Our son, Jack, is going through Confirmation this fall. While he’s been a Christian his whole life, this process marks his most serious attempts to understand his faith, the church, and how the two work together.
A great deal of effort goes into the process of confirmation. Mentors give their time to teach and guide, and Jack will be expected to study and pray. There are important questions asked that will require his input. The experience takes months though the preparation has been going on for years.
In the end, Jack will more fully grasp what Jesus is both asking of him (devotion) and giving him (grace). By learning about our specific denomination, Jack will also become more prepared to serve as a thoughtful and valued member of our church body.
Should all go well, Jack, along with the rest of the Confirmands, will stand at the alter, confess his beliefs to our minister, and accept our church’s invitation to join as a full member — knowing full well what we as the church body expect of him.
In short, Jack’s faith will begin to mature. Gone will be the days of craft projects and donut holes. He’ll be ‘growing up’ in the church through study, testing, mentoring, reflection, invitation, and acceptance.
I’m excited for him.
A Short Time Ago
At the same time, Jack will also turn 13-years-old.
In the not too distant past, this would have meant the start of a different maturation for Jack. He would have been expected to help put food on the table, do his part to keep the house safe and sound and become a contributing member of the community in which he lived.
He would have been expected to become a man.
This maturation would have come by working closely with his father or older brothers, gaining practical skills to prepare him for a fruitful life, studying his given expectations, and reflecting on the consequences of his actions. Over the course of a few years, during which time responsibilities would continually increase, he would learn his requirements and practice all the necessary arts and skills.
Once he had passed these ‘tests’, he would set off to work and contribute to the world around him. He would become his own man, prepared to take on what life asks.
Does this process resemble the one in our community? Do we spend time each day working alongside our sons, set clear expectations of what it means to be a man, and communicate those ideas effectively? Do we give them space to train and intentionally increase their responsibilities?
Many places in the world require this maturation because there is no other option. In the United States, however, many of us are incredibly fortunate. We’ve accumulated and produced more wealth than many in the world could imagine. We’ve become mighty comfortable.
(Reality check: If you pull in roughly $32,400 a year in income, you are among the world’s wealthiest 1%. You may not feel like it in your community, but that’s what is happening in the world).
Because of our affluence, our sons are not required to serve the family as much as boys did in the past. They are not expected to put food on the table or protect the home.
Because of their schooling and parents’ work schedules, our sons no longer spend time working alongside adults. And, come the evenings and weekends, we are so busy with ‘enrichment activities’ or tired from the week, who wants to take the time to teach? It’s just easier to do the work ourselves.
We’ve become comfortable and busy. In the process, we, as a society, have forgotten to teach our boys how to become men.
Becoming a Man
What does it mean to be a man? Is being a man simply what Webster’s says: “an adult male human?”
We all know the meaning goes deeper than that.
First of all, we have to start with the fact that all men are flawed. We are all built of crooked timber. (Don't worry, ladies... you are flawed, too!) We have to know that and move forward towards the ideal. As Christians, we believe that ideal is Jesus.
In that light, a man is he who is striving, in both thought and action, to follow the example of Jesus. This means being cultivating the fruits of the Spirit, loving your God and your neighbor, and striving to be righteous.
It also means being prepared for the responsibilities of the world – caring for others, managing expenses, being productive and on time, balancing rights/responsibilities and risks/rewards, plunging a toilet, changing a tire, and more.
To get to this result, we have to help our sons understand the ‘why’ behind being a man – by studying scripture and seeing how it relates to our lives now – as well as ‘how’ to act – by working alongside mentors and parents.
The Immanuel Project’s Pathway to Manhood was set up to do just that: help the young man discover the ‘why’ and intentionally practice the ‘how.’ Your son won’t become a man having finished the book, but he will have a better understanding of what it takes.
I know the Pathway to Manhood will be as useful to your family as it has been to mine.