Founding pastor of Global Impact Churches, Yemi Davids, talks to EMMANUEL OJO about fatherhood
People have varying opinions and perceptions about fatherhood. How do you see it?
Fatherhood is sacred because a father is a begetter, a starter. It’s an English word and it means one who begets something. I believe the way fathers go is the way society goes because every human being you meet comes from a family. Nobody dropped from the sky. The way a person or people are groomed determines what happens in society. The place of fathers in society is what determines the way society goes. So, if fatherhood in a generation is missing, you will see it (the absence) in the next generation.
We’ve seen responsible fathers who beget wayward children. What can you say is missing in that light?
Well, God is the father of fathers and the truth is, no matter what I do as a father, a lot has to do with God’s help. What makes a great father doesn’t just require being a nice dad at home. We need parenting skills. One of the things I have observed even as a father is what is called permissive parenting. Permissive parenting is allowing things in the lives of one’s kids that were not allowed in one’s life. It affects them. So, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad father. However, they may not turn out the best. So, I think we also need to emphasise parenting skills. Fatherhood is like leadership. Fatherhood is like a door. The kind of things you open to them (kids) is what they become. If you show carelessness to them, they will be careless. If you open indiscipline to them, they will not be disciplined.
The critical thing about leadership is decision-making. Leaders make decisions that affect their followers. So, the quality of the head making a decision matters. If a father is not growing in wisdom, he will make stupid decisions and those decisions will not only affect him, but will also affect the children. We are at the mercy of the leadership we surrender to. That’s why I said that it’s a sacred thing. It goes beyond just having a child. What I usually say is that fathers need to develop themselves, because inside their development is the growth of their children.
Will you say you took up the responsibility of catering for a child early?
Yes. I got married in my 20s, my late 20s. So, yes, compared to what is obtainable now, that’s early. For me, it was early, and thankfully, my dad was a school teacher. So, some areas that I picked up from him really helped me. Things like discipline and contentment were major ones I picked from him. My dad does not allow one to touch or take that which is not theirs. The caning or discipline a child got from doing that was worse than taking the thing, so, one just remained content with what was theirs and that helped me even as a pastor today.
How do you balance the kind of discipline you got as a child and what you pass onto your children knowing that you live in different times?
In my own time, caning a child didn’t mean that the child got better; that’s the truth. What we are trying to transfer is the information. When I talked about learning, what I didn’t mention is the fact that people are different. Children are different and because they are different, they learn things differently. Sometimes, when you shout at a child, it doesn’t mean that the child will learn if the makeup of the child does not accept that (shouting), and for some, you have to be a bit tough in terms of driving home the point. Understanding their different temperaments and their different makeup helps to know how to pass across information. Some parents don’t know that. They say they treat their children the same way. That’s foolishness, although they do that with sincerity. There is a way you will shout at a particular child and damage the child more, while some others can withstand the shouting based on their makeup. I believe every generation, no matter what happens, should strive to be better than the previous generation. Our parents did their best with the level of understanding they had. I believe, in terms of our learning, with psychology, human development, and human behaviour, we should be able to accomplish certain things they couldn’t accomplish.
Did you know so much about the makeup of a child when you started as a father?
What happened was that I started as a pastor. When the church started, I was still single but I got married six months down the line and a few months later, my wife got pregnant. So, somewhere along the line, I had to learn. It’s not just for my family alone now. I had to deal with families in the church. In fact, what drove me to learn was that; as the church started, I had to start counselling people. I was a young person myself, but I said to God, ‘How am I going to do this?’
I started reading a lot of books and started learning a lot. I want to encourage couples to be open to learning about raising their children and handling relationships because, at the end of the day, our joy in life is tied to those important relationships. Investing in it is just wisdom. I’ve seen people with very big mansions but the people inside are very sad because they hate each other.
As a single pastor, did you have a challenge deciding who your wife should be among many ladies?
(Laughs) What helped me was the university campus. I was a pastor on campus at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife; and of course, there were lots of ladies who liked their pastors and I actually prayed. In fact, I had already started a relationship that wasn’t going to work. Some brought food and for some, I could tell that they liked me, and sometimes, I could not tell who the right person was. I had that challenge and the individual I thought I was going to get married to didn’t turn out to be the one. Though, I noticed some situations in our relationship. I was praying one day and the Holy Spirit led me to my wife. I had to break the bond of my relationship at that time, which wasn’t easy at all. She (the lady I was dating) was someone with UK citizenship and at that time, having a spouse with UK citizenship was like going to heaven (laughs). But I had to break it, and I was led, as we say, to my wife.
How will you describe the feeling you had when you beheld your first child?
Now, I understand why most firstborns go through problems compared to their other siblings, because I’m a pastor and I’ve been one since I got married, and I’m a bit experienced in leadership, especially in the church. But a lot of people don’t have that kind of experience. A lot of firstborns, first sons and daughters, go through the experimentation of their parents and it’s not easy on them. They (parents) experiment with parenting the child so most of their mistakes fall on the child.
I also observed that those who got pregnant outside wedlock are usually part of the problem. They got pregnant and because of that, they got married. All the stress of the pregnancy out of wedlock; sometimes, the emotional trauma, the guilt, the fact that they’re trying to settle down, all the stress of that will be on that child and that’s why God does not encourage having a child outside wedlock.
