25 Million Youths without Fathers and One Man on a Mission

john1With more than 25 million fatherless youths in America today, this generation has been tragically called the “fatherless generation.” How are we supposed to tackle such a monumental problem? How can we reach out to, love, and disciple this generation?

Recently, I had the privilege of connecting with John Sowers, founder of The Mentoring Project. His heart for loving the “fatherless generation” is incredible. See how this man of God is working hard to bring the love of Jesus to youths across America.

For those who don’t know, can you briefly explain the purpose of The Mentoring Project? Where did the idea come from, and when did you start it?

The purpose of The Mentoring Project is to call and equip the church to respond to the crisis of fatherlessness. Reaching the fatherless generation has been a life-calling to me—it was my story before it became my mission. It’s very personal to me. In 2009, Donald Miller called me to start and lead The Mentoring Project—it was previously know as the Belmont Foundation. So in June 2009, I incorporated it and created the mission and model.

The project seems have really picked up some traction in the last year or two. Why do you think this is?

I think in the past five years the church has begun to examine the issue of fatherlessness. There has been an overall emphasis in service and loving the world, which is great. Still, one of my key roles at The Mentoring Project has been as a herald because it seems people get the international orphan crisis more than they do the local one. For some reason, when we think “mission” we default to another country, when the issue of fatherlessness is in our own neighborhoods or just across the railroad tracks. There is overall traction on the issue of fatherlessness, but still a lot of awakening needs to happen around the idea of “being missional” to the fatherless child right next to us.

The Mentoring Project’s website says there are 25 million fatherless youths in America. What is your grand vision as to how the church will be able to fill this need?

The idea of the church reaching the fatherless generation through incarnational ministry is our goal. To do this, the church needs to adopt a vision for local, community-based mentoring relationships. We want to see the church create sustainable mentoring communities, reaching both single moms and the fatherless kids right in their own context. How many single moms and their children sit quietly in the shadows of our own churches?

What’s one story of mentorship impacting a youth that has touched you personally?

One of my favorite stories has to do with one of our sites in Oklahoma City, where we work with high-risk youth and the Oklahoma City Police Department. At the first of the year, we asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. They all said, “rappers, ball players, and rich.” After six months of mentoring these kids, we asked them the same question again. They said, “police officers and mentors.” Children aspire to be what they see.

Last year, The Mentoring Project ran a cool Father’s Day promotion called “Don’t Buy the Tie.” What was the reason for that campaign? Do you have anything planned for this year?

We loved Don’t Buy the Tie—and we will do it again this year. We feel like Father’s Day is a great space to say, “This Father’s Day, help a child without a dad—give the gift of a mentor.” We are also working simultaneously with the DC guys for My Brothers Keeper, and may be partnering with them for a Father’s Day event. Last year, we were blessed to send mentors and youth to the White House, and two of them met the president.

If someone is interested in getting started as a mentor or wants to partner with The Mentoring Project, how could they get started?

If someone wants to mentor, we have a cool set of tools called the “Mentor Toolkit,” which help people develop a foundation for mentoring. The training includes three videos and they can be watched alone or with a small group. It also has a field guide and some best practice tips. Our Mentor Toolkit is perhaps our best initiative. We’ve seen thousands of people use it in the past four years. We are rereleasing it this July in an updated and expanded version.

Thanks for sharing about the Mentoring Project. You get to have the last word. Go!

One theme that really has my attention is the idea of masculine initiation. We live in a culture with few elders, with no rites of passage or sense of “coming into manhood.” We don’t have a framework for masculine initiation—we don’t even have a language for it.

I started journaling about this idea the night my twin girls were born. I was thrilled but also felt exposed as a man. This is both a cultural and generational phenomenon—a generation of men without place. These journal entries became a book called The Heroic Path: In Search of the Masculine Heart—which comes out May 13.

At the root of most fatherlessness is the issue of fidelity. I believe if men can understand who they are as men and find their identity hidden with Christ in God, the fatherless pipeline will shrink. This is my hope for the book—to be a word for a generation of men who are trying to find the wild masculine, and in a divine sense, claim their mythic ground.

I believe we are all mentoring someone, whether we know it or not. The Mentoring Project is just asking people to be intentional. And if anyone is interested in connecting further, check us out online at TheMentoringProject.org or on Twitter @tmproject.

To learn more from Sowers, check out his book Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story.


  1. says

    This is so good. It's been on my heart for a long time, but I haven't made it the priority it should become. I intend to change that. Thank you John Sowers!

  2. says

    I have discussed adoption and fostering for a while. Since our children are now old enough to understand we have scheduled a visit with an adoption agency. It's great to see others taking ction to bring children into their homes and find homes.

  3. Stacey Diers says

    Fantastic program and wonderful and meaningful cause. My son is fatherless but after meeting my husband he too my son under his wing and loves him as if he were his son. So many children who are currently struggling with a "part" time parent is frustrating. In my case, it was a case of fear and even though we talked and were trying to start a family of our own, fear and the feeling of rejection came through. I admire those who step up and take responsibility for those little people who are not in fact of their blood line.

