATHER documentary by the Kendrick Brothers to be released by Sony on September 10.
Our website FatherhoodCoMission.org points dads and leaders to great groups and resources across the nation on all aspects of fathering...single dads, divorced dads, wounded dads, busy dads, dads that want to connect to other dads or get some great coaching and content on fathering well.
Fatherhood CoMission is a sponsor of and thrilled by the message and resourcing attention of
SHOW ME THE FATHER documentary (Kendricks/Sony) - releases SEPT 10
Also, COURAGEOUS LEGACY MOVIE is re-releasing OCT 15