I remember being frustrated with the boys in one of my youth groups, in the early aughts. I was frustrated with their commitment to just about everything.
I saw boys wearing eyeliner, listening to emo and acting in ways unbecoming. Let me say, a man can be manly no matter what tribe he’s a part of, what he wears or what kind of music they listen to. Culture does not define manliness, but it does influence young men.
This seems petty now in the age age of the #metoo movement. We need to set an even higher example of what it means to treat women, live right and how to respect others around us.
Even now, many male millennials (including my own boys) have a hard time adulting and I believe culture was and is partly to blame.
The kinds of movies coming out at the time my boys were growing up,
- The Hangover
- Hot Tub Time Machine
- Anything with Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, or Adam Sandler
- And don’t get me started on Matthew McConaughey rom-coms
These are movies about men who couldn’t or wouldn’t grow up. These were my boys both personal and in youth.
I grew up in 80’s, without a father, and I had movies like:
- Dirty Harry
Now, these movies had their own problems in that they had too much violence, swearing, etc. and showed men using violence to solve their problems . In my defense, the movies of my youth taught me there were rules, justice, and to take action for a just cause.
Movies do not make the man, but they do reflect what it was/is to be a man in the culture we live.
I heard in a seminar that :
- 39% of men make up a congregation
- 90% of men leave the church by age 20. (some come back later and stats differ)
This saddened me so much and wondered if my boys could go the distance.
The numbers in the UK aren’t much better, according to MPower, a men’s ministry in the UK
According to one survey, 50% of men would feel comfortable in a lingerie shop, but only 33% would be happy to find themselves in a church.
So, I did what I could do with the boys in my group. I didn’t have many basketball players or jocks in my group so I chose to take March Madness and turn into March Man-Ness to see if I could infuse some biblical standards of manliness.
We did a full court press in man games, man messages, and all around manliness. As with all lessons and themes, it lasted for a little while, but it was one more investment I made to the overall process of young men growing up. Besides, lessons don’t make one manly; practicing honor, respect and courage leads young men to becoming godly old men.
The best things we can do as youth pastors is to
- model how to love your wife and kids
- stand up for the young ladies in our group and not over-look things
- make hard decisions about unacceptable behavior
Concerting the last one, I had a young man harassing one of our young ladies. He was dating a girl who no longer wanted to go out with him but he struggled hard to stay away from her. I ultimately told him he needs to take a month off and think about his actions. This did not sit well with him or his friends.
Because I made the hard decision, I lost about six boys who thought my discipline was unreasonable. I eventually lost the young lady due to general laziness. I have no regrets. Regardless of the outcome, I did right by that young lady. I sent a message, don’t mess with the young ladies in our group and be step up and be godly men.
Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Jesus taught us that men love, sacrifice, lead, sow compassion, stick up for the lesser, give generously, empower others, and to stand firm in the face of temptations.
This is what I tried to live in front of these boys and give them opportunities to do the same. Some had good fathers, some bad, some none. My hope was that I lived in a way that some of what Jesus was teaching me, was getting into them.
Those boys are now men, and, to my knowledge, a few of these young men are still in church, are married and have kids of their own. Learning what it means to teach their sons what it means to be men.
If it will help you, here’s the March-Maness idea sheet I drew up. Got some add on ideas to add to it? Let me know in the comments.
Here’s to our young men discovering the God Man, Jesus and becoming more like Him. Let’s Man Up!