The goal of Dads4Kids is to turn the tide of fatherlessness in Australia. We believe the best way to do this is to see excellence in fathering become the norm in our nation. In order to do that the culture must be changed.
Change is usually enacted by a few. Margaret Mead was right to say, “Never doubt that a few thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The Dads4Kids Good to Great ‘Train the Trainer’ course is our way of enabling men to become world changers.
On the 26 – 28 May 2017 the 5th Dads4Kids Train the Trainer Summit will be held at Stanwell Tops. Training men for the Good to Great Fatherhood course is not for the fainthearted. It requires enormous self-discipline and an extreme level of commitment to the cause. Finding men who can train those men is even harder.
The good news is Matt Rendell, the keynote speaker at the Train the Trainer Summit, is one of those men. The interview below will encourage you to become a world changer. As John K Throop said, “There is no more vital calling or vocation for men than fathering.”
Matt Rendell – Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I’m 41 years of age, and I’m married to the beautiful Linda, who is the same age as me. We have been married since April 1994, so next month that will be 23 years together, 24 since we started going out. We are a young couple who survived the getting married as teenagers deal and have worked through it, which is even better. We have 4 kids, Candice is 21 and currently lives in Wollongong and goes to University, Jesse is 20 and lives in Coffs Harbour as a developing youth pastor and coffee barista, Del who is 19 and lives with us here in Dubbo – she works as a florist, and lastly Jasmine who is 18 in June and works in a jewellery shop. And then we have 2 cocker spaniels and we love them.
Your background is in building construction?
My background has been primarily in construction. Doing basically general carpentry but also specialist jobs, some in the residential trade and some in the commercial trade and a lots of work with churches and community organisational spaces.
Tell us about your own father and how he affected your parenting.
My father was an interesting man. He was raised in a very difficult time in the Exclusive Brethren religion or cult or belief system or whatever. He was one of 5 children and was raised in a very difficult circumstance in an orchard down in Wingello, in the southern highlands of NSW. My dad was a good man but he was a workaholic and quite bruised by religion so unfortunately as a dad, he really struggled in understanding how to really invest in his boys, spend quality time with the boys. From a young age, I struggled a lot with my dad. A good father is fair but he’s firm. I found that my dad was firm and sometimes fair. So, it was a bit of a love/hate relationship. Getting into our early days of marriage with a couple of kids it was like choose me or choose the church so for about 4 or 5 years we hardly spoke. We lived in the same town but didn’t have much to do with each other. Its been a complicated one, but these days Dad’s a widower and we get on well. He’s definitely chilled out in his older age and we do enjoy life together.
How has that affected your approach to being a dad?
Sometimes I reflect on being a father and think, “Wow, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree on that!” Other times I think that because of what happened it’s made me that I don’t want to walk in the footsteps and I don’t want to live in a shadow so I guess I’ve tried to, when I’m aware, of trying to be a bigger father than a smaller father. I would say what has been my greatest challenge has been ‘the presence issue’. Of course, with any ‘holic’, workaholic, alcoholic, or whatever you want to call them, that when you are living that kind of lifestyle that you can be ‘present’ but you have no ‘presence’. Sometimes I’ve been present but just with a busy head space and I think with a high level achiever who is committed to doing a lot of things, my head just gets too busy with everything I’m doing rather than being present with the kids. It’s something I try to be aware of, that’s for sure.
Why are you so passionate to help men? How long have you been working with men?
It would be 15 years now. I’ve always felt that men were the forgotten group, especially in Australia you see how often men aren’t spoken about and are forgotten. They are sort-of left til last yet anyone who knows about the family unit knows that if the man struggles, often the family struggles. About 15 years ago, I was working with some guys down in the Eden/Monaro and Snowy region. I remember just taking some time and listening to some stories. Men do talk but unfortunately there’s not many ears listening and it takes some really intentional time. You have to be very intentional with men whereas a lot of women are more emotionally connected. Men are a lot more sensitive ironically and if they feel like they’re not accepted or there’s not a place or space for them, they can shut down or go passive or remove themselves from the equation emotionally and that’s always a challenge.
When we were in Canberra in 2006/7 we started Band of Brothers. It was started as a men’s support network, to support fellas that were struggling in the different levels of their lives. It was really interesting because I pioneered that in my home. I was in the life of quite a large local church, and I just watched the number of men who were rotating through and weren’t engaging in the process. It actually concerned me so when we started the Band of Brothers it was the whole idea of creating a space where men could feel that they were valued, that they were accepted and that they could belong with a sense of equality where it didn’t matter what job they had, those things weren’t measured in the life of the group. It was a quality that everybody stood together. We introduced an honour code or men’s code. It was “Humility, Honesty and Honour”, the three ‘H’s. The reason why we did that was that in the context of the group, humility – because you should be nothing more, nothing less than exactly who you are meant to be on the planet; honesty – because we don’t like liars and so many people often won’t tell you the truth when you need to; and honour – because each and every man has a level of honour that they need to give but they also need to receive. When you honour a man, it’s amazing how he responds back. I found that code has stayed with me ever since.
