One of the mind-blowing tricks of parenting – and time – is that our sweet, chubby, cabinet-emptying, mud-encrusted, perpetual-climbing little boys somehow transform into real live grown up men.
Their bodies will stretch out, they will get hair on their faces, more muscles, deeper voices….
But will they know what it means to be a man?
Fathers of sons are faced with challenges in our culture. Manhood is under attack from all angles, and the definition of what it takes to be a man is no longer clear. Without intentional training and conversation, boys will be confused and potentially hindered in their growth.
Well-known author Rick Johnson says:
From my research and experiences, it seems that there are three main factors (or pillars of success) that contribute most importantly to a boy being raised into a healthy man: education, character, and life skills” (That’s My Teenage Son 22).
In other words, in addition to regular education and information, fathers should also be imparting lessons about character as well as basic life skills. This can begin to sound overwhelming!
One way to approach this training in a systematic way is to set aside a certain amount of time, such as one year, and gather some other men and sons to join you in an intentional way. As a group, you can meet regularly and help challenge one another to grow and learn new things.
In our experience, an ideal time for this kind of spiritual and life skill training is when the sons are between the ages of 11 and 14. During this stage, they are eager for interaction with their fathers, are competent learners, and are not yet too busy working or filling out college applications. (Plus, they are a captive audience since they can’t drive yet!)
Boys at this age are curious about what it means to be a man and are eager to try some of the bigger experiences and adventures, like camping, fishing, and even fixing cars. This is a great time to pour into them, to model for them, to describe character traits to them, and to train them.
In addition, it is a great time to introduce sons to mentors; and by setting aside this unique year to meet with other men and boys, those relationships are able to grow. Then, after the year is over, the foundation is set, and mentoring relationships can continue if desired.
Many approaches can be taken during this intentional training time, and we present one way through our GateWay Program.
The GateWay Program is a fully-designed curriculum for groups of fathers and sons to do together, covering both character training (based on 8 character traits mentioned in 2 Peter chapter 1), and life skill training. Boys are encouraged to work through specific challenges, demonstrating competence in these areas.
At the end of the GateWay year, the program culminates in a Blessing Ceremony for all of the boys and their community. This can be a real rite-of-passage celebration and a time that the boys – and fathers—will never forget.
Whatever method you choose, we pray that you are encouraged to be purposeful and intentional in training your sons into men!
Amy Wray Frank
Peter and Amy Frank live in North Carolina with their four energetic children. Peter is a professor at Wingate University and Amy teaches their kids at home. Peter and Amy along with another couple designed the GateWay Program that takes fathers and sons together through a 9-month program of spiritual and practical training. You can also find blogging about her family over at Frankly Journaling.