Boys to Men: A Ceremony to Celebrate

When does a boy become a man? Ask anyone and you will receive a variety of responses. At fifteen years old, one of the local gangs, the Warlords, made me believe that joining their club would make me a man. After I fought several of them in my initiation these guys praised me, made me feel older, and affirmed my passage into manhood. Shortly afterwards, these same guys berated me after they learned that I was still a virgin. They believed one’s masculinity was proven through having sexual experiences and domination. Not knowing any better, I accepted this as true. As a teenager and young man, I never received a clear biblical picture regarding the meaning of manhood or how to become a man.

Should fathers have the answer to this question? I believe so. My father, who spent fifty hours a week working and then the rest of the evenings and weekends drinking at the neighborhood bar, only told me that joining the army would make me a real man. Unfortunately, too many fathers are weak models of masculinity, or do not know the answer themselves. Many are absent from the home and the community, and are therefore unable to guide their sons.

Can a loving mother (woman) instructor and lead her boy into manhood? A woman (mother) can’t adequately usher a boy into manhood (Gordon Daley, from healing The Masculine Soul). A mother does not willingly release the bond she has with her “little boy” though he is already a teenager and/or older.

As boys biologically, emotionally and spiritually reach the adult stage, they do not look to their mothers or other women to affirm them, but desire the affirmation from other older “boys in the hood” and older men. Unfortunately, boys have been getting the wrong messages from the wrong sources.

What about churches and youth leaders? They too have not effectively reached boys in this crucial point of their lives? Look at the attendance factor. Considerably fewer boys (men) than girls (women) attend the senior high groups and sit in the church pews on Sunday mornings. Boys more readily flock to gangs and sport teams where they go through some form of instruction and initiation to gain membership and affirmation from older guys (men).

In response to the absence of true masculinity, Robert Bly (a poet and philosopher on male issues) started speaking out for men in the ’80’s. Men’s groups began emerging around the country, and now we have the Promise Keepers and scores of books dealing with manhood. Some of these books have been helpful to define masculinity, but only a few have developed some ceremony to celebrate that glorious moment of a boy’s transition into manhood. The Christian community is now responding to this need.

A RITES OF PASSAGE CEREMONY
Existing around the world are a variety of rituals by which boys are acknowledged as men. In these ceremonies boys go through various tests to determine their readiness to accept their masculine adult responsibilities. After the ceremony, the boys (ages 12 to 15) are pronounced by the mature men (elders) of their community as having reached the level of manhood. These rituals have the result in building the self-esteem of these young men, affirming their masculinity, and charging them to live responsibly as “men” in their communities and homes.

Did Jesus go through a rite of passage? In Luke 2:42 we read that “When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.” Perhaps Jesus did. In our Hispanic communities (and society as a whole, there is a serious lack of affirmation of young teenage boys into manhood and in defining what real godly masculinity is all about. The Jewish community has its Bar-Mitzvah, and the Hispanic Roman Catholic community has its Confirmation (and a Quince√±era for girls), but these do not focus on affirming a boy to godly masculinity and his entry into manhood.

Do boys need this affirmation and instruction? Yes! Therefore, several mature Hispanic men in Chicago and I have begun to develop a ceremony that defines Biblical manhood. Youth leaders must spend several weeks prior to this ceremony preparing the boys by teaching them what masculinity means, that is, the four main characteristics. It is helpful, when possible, to have the fathers of the boys involved in the process and in the ceremony. Fathers also need this instruction for their own lives. A helpful book to read is Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis.

The rite of passage ceremony takes place on a Saturday afternoon session of a men’s weekend retreat. The ceremony is normally no longer than one hour long. The Hispanic boys are charged to live up to the above definition of masculinity, and affirmed as having passed from that stage of boyhood into manhood. The reason for having teenage boys and adult men together is so that these adult men, along with the boys’ fathers, can bestow the “blessing” of manhood upon the boys. Gary Smalley, in his book, The Blessing biblically explains the enormous benefit and power there is in blessing others and especially our children. Words of affirmation are like prophetic words of destiny for a boy. At the end of the ceremony, the pastor and elders, along with the fathers, come forward to pray and ask God’s blessing on the boys. Then the men shout in unity, “Today you are a man.” This will have a lasting impact on these young men. Every teenager I have witnessed going through this ceremony has always appreciated older men’s affirmation and guidance.