  4. Angela Swett says

    Im glad someone sees it; just as singles and married parents need ministering to, so do the fatherless. Sometimes not only for the kid but for their single parent, when their biggest challenge is the child’s infiuence are their friends no matter how godly the single parent is, the child is influenced by the world i cluding undermining friends and family alike. This is enough to make one feel powerless and frustated, while the church gives priority to the less fortunate and overlooks the fatherless because they attend church on a regular basis. Ive had a wonderful friend reach out to me and love me, and spend time with me which developed into a relationship, and in turn i was open when she pointed me to Gods word for life’s issues.

  5. Angie Swett says

    Im glad someone sees it; just as singles and married parents need ministering to, so do the fatherless regardless of how often they attend church. Ive had a wonderful friend reach out to me and love me, and spend time with me which developed into a relationship, and in turn i was open when she pointed me to Gods word for life’s issues.

  6. says

    Wow! I have scoured the literature for mentoring boys without fathers, for use in my ministry, Fathers Focused on Faith & Family, Inc., located in Dothan, AL, and up till this AM I have managed to miss seeing this particular ministry. It is so exciting to see someone burdened over the condition of our families without fathers in the home. Thanks be to God for John. John, please contact me and give me some tips. Our ministry was begun just months ago, and although I got some really Godly men serving on my board, I am having little success getting men to give their time to volunteering to mentor one of these boys. I am carrying the load the best I can, with God's help. I have learned patience, and believe God will open doors when He is ready. I am certain we are not impressive to anyone who knows of your ministry to boys without fathers, but here is some of our contact data: http://www.4fministry.org drbillbruce@msn.com
    4F Ministry, P.O. Box 8741, Dothan, AL 36304-0741, (334)635-5137 (Office-unmanned phone) or cell (334)714-6001. To God be the glory for everything we do in His Kingdom's service. William H. Bruce, Jr., EdD, DMin

  7. Jenny Perez Younis says

    What a great mission, when I read the children 2nd respond to what they wanted to be when they grew up it brought tears to my eyes and I prayed for God to help me become the kind of person that could guide others to him and for this mission to grow and continue making a difference in the life's of our youth.

  8. says

    This is awesome!! And so true I wOrk in a rehab for women and children. Most of them will tell you dad was not in the picture and if he was he was abusive. Jesus we need you!!!!!!!

    • says

      God is the eternal Father for all fatherless children and for others too. And also He is true love and compassionate. So, we all who have been reading this message should be having compassionate for those and remember them in prayer. Kassahun Kebede from Ethiopian Kale Hiwot Church, Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

  9. Walt says

    Fatherhood is a privilege. It should never be taken lightly. A whole generation is growing up fatherless, and we are reaping what has been sown. Lawlessness, lack of respect toward elders is common.
    We certainly need to fight this using all tools we have, the most powerful one is prayer. I spend a lot of time praying for my children and other children as well.

  10. Rev. Gs Gangte says

    I thank the Lord for you and your ministry.
    I am very glad to know about Mentoring Project and very proud to be one of your prayer and serving partner.
    God Bless You….!

  11. Margi Trujillo says

    God opened a door eleven years ago for my husband and I to mentor 2 young ( 2 & 4 ) girls. It started with the older girl coming to sit on a yard bench with me in a small garden area while I read to her books my granddaughter had outgrown! Then as I walked my little dog I took a trash bag to pick up trash on our block. Soon I had 6 -8 children who came out and wanted to help me walk my dog! I told them my dog was very special and I only allowed responsible children to walk her. One of the young boys asked me if I was getting paid to pick up trash on the street while I walked my dog? I said “.no, but doesn’t the block looker nicer with the trash picked up?” That night my husband and I went to SAMs and bought 100 Freeze Pops. The next morning .the 6 – 8 children came outside with small grocery bags to help me pick up trash while I walked my dog! I allowed each child to hold the leash that day and I rewarded each child with a Freeze Pop! I graduated from “the trash lady” to “the Freeze Pop lady”! I went garage sales and bought books, balls, small cars, trucks and Barbie Dolls! Then a set a flexible schedule to be available to sit in the garden to read to them or have them read to me! That’s how it all began in a shortened version!

  12. says

    Your words are so powerfully communicated that the Nation should take note on the single most deadly issue in America. We lead the world in prisons and crime. We make sure people who are different can't live in America. Thank you for renewing my mind and placing a challenge upon my heart to do more as a father and work to better the village for his children.
    Bishop Rory R Marshall

  13. shwe yee says

    We had to lead to father lord. (Jesus). we should be encourage them.If they can attend nearly churchs, better for them.This church also had to believe holy spirit (Father lord, Jesus & holy spirit).Must God’s ways.They didn’t know GOD ways. That why their living is wrong. We should be teach & must send to Jesus. Furture’s girls also can fallow Jesus ways. How to live & how is likes to live Jesus, they will know one day…All of them, some girls may be christian. Religion is not important. The most important is has relation with Jesus God. ok we will pray for mission. Thanks for suggestion. May GOD bless you…

  14. says

    Thanks for your care for fatherless children. I am a single mother of three teens whose father is not in the picture very often. Today is Father's day and it is a hard day for all of them and me. I get sad because they may never know what it's like to have a Father and it affects the way they connect with their heavenly Father. God bless your ministry!

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