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My son was just six when I was introduced to the idea of fathers and sons regularly coming together to discuss issues our boys were facing – and then celebrating progress in our boys’ lives through milestone ceremonies. I had two thoughts.
1. This is a tremendously cool idea.2. This seems overwhelming.
A few years later, I had the opportunity to be a part of a group of parents, and their sons, interested in both creating a support structure for our boys as they prepared to begin middle school … and provide an opportunity to celebrate their milestones to manhood.
In fact, we just finished the last of nine (!) ceremonies celebrating each boys’ 13th birthday. Each ceremony was tailored a bit family by family, but included a few core elements.
• A journal for each boy circulated in advance so each of their friends – and their parents – could share thoughts specific to that boy as both counsel and encouragement as they continue to mature.
• Each dad of the son being honored – and typically each mom as well – would share some thoughts to bless their son, and charge him to live out biblical manhood based on ideas found in the classic Focus resource Raising A Modern-Day Knight.
• In addition, each dad would ask two other dads to prepare and offer similar encouragement. Some also invited ‘guest stars,’ such as a grandparent or youth pastor, to share additional thoughts.
• A knight’s crest was framed, and was presented the night of each boy’s ceremony.
• Each boy would then share 13 ‘I am’ statements based on what the Bible says about them (e.g., I am God’s masterpiece, created by Him to do good things. ~ Ephesians 2:10).
In hindsight, my initial reactions to being part of a group of parents and sons to ‘do life together’ and celebrate maturity markers were both right … and wrong. I was right about it being tremendously cool. Seeing each boy honored – and charged with something bigger than simply turning a new age number – was powerful and important.
While it does take some preparation, since it doesn’t all fall to one person it wasn’t as overwhelming as it first seemed. And the preparation it does take is well worth the payoff. Even the more introverted boys in the group were clearly moved and inspired by the words spoken over them and written in their journal for their 13-year celebration.
One dad in the group recently shared with me that, after a particularly rough week for their boy, he got out his ‘encouragement journal’ to re-read what others see in him and be reminded of some of the gifts God’s given uniquely to him. When this summer’s wildfires in Colorado forced the evacuation of nearby homes, and our family talked about the short list of valuables we would grab in an emergency, my son included his blessing journal among them.
Have you considered something similar for your son or daughter? Or, maybe you’re currently in such a group. How’s it going? What tips would you have for other dads desiring such a community?
Rich Bennett (@coloradorich) is a contributor for Dad Matters and the Vice President of Ministry & Marketing Strategy for Focus on the Family.
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