What is the Band of Brothers? Where did you get the inspiration from?
Band of Brothers was inspired by a farmer friend of mine, Andrew Cole. He was a very, very good friend and I was quite close to him. He had become friends with John Eldredge and his Wild at Heart crew. The name actually came from the video series called ‘Band of Brothers’. I was looking around for some sort of course for men and I had struggled to find anything. Andrew had been talking about this video series of ‘Wild at Heart’. It was called the Band of Brothers, a group of guys sitting around discussing the issues of life. I thought that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here. So we jumped on that, got the DVD set and by default the group just became ‘Band of Brothers’ because it was such a profound video series for these fellas. But that’s where the name came from and it just stuck.
You were part of the 2005 Sexual Integrity Summit in Parliament House that Dads4Kids put together. Why is sexual integrity so important for men and what advice do you have for the average Aussie father?
If I can say this, sexual integrity is often the core of identity of a man. Sexuality is such a powerful facet in a man’s life. I think with the incredible epidemic of porn, and the secret suffering, with men looking for their needs being met from a computer screen or a mobile phone it actually diffuses the strength of the family and erodes that sense of identity of a man. There is probably more of an epidemic today than ever before, or maybe is more public than ever before, but I think that when you have integrity in that area. Sexuality is the most powerful force on the planet, it really is, so when that is in order, when there’s healthy boundaries and disciplines in that area, it seems to have a trajectory and a posture that strengthens so many other areas, especially emotionally and psychologically.
What I have found time and time again is that when a man erodes the inner core of his being, particularly around his sexuality, it seems that every other pillar in his life tends to erode and struggle too. I’m saying that from not just an emotional point of view but also from a spiritual and biblical point of view, something about a man where sexuality and spirituality are two sides of the same coin. You’ll find that when a man is strong in spirit often his sexuality comes in order but when a man is struggling desperately in his sexuality you’ll often see the other side of the coin, his spirituality is struggling. I think you can’t separate them. We are made in the image of God. God made us relationally. My personal opinion is that marriage is a direct reflection of earthen model of a spiritual relationship with God. In that closeness of intimacy is where the purposes of God are birthed. Marriage is a reflection of our spiritual closeness and intimacy with God. You can’t really separate them, particularly as a spiritual person.
What is your dream for Australian children?
For Australian children to have a balanced, solid family unit where they are secure in their identity. For years and years and years I did youth work, high risk, worked for DOCs for a while, ran youth centres for many years, youth groups, worked in churches for a long time. I’ve been on building sites for 23 years of my life, in the rev-head car world and without a doubt, without a doubt, fatherlessness and father-based problems are at the core of broken children’s identities.
Statistically, 55-60% of a young man’s identity comes from his father but 80-85% of a young woman’s identity comes from her father. When you have a young woman and there is no father in her life, particularly young women but also young men, and there is no dad in their life, I would suggest that 85% of her problems are almost directly related to her being fatherless. For me having a father, he doesn’t have to be perfect (it’s difficult to find the perfect dad) but just present, involved and inclusive. Having dads who give a rip.
If I could say it to young men, the message would be maturity is not an age issue, it’s the acceptance of responsibility and these young men, particularly when they start having children. It’s not about being able to produce a child, it’s about knowing how to raise a child. If you don’t know, find the people and mentors in your world who do know. Unfortunately, these days, you have to search pretty hard to find those people. But they are still there and there are still good father figures all over the place but it’s the initiative of the young man these days that has to make that effort.
What are your 3 top pieces of advice for dads?
The presence issue. Even a dad who is having a bad day, being present, is better than the ‘perfect’ dad who is never present.
- The integrity factor – being who he says he is and not living a secret life. Too many men have a secret life. The problem with secrets is they always come out when the light’s turned on. The Triple H Code – Humility, Honesty, Honour. Take them on as character traits. Being in a relationship with God gives you that internal reminder that taps you on the inside of the heart and reminds you of these things.
- Commit to the process – when a baby is born a father is born. When a father has been born it is his responsibility to continue to learn. When the kids were young and dependent on us we were the captain – telling them what to do, when they hit their teens we become more like the coach, asking them great questions. Now they are young adults, we’ve shifted more into the cheerleader, where we’ve just got to trust that the work we did in the formation years of captain and coaching was effective and that in this season we cheer them on.
Practise being present with your children and accept the importance of the Triple H Code – Humility, Honesty, Honour. Take them on as character traits if you are gaYours for the importance of ‘Presence’
PS: If you are interested in becoming a qualified Good to Great Fathering Course Trainer read this and then click on the Register link to get your application in as space is always limited. Perhaps you know someone else who is passionate to help dads become better fathers. Please pass this link on this blog on to them.