THE UNITED STATES is home to 66.3 million fathers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the National Center for Fathering, about 25 million children live in homes without fathers, making the U.S. the world leader in fatherless homes, and 72 percent of Americans consider fatherlessness to be the most significant family or social problem facing the country.

"Children from fatherless homes are more likely to suffer from poverty, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school, and suffer from health and emotional problems," the NCF says. "Boys are more likely to become involved in crime, and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens."

Simply put, children will thrive when they have a father who genuinely loves, knows and guides them in their development.

On June 19, 1910, the first Father's Day was celebrated. Tomorrow we celebrate again.

Dad, what you are to your children means vastly more than what you do for them. Earthly fathers, at times, are imperfect teachers. Some have completely failed. However, there is still hope and redemption.

The word of God gives us the formula to be a successful parent. God wisely put us in families. We ALL had fathers. And through that relationship, even imperfect fathers can learn about God and communicate same about the only perfect Father, our heavenly Father, who is father of us all.

In accepting us as his children, God shows us a tender relationship. David wrote in the Psalms: "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him."

Today's sons and daughters need the example of a good, devoted-to-moral-principles type of man. No words can hearten a father more than "I wanna be just like my dad."

Children find great security in dads who are open, vulnerable and genuine. When it comes to being a father, few things are more significant than authenticity.

So how is it accomplished? Here are a few suggestions: Be committed, know your child, be consistent, protect, provide, listen and, above all, nurture spiritually.

The strange thing about Father's Day is it often ends up as Inventory Day. So, take inventory.

A real, authentic, loving, caring individual is what children need the most. And you can do it, Dad.

It's not going to be easy, but it is certainly worth the effort. Look forward at the opportunity God has given you to make your familial relationship the best it can possibly be, not only for you but for your entire family. Never forget: "Like father, like son." *

Each Saturday the Daily News offers men and women of faith the opportunity to share their words of life and comfort with our readers. If you are a minister, a priest, a rabbi, or the head of another religious organization and would like to submit a faith-based column, contact Lorenzo Biggs at 215-854-5816, or by e-mail at biggsl@phillynews.com.