In the twenty-first century, the overwhelming majority of boys are being mentored primarily by women: moms and grandmas, female preschool teachers, female elementary teachers, female Sunday school teachers, and, more often than not, educational TV shows skewed to girls. A few fortunate boys have a dad, uncle, or grandpa to pour male energy into the boy. For far too many boys, however, Dad no longer lives at home, is disengaged even though he does live at home, or feels inadequate to strategically raise his son into manhood. Like Tom Sawyer, who was raised by his aunt Polly (who did her best) and Huck Finn, whose dad was an alcoholic, many of our boys have no strong, male role models in their lives.
Boys need men to teach them how to be men. Boys know intuitively that men validate them as men. As boys start moving into fourth grade, they increasingly need male energy poured into them. They need to see from other men what it looks like to live like an honorable friend, husband, worker, neighbor, student, and so on. They need a variety of men to mentor them so that they see several pictures of Christian manhood.
A manhood vision can only be transferred to a boy via a man. Boys need their moms. They need the influence of women. But they need men to make them men.
Congregations can provide a transforming gift to families and boys in the form of mentors. Every congregation has men sitting on the sidelines looking for something significant and “manly” to do with their lives. Many of those men, through a compelling vision and the tools to carry out that vision, would be honored to mentor boys.
Excerpted from my book, Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys from Church.