Fathers, pastors, and youth leaders can no longer abdicate their responsibility of instructing the next generation of men. “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old-what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonder He has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands (Psalm 78:2-7 NIV).” If we want to see the next generation of men rise up as godly men, then we must not fail to guide them through this transition of boyhood to manhood. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

SHORT ORDER OF CEREMONY
Have the men sit in a circle or semi circle around the boys going through the rites of passage ceremony. This ceremony is to be led by the pastor or elders of the group.

THE KING- SERVANT- LEADER (Have a basin with warm water and a towel ready.)
-Briefly explain this character to the teenagers and men.
-The teenagers are to answer the following questions before the men. Each boy kneels with his right hand placed on a Bible and vows (confesses) allegiance to King Jesus.
-Do you recognize Jesus as your King and Savior?
-Will you respect, bless and care for men, women and children around you?
-Will you follow King Jesus’ servanthood example by serving others?
-Boy responds with, “I do (will) with God helping me.”
-The pastor-elder briefly prays something along the lines of Ephesians 1:15-23
-Then the boy washes his father’s or youth leader’s feet as a visible example of servanthood. (As the boy does this the men sing a song)
-After the foot-washing, all the men respond loudly and in unity, “Today you are a man!”

THE WARRIOR-SOLDIER (Before beginning, have the boys hold ice in their hands, palms up and hands open. When they accept the challenge to live as warriors then they are to close their hands and keep them closed around the ice, until the ice melts. The boys’ willingness to hold ice is a visible demonstration of his willingness to endure the pains of life.)
-Briefly explain this character to the teenagers and men.
-Questions teenager answers before the men:
-Will you endure the suffering of life with the courage of a warrior and not give up when life gets hard? (Have the boy close his hand around the ice.)
-Identify your talents or skills (this does not relate to spiritual gifts).
-Identify the goal of your life as it may relate to God’s mission for you.
-Boy responds with, “I do (will) with God helping me.”
-All the men respond loudly and in unity, “Today you are a man!”

THE MENTOR (A mentor who will spend the next six months discipling this boy should be identified before this ceremony.)
-Briefly explain this character to the teenagers and men.
-Questions teenager answers before the men:
-What truths have you learned so far about yourself, about being a man, and/or about God?
-What verses have you memorized that are significant to you?
-What area of knowledge (expertise) will you pursue to develop in the future?
-Can you identify the spiritual gifts you have? (This is different from the warrior question which relates to talents and skills)
-Who will be your mentor for the next six months? Have his mentor come forward and state his commitment to train this teenager.
-Ask the mentor, “Are you willing to guide this boy into manhood and train him in the following months?” Mentor responds with, “I do (will) with God helping me.”
-All the men respond loudly and in unity, “Today you are a man!”

THE FRIEND (led by pastor or elder)
(Have the musicians [or a tape] ready to play a fast celebrative song so all the men can dance. The boy should have prepared a poem, an art or craft piece, a song (rap) or a reading, expressing his feelings of gladness.)
-Briefly explain this character to the teenagers and men.
-Questions teenager answers before the men: In a poem, an art or craft piece, a song (rap) or a reading, have the boy express his feelings of gladness at this time about this ceremony.
-All the men respond loudly and in unity, “Today you are a man!”
-Have each boy stand. Then invite the fathers, the other leaders and older men to stand around each boy and pray blessings over them.
-Then the young man (boy) receives a gift (some pin or ring, like the ones the Promise Keepers sell) which can symbolize his passage to manhood.
-At the end, other men may come forward to receive prayers and blessings, men who feel a need to be affirmed as a man, men who were not affirmed when they were young boys.
-The older men with the new young men form concentric circles to dance together in celebration of the boy (New Young Man) completing the rite of passage. The song should be upbeat with a fast tempo.

END OF CEREMONY

Pedro Aviles is a second generation Puerto Rican born and raised in the inner-city of Chicago, Illinois. He is one of the founders as well as the pastor of Grace and Peace Fellowship. While pastoring GPF, he was interim principal at Humboldt Community Christian School as well as a campus minister for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

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2 Responses to “Boys to Men: A Ceremony to Celebrate”

  1. Jeff Ghere 05/01/2017 at 10:43 am #

    Do you still have these events

  2. Andy Fierro 05/09/2017 at 11:09 am #

    Hello Jeff,
    technically we do not coordinate this event you read about. We do have our ManHood Camp initiative. You can find out more about them on our website http://uywi.org/events/regional-training/manhood-camp/

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