Founded in the spring of 1984, Dad the Family Shepherd grew out of the ministry of Dave and Sandy Simmons, who served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for more than 20 years. Beginning with a general interest in developing male leadership on college campuses, they refined and sharpened their vision through three separate ministries. It culminated in the clear, specific focus of Dad the Family Shepherd, “to support the local church in motivating and equipping men to reflect biblical values in every arena of life.”
After receiving an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, Dave Simmons played linebacker in the NFL, finishing his career with the Dallas Cowboys under Coach Tom Landry. While still playing football in 1968, he founded King’s Arrow Ranch in southern Mississippi to serve as a training center for college men working with children. Seeing that the best way to help young people was to build Godly families, Dave and Sandy founded a marriage ministry called Family Motivation Workshop and taught marriage conferences in the Mid-South.
While attending seminary, Dave helped found Arrowhead Springs Family Camp in San Bernardino, California. It was there that he began to focus on men as leaders in the home. In 1978, he produced the first Dad the Family Shepherd tape series, which became the mainstay of his ministry.
In 1979, Dave and Sandy became speakers for Campus Crusade for Christ Family Ministry (now FamilyLife), later moving to headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Dave served as associate national director.
In 1984, with strategic help from five laymen who became the board of directors, Dad the Family Shepherd was founded as an independent ministry to reach families by building men
Beginning in 1989, the conference was produced on video, expanding the reach of DFS by making it available to groups of every size. The video conference is now in its fourth edition, and was presented more than 1,000 times up through 1995. In addition to the video format, DFS conferences are now presented live by the DFS teaching faculty.
One hundred and thirty live conferences have been held to date. Over 100,000 men have attended live and video conferences nationwide and in seven foreign countries. Dad the Family Shepherd emphasizes small accountability groups (called Encouragement Teams, or E-Teams) in which men can challenge and help one another to grow. To that end the ministry publishes group study materials including the Home Run Course and the Friendship Course by Paul Jackson and The Quiet Revolutionary, a three-part series by Rich Campbell. For several years each man who attends the conference has received a copy of Quiet Time, a practical guide to personal devotions, donated by the author, Bill Smith.
Partnering arrangements with other ministries were increasingly important over the years. Christian Business Men’s Committee, Here’s Life, Officers Christian Fellowship and the Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention helped spread the DFS message across the nation.
Norman Hoggard served as president of DFS from October, 1994, to March 1996. Under his leadership, the ministry reorganized as a multi-speaker organization and produced a second video conference, “The Quest for Authentic Manhood,” developed by Dr. Robert Lewis, author, pastor and speaker.
Jim Neal served as president from April I, 1996 to June, 2007, after serving for seven years as senior vice president and chief operating officer of Youth for Christ/USA, and in leadership positions at the international relief organization World Vision from 1974 – 1988. He served for several years on the teaching faculty for Promise Keepers and presents DFS live conferences.
Shane Barkley became president in July 2007 after joining DFS in June 2006. He previously spent 10 years in the financial consulting industry in Topeka, KS. Under his leadership he has established Savvy Dads Conferences featuring Ken Canfield PhD., and authored his first book Dad Cents.
Recent years have witnessed significant challenges in men’s ministries, most notably in huge events such as Promise Keepers. This has presented a challenge to smaller ministries as they attempt to maintain a distinctive message. With a clear emphasis on Christian fatherhood, Dad the Family Shepherd continues to play its role of “Building Confident Dads!”