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Creating a rite of passage for men


We live in a society that is clueless about how to guide boys and girls into mature men and women. As men, there is a deep desire within us to be told by a man who knows us well that we are a man. This journey into masculinity is a long process, and its finale comes at the final test: the rite of passage.

The goals of a rite of passage

A few years ago, my brother-in-law was interested in doing a manhood ceremony, rites of passage, challenge kind of thing.  He asked me to create it for him.  I wanted to create a plan and yet still create an individualized experience for him.

Here is what I did, and this is now the model that I would use in the future:

I wanted to cover a few areas:

  • Archetypes of masculinity (warrior, wizard, king, lover), and
  • Touch on the various roles of a man (husband, brother, son, father)
  • I wanted him to hurt, and in particular, to bleed.
  • I wanted him to have to suffer through something he would want to quit.
  • I wanted him to engage with the natural world.
  • I wanted him to provide via his labor.
  • I wanted him to develop and experience new skills.
  • I wanted him to interact with other men who are clearly men, and to be blessed by them.

Everything needed to have an edge of intentionality… connected to the I Corinthians 16:13-14:  “Watch, stand firm in your faith, act like a man, be strong, and let everything you do be done in love.”

The tasks of a rite of passage

So, the first task was for him to purchase quality work boots (men prize excellence and quality) and work gloves, and we borrowed a hard hat (men use proper equipment for the job).  I found a huge dead tree in the woods behind our house.

It was a very nice touch that his father paid for the boots (Redwing steel toed) and his sister paid for his gloves (lambskin).

I got an axe and first he sharpened it (the 7th of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Sharpen the Saw”).  We sharpened it and then he had access to the file to sharpen anytime he thought it was needed.

I then took him to the tree and taught him about how to properly swing an axe at a vertical target (cutting wedges, swinging smoothly) and I put him to work.  I told him he needed to cut down the tree.  For the first while, with another axe, I cut with him, and we talked about messages about being a man we had gotten in our lives.

Then I left him to work.  Later that day, I sent 3 other men to come work alongside of him – each of them represented (in my opinion) the warrior (a muscular guy who immediately stripped off his shirt and starting swinging – not as many words, but they talked about Bible verses that might apply to being a man.; the wizard (a teacher who runs a discipleship program and a hard worker who talked theology with him for an hour); and a King (who, despite my encouragement to chop with him, actually took him to Sonic for a break and a drink – typical of a king-type, right?).  I did not have someone who I thought represented the lover well.

Mark chopped, with few breaks, for about 6 hours.

That evening, we marinated steaks for us and our wives.

That night we camped out under the stars, smoked a cigar (I should have chosen better quality cigars), and I talked with him about the aspects of being a man that he represented well, and how he had spoken into me in the past.  I told him, that in my opinion as a man, that he was, indeed, a man.  (We do not know we are a man until someone who we think of as a man tells us that we are a man.) We talked about being dads and husbands and leaders in ministry as well as insecurities.

We got up the next morning and started chopping again.  By now, Mark had serious blisters and tears on his hands that were bleeding in his gloves.  He was sore and exhausted, but he pushed through. Once, even when I encouraged him to take a break, he chose to keep going instead.

Finally, the monster came down (snapping a “come-along” in the process) – and it was impressive.

It fell, despite my best effort, into the nearby lake.  So, we took a 4×4 truck and he learned how to operate the four-wheel drive and he dragged it out.

Then, I showed him how to operate a chainsaw and had him cut a few logs (his arms were so tired he could barely hold it, but he pushed through for at least a few).

After a rest, he and I grilled the steaks over the wood from the tree he had cut down and served them. This for us was the moment of celebrating Mark the man.

Notice how each of the goals for the event was woven in. 

If you, or someone you know needs some kind of experience meant to accomplish the same thing – to set in stone the truth that a man is a man, contact me here.  I believe it is in God’s design for men to be able to embrace the gift of masculinity that God has given us (and femininity for women)… and I would love to help.  For information about setting something like this up, you can call my office at 903.561.8955