Friday, February 8, 2007 is a night I will never forget. I hope my son never forgets it too. Ten years ago my son was 12 years old. A group of dads with 12-year-old sons at my church got together and planned a manhood initiation process and ceremony for our sons. We were inviting our sons into an intentional process of becoming a man.
Here are the nuts and bolts of what we did:
- We purchased Becoming a Man study books written by Robert Lewis (Men’s Fraternity) and journeyed on a six-week study together. Becoming a Man is designed for fathers and sons to study what Biblical manhood looks like.
- Unbeknownst to the sons, the dads planned an initiation ceremony at the end of the Becoming A Man study. We “kidnapped” our sons from school that Friday afternoon (That’s code meaning we surprised them by picking them up early.) Then we drove our boys to a ranch about 90 miles away. There, we completed our final lesson of the study and ate dinner together. And then … the magic began.
- We sent the sons on an outdoor adventure (sound familiar?). They were instructed to carry a canoe down an old, dirt road. By that time, it was well past sunset. Stationed at different points along the road were four men who were influential in their spiritual walks: A pastor, a school administrator and a couple of elders from church. At each station, the man talked to the sons about a particular aspect of becoming a man.
- While our sons were out on their walk, grandfathers, uncles and other instrumental men from their lives started to arrive at the ranch. These men would be at the ceremony at the end of the evening.
- When the boys returned from their outdoor adventure, they were ushered into a building where they waited. While they waited there, they were given letters of blessing from their moms.
- Once all of the other men were in place and the setup for the initiation ceremony was complete, our sons were marched out to find their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc. there to greet them.
- During the ceremony, each dad introduced his son to the group and read letters of blessing from other men who could not be present. Then, the fathers spoke directly to their sons and provided a blessing of their own.
- Finally, each son then made a pledge to undertake the journey of becoming a man. Upon making the pledge, each son was presented with a sword to commemorate their initiation into manhood.
The evening was full of tears, laughter and genuine love. Chests of dads swelled with pride and the heads of our sons were held high. It was definitely a night to remember.
The next morning we ate breakfast, did some hiking and shot some guns (we live in Texas, ya know!). We then packed up our things, headed into town for lunch and journeyed back home.
Why do I tell you all this? I tell you this to hopefully spark some ideas for you. Whether you are a father, uncle, grandfather or great-grandfather, the young men in your life need to blessing, affirmation and initiation. As the group of dads were planning the process for our sons it was common for a dad to say, “I wish I had this when I was a kid.”
I’m sure my son cannot recall the specific lessons that we covered during the study. He may not even specifically remember all the words of blessing that were spoken during the initiation ceremony. However, I do know he understood the intent of what we were doing. Most of all, I know he understood that what I did for him was an expression of my love for him. And if he ever needs a reminder, my son still has his sword.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
What better way to start a boy off towards becoming a man than to do it intentionally and explicitly.
– By Barry Thomas
Barry is Chairman of the Board for The Crucible Project. He has been a catalyst in bringing and growing our ministry throughout Texas. He is a senior operations engineer for Concho Resources in Midland, Texas. Prior to that, he served in ministry for 13 years at churches in Oklahoma City, Chicago and Midland. Barry holds a master’s of divinity from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn. He also holds bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Colorado School of Mines. Barry completed his initial Crucible weekend in August, 2005.
Photo Credit: Alf Steinar Saetre via Creative Commons