I discovered the HEROIC quest soon after my older son, Gregg, entered adolescence. It is a unique program — I can honestly say I have not seen anything else quite like it in the Christian world. I had been feeling a need to do something different that was standard in our church and community.
I wanted Gregg to experience his developing Christian male self. I did not want him to endure the manhood hunger and anxiety I had felt, and I knew that a normal Christian confirmation would be good for him, but not good enough. I wanted a rite-of-passage program that helped him follow Jesus, and Gregg said he wanted it too.
Around this time, I was beginning my friendship with Michael Gurian, and he told me about he program he had developed with Tim Wright. After going over the curriculum, I knew I wanted to have this experience with Gregg. I felt certain this program could answer a boy’s hunger a spiritually heroic kind of manhood. I appreciated the way Michael and Tim combined Christian spiritual process with a sense of centuries of male heroism — physical, emotional, spiritual — and rite-of-passage structures that deeply engage boys’ souls.
Here are all six qualities in the program.
Honor. A man does what is right. Right means moral — loyal to biblical values — and also what is most compassionate. Honor takes practice, and for adolescent boys especially, honorable men need to lead the way of male discipleship.
Enterprise. A man works hard at useful work. Heroic work does not just mean work that garners lots of attention; it means the messy, nitty-gritty work. Adolescent boys need hardworking men to direct them toward opportunities for developing this sense of enterprise.
Responsibility. A man takes responsibility. Spiritual heroism is a matter of commitment and conviction, yet these are meaningless unless they are pursued responsibly. What is responsibility, exactly? It is not a sound bite; it is taught to boys by example.
Originality. A man is an individual within a whole. Each hero brings his or her talents and skills to benefit family, community, and world. Adolescence is a time for discovering some of what is original about oneself and getting help to realize those God-given gifts in the world.
Intimacy. A man learns how to love. The first phase of love is dependent love, with parents, siblings, family, and others. Adolescence is a second phase, one that now includes romance, sexuality, and new feelings of intimacy. men must help boys navigate this second phase.
Creativity. A man is committed to changing the world. A key aspect of being heroic is to channel one’s creativity toward sacred mission, as Jesus did. Men must help boys explore, direct, and becomes disciples of that mission.
I was absolutely intrigued with this heroic rite-of-passage model. I decided to see if other families in my community might be moved by this program that calls on mothers, fathers, and mentors to come together for sons. I wondered, How many dads in my church, kids’ school, and neighborhood, like me, feel the loss of having never gone through a right of passage and want to help their sons have a better experience?
I began to reach out, a little nervous that no one would share my interest. I quickly heard from several moms and dads of middle school boys that they, too, wanted this for and with their sons. The response was startling in its intensity and quantity.
Within just a couple of weeks, twenty-two families in my home church and a group of dads and sons from my sons’ school committed to walking this journey together. From September to June we engaged ourselves, our families, our sons, and our community in the program, which allows for (and encourages) individualized and community-specific modifications.
In June 2012, twenty-two dads and twenty-three sons (one father had twin sons) completed the rite of passage together. Our boys grew immensely through the process, and so did we.
You can learn more about this rite of passage in Raising Boys By Design: What the Bible and and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive by Gregory L. Jantz and Michael Gurian, from which the above is excerpted.
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