Are you saying that dating couples who have a child together shouldn’t marry?
They don’t have to marry. Unfortunately, some people just force their children (to get married). The mistake has been made, don’t double it. Some people had a good relationship but made a mistake and got pregnant. Fine, it can be accelerated but it doesn’t mean that a lady who gets pregnant will have to marry the guy. If she is not sure that he is her husband, she should let it be. God has a way of helping people but the mistake should not be doubled.
How do you relate with your children?
I encourage a robust mixture. Sometimes, you have to stand your ground as a king or leader, but also a friend. Some people have too much of one side and it’s showing in their upbringing. Yes, I’m a friend to my children but there are times you have to take it beyond friendship by telling the children what they cannot do.
I feel it’s a robust mixture but looking at my upbringing, some people are not friends with their children and I encourage friendship because when you are friends, they can open up to you and trust you to a level, and that helps them to grow their own lives. So, as a pastor, when I am at home, I’m not a pastor in that light; I’m a father, a husband and also a friend. I’m careful about using the word ‘ruler’, because the way we use the word, ‘rule,’ in our clime is like tyranny.
Were you particular about the sex of your first child?
Believe me, from what I mentioned about firstborns, I didn’t want to have a firstborn son.
I told you about all the experiments most couples go through. It’s like getting a new job, you learn in the first year and when you have mastered the job, you do better. That is the learning process for most parents that falls on the child. I thought if it were a son, it would not be good for that child because he will grow up to start his own family. I’m not saying that firstborn sons are bad, but I’m saying that I’ll love it if parents can learn on time because when couples get married, they are still going to settle down to learn about each other and in the process, a child shows up. The process of bonding together is not easy and sometimes, it’s brought on by that child. So, I probably didn’t want to have a firstborn son because it’s not easy.
And what sex did you eventually have as your first child?
I had a daughter and it didn’t stop there. God went ahead to give us four daughters.
Did you take part in house chores when your wife was pregnant and do you still do?
Yes, I had to do a lot of that. Sometimes, I felt for her a lot, especially for the first two children because she was never herself. In those periods, there are things one can’t just explain; hormonal imbalance, stress, the stretch, and so on.
It’s always said that female children are more sensitive. How do you handle that?
Maybe it’s easier for me as a father because fathers are usually closer to their daughters and mothers are closer to their sons. So, maybe by nature, I’m a bit sensitive to them and it’s easier to exercise empathy with them. So, they seem to clash more with their mother.
Do you feel left out in the house having all girls at home?
No, I don’t. They always trouble me. Girls tend to gravitate toward their dads a lot.
And does that make you feel special?
Very special, extremely special. In fact, I’m glad we had four daughters. If I had been told I would feel this way, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Do you still wish you had a son?
We thought our fourth child was going to be a son, so we had named the child Samuel even before her delivery, but when she came, I said, ‘ How do you name a female Samuel’? So, I think I’m pretty okay. Raising sons is a lot.
Do you see any of them toeing your vocational path?
I can’t tell and I won’t force them. Maybe as they get married, we’ll see how it goes. You know it’s said that when you have four daughters, you have eight children because their husbands become your sons. So, I’m not going to force them. Yes, we noticed the inclination of one or two of them to the ministry but we are not going to force them. Ours is to pray for them. Just as we evolved, they can also evolve the way God wants them to evolve.
What will be your reaction if any of your daughters comes to you and tells you that she has renounced her faith?
I don’t pray that happens and that’s why you don’t want to hinder their relationship with God and you don’t want them to hate Christ because of you. Growing up, I noticed that some children of pastors hated going to church because of the way they viewed Christianity in the lives of their parents. So, you don’t want to be a hypocrite, you don’t want to be fake. You want to be as transparent as possible and exemplify the love of Christ because love never fails, and with trust that with the sincerity of love, they too will want to do it better than you did. I want to believe that they will be better Christians, especially if we try to exemplify Christ the right way.
Is that why it is commonly said that the children of pastors are wayward?
There are various reasons for that. Growing up and from what I have really observed, sometimes, because of the enormity of the work, most pastors don’t have time for their children and that opens the door for Satan to take over. Another reason is not exemplifying Christ the right way. When a child notices that what you are saying in the church is different from your lifestyle at home, they begin to doubt your so-called Christianity and that can make them begin to have different choices. So, those are the areas we are hoping we are going to be better off in terms of not sacrificing one’s family life or destroying it because one is serving God.
One’s family life should enhance serving God and I love what Paul said, that anyone who will become a bishop or pastor should take care of his family well, that if he cannot take care of his family, how can such now take care of the house of God? My thinking is that the success of the family as much as possible makes me a better pastor. If that’s the mindset we have, then our children should turn out better by the Grace of God.
So, is that your strategy to ensure that the narrative is not so for you?
Oh! Yes. One has to be very intentional about that, extremely intentional.
So, how do you create time for your family?
There are days I set aside for them and then we have several outings – family outings, dinner outings, then friendship. I play with them, watch cartoons with them, allow them to jump on me, allow them to ask me questions, and wait for me to come home and all that. They love my presence and company and when that is there, that for me is big. So, one now has to see that one sustains that. So, they love your Jesus and they love what God wants you to do and in case God calls them, they will be able to say yes to Him because they like the way you responded to the call.