What Does It Mean to Be a Strategic Dad?

To be strategic means to create a plan of action designed to achieve a major goal. Most of us are good at achieving goals. We know where we want to go, and we map a route to get there—whether we are planning our careers or pursuing our hobbies. Our strategies can be simple and practical, and they can be comprehensive and long-lasting.

I spent 30 years in the business world making strategic plans and learning what works and what doesn’t. As I’ve honed those skills, I’ve enjoyed seeing effective strategy show up in all parts of life.

For example, we know Airbnb today because they started with a strategy that focused on quality. The founders believed that presenting a listing with high-quality photography would be better for the long-term business than focusing on growing as fast as possible. The co-founders grabbed a camera and knocked on the door of each and every one of their NYC listings. Within a month of starting this strategy, sales doubled. Then tripled. It’s because of that strategy that we know Airbnb today!

Although we might not call it “strategic planning,” we also plan out parts of our personal lives. If we decide we want to lose 10 pounds, we might develop a two-point plan:

  1. Stop drinking milkshakes every night before bed
  2. Take the stairs each morning on your walk into work

Even something this simple counts as strategy!

We carefully plan out our work and our workouts, but how often do we think about our goals and plans for our parenting? Our kids are so much more important than our job title or our fitness. Let’s give our children the strategic attention they need to help them be truly successful.

Where do we start? First, let’s look at five steps that are common to all strategic plans.

Strategic Plans …  

  1. Have a purpose, goal, or vision the plan is intended to achieve
  2. Fully leverage available strengths to achieve the goal
  3. Use examples as benchmarks
  4. Outline tactical next steps
  5. Check progress and make adjustments

What do these steps look like for parenting?


1. Strategic Dads Know Their Purpose

God made us to give glory back to him in everything we do. In the very first chapter of the Bible, God makes this clear: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:26 NIV). What more purpose do we need than to reflect God? But God does not stop there. He goes on to say “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28 NIV).

This means part of our divine purpose is to have children and to put things under God’s Lordship. In everyday terms for those of us who have children, this means raising our kids to know and worship God and to live for him. We are God’s, and we train our kids up to be in the family business of glorifying God. What a purpose! How do we do it?


2. Strategic Dads Utilize The Best Available Strengths

What is our main source of strength? The Bible gives a clear answer on this, and it’s summed up in Psalm 121:2, which says, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” What is this help? It includes all of the best parenting wisdom, since we know that all wisdom is from God (Proverbs 2:6-8). But maybe the most important strengths are the ones that are unique to Christianity—the grace and love of God the Father, which we experience through the life and death of his Son Jesus.  

On our own, we aren’t strong enough to love our children unselfishly and unconditionally. We can only share this kind of love with them when we are receiving that kind of unselfish, unconditional love from God.  

If we don’t realize how completely loved we are, we will always struggle to love our kids completely. It’s like what flight attendants say before every flight: “In the event of an emergency, put on your mask before assisting others.” If we are not full of the grace and love of Christ, we can’t properly love and give grace to our children.

To be strategic dads, we first need to fully accept God’s free gift to us: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Only then can we “do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”—works like loving our kids.


3. Strategic Dads Use Benchmarks As Examples

When we read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, we are usually paying attention to the sons. However, the parable also shows us an amazing glimpse of how God loves his children.

In the parable, a man’s son comes to him and asks for his complete inheritance, which was the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care about you, dad. I just want your stuff.” The father gives his son his inheritance—not because he thinks it’s a good idea, but because he cares more about his son learning to come to the end of himself than he does about his own money or ego. The son squanders everything and then prepares to beg for forgiveness and ask to be just a servant in his father’s house. But when he’s returning to his father’s house, the father, who has been waiting eagerly, runs to meet the son: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 NIV). The father fully restored him as his son and even threw a party to welcome him back!

This is a model worth following! Sometimes we need to give our kids something knowing it’s not good for them—and then be ready to welcome them back with more grace and love than ever when they realize it was not at all what they needed.


4. Strategic Dads Plan Tactical Next Steps

With real wisdom comes real practical steps. To know what practical steps to take, we have to constantly evaluate our kids and discern what they need for true success. We learn in Joshua 1:8 that the Bible is our most practical tool for defining success:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8 NIV)

This is how we know how to prioritize our kids’ time and schedules. This is how we figure out where they should go to school, how they should spend their time, and what sports and extra activities they should participate in. How? By putting all family goals under the guidance of God’s Word. In summary, the things you are planning should help them follow God’s greatest commandments.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)


5. Strategic Dads Check Progress and Make Adjustments

There are not many strategies that don’t need adjustments. Not because our goals change, not because our principles change, but because our kids change and because we as imperfect dads rarely do things perfectly. We might need to change course to correct our own mistakes or to account for how our kids are growing.

In this process, God helps us—with his grace and mercy and with discernment to test and approve what is working.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Yes, God gives us wisdom to push back on what “the pattern of this world” is telling us. We can use his Word to test each strategy and tactic we use to guide our kids to see if it is conforming to his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our children are an incredible gift from God. We not only have the privilege of doing what we were made to do as we raise them—we also get the benefit of relying on our Heavenly Father as he helps us raise them. There is nothing greater than knowing your purpose and living it out the fullest. To be what God intended you to be.


Howard Graham is the Executive Editor of Strategic Dads. He also serves as the Chaplain for Presbyterian Day School and the Executive Director Of Building Boys, Making Men. Howard is passionate about teaching people to know God and to help them live out their faith in Jesus. He enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife, Kimberley, have a girl and three boys. They live in Memphis, TN.