Monday, September 26, 2011

Passing the Mantle of Manhood

Young men growing up without mentors are just boys seeking their identity. Since our culture does not have intentional rites of passage to teach and help guide a young man from boyhood into manhood, they are often left to rely upon themselves to try and figure out how to become a man. Some boys consider getting drunk for the first time the sign of crossing the threshold into manhood. Others think losing their virginity is surely a sign of being a man. At its extreme gangs often require initiation ceremonies of new members that include assault and battery, theft, rape, or even murder.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge calls boys who have never been initiated and mentored into manhood “partial” men. They are boys walking around in men’s bodies, sometimes even fulfilling their roles with jobs and families. For these men the passing on of masculinity was never completed (if started at all). These boys were never taken through the process of masculine initiation. It’s why many men today are what Eldredge calls Unfinished Men.

In his classic book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Robert Lewis uses the model of initiating boys into manhood through the medieval custom of knighthood. In those times boys were trained and equipped with a masculine vision, a code of conduct, and an objective to live life. First as a page, then a squire, and finally a knight they passed through stages that trained them and helped instill a chivalric code of honor. At each of these stages they were given ceremonies that celebrated their achievement and marked their progress toward manhood. By the time they were ready to become knights they had a clear definition of a man’s duties and responsibilities and a code of conduct to live his life by. In other words they knew what a man was because they had been trained and tutored by honorable men for many years.

Ceremonies or rites of passage are important for all children but especially for boys. Our children develop their faith not only from us but from others as well. Remember, someone is going to influence your children—it had better be you or at least those who have the same value system as you do.

While my son was growing up I held several personal ceremonies with my son at various stages such as at age 12 when I took him to dinner, challenged him to purity, and talked about the challenges he was undertaking as he entered adolescence.

But when my son graduated from high school I was determined to have a ceremony he would remember to launch him into the world. Several months beforehand, I contacted six godly men and asked them to pray about what God would have them share with a young man just starting out life. Shortly after his graduation I rented a room in the back of a restaurant and hosted a dinner with my son and the six men. Each man took turns in front of the others telling my son the mistakes they had made, their regrets, and the things they wish they could do over. They shared from their heart the joys and sorrows of being a man, a father, and a husband. The men were powerfully vulnerable as they shared from the depths of their souls. I then got up and spoke to my son of the dreams I had for his life and shared advice about life. I gave him my blessing as a father to a son and launched him into the world.

I videotaped the dinner for my son so he can watch it over and over. At the time, the event may have impacted the other men more than my son, but as he gets older this advice will be invaluable. I intend to have a similar ceremony before he gets married—gather a group of men who have been successfully married a long time to pass along their special insights on what it takes to be a husband and love a woman.

Our boys are blessed for a lifetime when we design and prepare ceremonies to mark their journey into manhood. These ceremonies tell them they are progressing along a road with the destination of manhood. They are mileposts that boys can track their progress and understand what is expected of them on the next portion of their journey. It eliminates confusion and the need to “prove” he’s a man—to himself and to others.

This post is part of the Rite of Passage Blog Tour. You can read more entries by other authors at Additionally, for more ideas on how to hold a ceremony for your son, check out Jim McBride’s new book, Rite of Passage: a Father’s Blessing, by Moody Publishers, on Amazon:

Gleaned from Rick’s book, That’s My Teenage Son, by Revell Publishing, 2011. To find out more about Rick’s books or his speaking schedule please go to

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