We decided to hold the Rite of Passage for each of our boys when they turned fifteen. We knew that when they turned sixteen, and started to drive on their own, our opportunities for impacting their lives would decrease dramatically. Freedom is an exciting and powerful privilege, and we wanted to make sure that they understood the standards we expected before they ventured out into the larger world.
We built our ceremony around four values that we thought the boys should aim for in their lives:
These values didn’t cover everything, but we thought they were a few good “stars” by which they could begin charting their course through life. In the months leading up to each boy’s Rite of Passage, we did a lot of preparation. Karen chose Holiness and I took Excellence. We each picked a gift that reflected that virtue and we prepared a few words that challenged our son toward that goal. We asked our fathers to do the same for Service and Faith.
We asked our boys to select four men from their lives whom they felt exhibited traits that they wanted to emulate. They could be coaches, ministers, family friends, youth leaders, or anyone else. I wrote to each of the men, explaining our Rite of Passage concept and asking if they would be willing to be a part of it. No one ever declined. I also asked each of them to write a letter about what they thought it meant to be a man. When the time came, they would present the letter during the ceremony. Finally, I asked if they would consider getting together with our son occasionally over the remainder of his high school years. It didn’t matter if they went to lunch, played Disk Golf, or went to a ballgame together. The point was to have some grown men (besides dad) participating in their lives and praying for them.
We reserved our church for the ceremony because we wanted to demonstrate the centrality of God in everything we do. We invited only family and those friends who were involved in the ceremony. We made preparations to serve the Lord’s Supper.
For several weeks leading up to the big night, my son and I went through the book, “The Young Man in the Mirror” by Patrick Morley. This provided an opportunity for us to talk frankly about everything from faith to sex. Each chapter concluded with a challenge and some wise words. For example,“The man you become will, in large part, be defined by the choices you make over the next few years.” Hmm. That “Many Choices” thing seems to pop up a lot. We also gave the boys some appropriate Bible verses to memorize.
While that was going on, Karen prepared for the week-long trip she would take with the honoree shortly after the ceremony. After fifteen years of me getting to do all the “fun stuff” with the boys, she felt like this was her opportunity to spend some quality time with each of them before they left the nest. Each boy got to pick where he wanted to go: Gerrit chose New York, Tucker picked San Diego and Philip wanted Chicago. They each helped plan their itinerary and pick out what they would do while they were there.
As the day of the ceremony approached, the boys were required to recite their Bible verses for Karen and me. With Gerrit we considered making this part of the ceremony, but we quickly decided it would be better for him to be able to enjoy the ceremony than to be nervous about reciting his verses in front of the crowd. Tucker and Philip benefited from this change as well.
Family members began arriving, and finally so did the big night…
originally published 11/10/11| next post Rite of Passage – The Ceremony: Part 1