Let me tell you a story…
Within the last month I experienced two special retreats. One weekend, I was the Spiritual Director on a Prison 3-Day retreat for 18-20 year old incarcerated young men. Two weekends later, I was a teacher and chaperone for young men on a ninth grade retreat for those youth from our church ready to make a deeper faith commitment as they enter high school.
Only a couple of years separated the young men age-wise, but life experience- wise? Different planets. The one glaring contrast between the two groups was the involvement in their lives by healthy fathers and/or other male mentor(s), Light years apart.
O, a few of the guys I’ve spent time with in prison over the years did have dads who mentored them. Stories of how-to jack someone up and rob him, how to steal and not get caught, how to shoot up heroin, are much too common. In those cases, whatever lesson these young men did learn- the few who did have fathers around, or other older male role models- whatever the lesson, obviously the results behind bars are less than stellar.
Now, the young men on the church retreat live no sheltered life in affluent luxury with doting fathers. but what they do have is a dad or other male mentor or two connecting with them in a helpful way.
The kids themselves are similar in many ways, but their upbringing, especially when it comes to fathers, obviously makes a huge difference. While research makes the same point, spending time in prison ministry brings these statistics to life.
Fathers and sons don’t deserve this.
They deserve the joy and challenge of living life as “master teacher and apprentice.” I want dads, and other adult males who have an opportunity to be a mentor, to make a difference in young men’s lives.
The best model for this? Ironically, someone who was not a father. The teaching and model of Jesus as to how to live your life in community. investing in others and expanding their lives in remarkable ways, that’s the key. Jesus is the superior teacher and model for fathers and sons (mothers, daughters, and everyone else, too). How to be a father to a son the way that Jesus would if he were in your situation, is a crying need for dads. For the sake of their sons…for the sake of society…
For God’s sake.
I have always been interested in mentoring youth. In my teens, I began to teach Sunday School and coach youth basketball. My undergrad degrees are in Psychology and Secondary Education. I went to graduate schooI, received my MDiv and began working as a youth pastor in 1982. By 1991, no longer a “youth pastor,” I continued to work with kids and their parents in our Church communities: Congregation, preschool, elementary school, and middle school (where my wife, Nancy, also taught), as well as in the local community as basketball coach and mentor in public schools.
Since 1992, I have done much consulting with a national youth ministry organization,Faithinkubators, in particular working on parenting and connecting parents and kids. I have also developed a relational evangelism DVD series entitled, ”How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk!” which has a wide usage by Christian organizations teaching outreach with the next generations. As you saw above, I serve as Spiritual Director at a local prison (California Youth Authority for 18-25 year old young men) where we lead three-day spiritual retreats as part of Epiphany Prison Ministry.
Yet, obviously, my greatest experience and interest in fathers parenting sons is raising our own sons. Nancy and I have a daughter, Kristina, 22, and twin boys, Gregory and David, 19. We have been the key adult mentors in their lives, living in the tension of being pastor, teacher, coach, and both of us volunteers in the public schools they attended, as well as mom and dad. All this without being totally enmeshed. It can be done.
As I stated in my prior launch post, I will be writing a book on fathers and daughters in this “No Jerk” series. So, Kristina, I’m not ignoring our life together, just focusing on the boys right now!
If you read what I am writing in the next several months you will make significant progress in lfie with your son(s). You will learn from the best:
- From the best teacher who ever lived- Jesus.
- From the best of what I have experienced as a son of a father (leaving the less than helpful stuff behind).
- From the best of what I have invested in our sons (sharing my “bonehead” moments, as well),
- From the best of my being a mentor of scores of young men over the years,
- From the best of amazing fathers with whom I have had the privilege of sharing life together.
For God’s sake…and your son’s…join me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the latest post.