“The greatest tribute a boy can give to his father is to say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like my dad.’ It is a convicting responsibility for us fathers and grandfathers. . .The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is a legacy of character and faith.” - Billy Graham
To grow to become men of character who are prepared for the challenges of life, boys need to learn that they are loved, they are capable, and they are responsible. On the journey to manhood, boys need men who are involved, engaged, and intentional. They need men who recall the exuberance of boyhood, who are willing to embrace a boy's boundless energy, and who are prepared when moments arise to teach responsibility, forge leadership, impart masculinity, and mold boys to become biblically bold and courageous men of character.
1. I Am Loved
Make Time to Cultivate Relationships and Communicate Affection
Boys need a place where it is safe to be a boy! A place where they are free to conquer and explore. A place where a boy’s impulse to cover himself in mud and crawl through a creek is understood and appreciated. A place where mud turns into war paint, a stick becomes a sword, and an impression in the ground just may be a telltale sign of a dragon they could tame if they only keep hunting.
Boys need men who can recall a time when matchbox cars carved dirt roads in mulch beds, when rocks became doughnut shops, when imaginary men drove to tops of trees, and perils awaited in grass jungles. Boys need men who elbow crawl through furniture forts and wage nerf ambushes from across the room. Men who build rail worlds for Thomas the Train, assemble Legos on the living room floor, share hot dogs and cracker jacks at a baseball game, throw a football in the front yard, bait a hook on the bank of a lake, and who pause to roast one last s’more before crawling into a tent and camping under the stars.
Raising godly boys requires men who understand the language of boyhood and dare to enter a boy's world. Men who are enthralled by their exuberance, acknowledge their abilities, pursue their passions, celebrate their strengths, and nurture their independence. When a man takes time out of his schedule to engage with his son, communicate affection, and speak encouragement, he creates a golden opportunity to reflect Christ and speak truth and meaning into his son's life.
2. I Am Capable
Foster Independence and Communicate Ability
As boys discover that they are loved and secure, they begin to long for independence and responsibility. This longing for independence and responsibility is a necessary God-given desire to enable a boy to develop into a mature man of character. From a young age, most boys want to be just like dad. They want to climb in his strong arms, be tossed high into the air, wrestle on the floor, play games in his lap, help with projects around the house, and be right in the middle of anything dad is doing. As fathers and mentors seize these moments to engage boys in household projects like: taking trips to the store, repairing the car, fixing a hole in the wall, changing a light switch, and together taking responsibility for daily chores - boys grow in confidence and ability. As growth occurs, boys need parents who recognize their maturity, provide proper channels of risk and challenge, and who empower them to rise to the occasion.
Boys thrive when provided with proper challenge, adventure, accomplishment, accolade, and advancement. Intentionally increasing responsibility and independence as sons mature is essential. If challenge and encouragement are not sufficient and developmentally appropriate, instead of becoming confident, resilient leaders of character, boys fall into one of the twin pitfalls of adolescence: anger or apathy.
3. I Am Responsible
Provide Structure and Communicate Purpose
To grow in character and responsibility, a boy needs caring adults who can convey wisdom, provide a solid sense of boundaries, and impart a vision of who he can be. On the journey to manhood, a boy must test limits and discover, firm, fair, and consistent guidelines. He must experience both the sting of failure and the thrill of success. As a boy is challenged and held accountable for his successes and failures, he is able to build muscles of self-discipline he cannot develop on his own. Consistent expectations, healthy relationships, and clear boundaries provide the support parents and mentors need to raise expectations.
As young men grow in discipline, character, and confidence, they prepare for greater independence and responsibility. Engaging in service in the community and the church provides excellent opportunities for boys to discover their giftedness, serve, and learn to use their strength for the benefit of others. As boys come to understand they were created on purpose for a purpose - instead of making choices based on boundaries set by parents - they come to understand they were created by God to have a positive impact on the world. As a sense of responsibility grows, a young man understands his purpose, honors God, and grows to become a godly and responsible husband, father, and citizen.
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The structure built into the Trail Life USA program is designed with these truths in mind. Boys are intentionally engaged by men in adventurous uniquely masculine challenge – accomplishments are recognized before their peers, parents, and community – then boys strategically advance to greater challenge and responsibility producing growing, self-confident, godly masculine leaders.