This weekend marks our church’s annual men’s retreat. I am especially excited about this year because my oldest son is coming to his first retreat (they are allowed to come at 15-16 years old). I wouldn’t say that our church is very good at rites of passage, per se. But in this one context, we have created something that I think is incredibly valuable. At some point in the many year history of the retreat, we stumbled upon a really organic, but profound rite of passage.
On the last night of the retreat, we bring all the 15-16 year old boys up to the front. For many years this last meeting was outdoors around a huge fire (it all added to the atmosphere!). We then have two adults give a “charge” about what it means to become a man in the Body of Christ. When possible we try to make one of these men a dad of one of the boys. This year I get to give the charge for the first time. I can’t wait! It is like a microcosm of all I’m trying to do by God’s grace, day in and day out, with all my kids.
Then all of the men at the retreat gather tightly around the boys, and pray and prophecy over them for quiet a long time. It all ends with a few tears, a lot of manly hugs, and laughter. We also give them some physical object to take away (like a knife or a Bible!).
Many years ago we kind of did this on a whim the first time because we noticed we had an unusually large number of teens with us. Since then it has become intentional and it is ingrained as a right of passage for our boys. It signifies them becoming part of the “men’s culture” at our church. The men take it very seriously. They promise to the boys to be there for them, to pray for them, and to challenge them. They encourage the boys to seek out their advice, wisdom, and friendship. It is both symbolically powerful and genuinely real – because the men mean it.
Growing up I don’t remember having anything like that, do you? I think some churches are more intentional than others about rites of passage. We have baby dedications, we honor people graduating from high school and college, but we don’t have much that rivals this rite of passage for our teen boys.
So I want to start a conversation, mostly because I’m interested in stealing your ideas! What do you do that really works for rites of passage, transition points, or mile-markers? What transitions are worth commemorating? And specifically what have you created, or what have you borrowed, content-wise to create a special rite of passage?