Many women have modeled for me the different stages of a woman’s life: my mother was a scrappy entrepreneur, most of Team Reilly’s family traditions came from my stepmother, Chantal was my first prayer partner, Cindy S pushed me to lead, Kate showed me how to take risks, Rowena pointed me to the healing and resurrection power of God’s Holy Word. I watch Sheila be a loving mother-in-law and grandmother, listen to Rhoda teach me how to measure ministry, Cindy C gently reminds me by her life to be aware of the needs of others. These women and many others have directed, modeled, and nurtured my heart to be seen, be named, and be drawn out.

This is the closing blog on the fifth factor from Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Parts 1-3 can be found here, here, and here. Dr. Sax shares story upon story about factor #5: the loss of positive role models. “A boy does not naturally become a gentleman by which I mean a man who is courteous, kind, and unselfish. That behavior is not hardwired. It has to be taught.” (pg 202)

Think about it….even movies and television shows today do not show men as heroes unless the main character has a superpower or wears a cape. The dads are typically portrayed as bumbling idiots who are unaware, unwise, and ridiculous or abusive. This gal was raised by a John Wayne and Andy Griffith fan. Get my drift? We still have masculine heroes in some of our movies (Gladiator, Avatar, Titanic, Three Musketeers), but ‘script-writers seem unable to write a believable story about a boy becoming a heroic man, without supernatural powers, set in our era.‘ (pg 212) “If we fail to provide boys with pro-social models of the transition to adulthood, they will construct their own, which may not be so positive and constructive.” (pg 205) The Boy Scouts was founded in 1910 with the explicit goal of making men of little boys and fostering an independent manhood.

In Chapter 10 of Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, the authors speak of nurturing a boy’s heart where the heart is the center and basis for all spiritual life…’his entire inner being and how he is created to be.’ We are called to do three things:

We must SEE HIM – to love a boy well we must be a student of him. We must know more than just what makes him tick or ticks him off. We study our boys with a curiosity and appreciation who he is, but even more than that. Be a student of your boys with a vision for who they will become. All those years of studying my son and his friends have given me wonderful stories to share with his wife and will share with his son. When the Promise Keepers movement was prominent in faith formation of men several decades ago, they offered a conference named Promise Keepers for Boys. The men in my home church traveled and provided this experience for my son and many of his friends. One on one. Then these men came back and invested in each of the boys in their charge with time, adventure, antique cars, laughter. These men SAW these young boys and spoke truth of God’s call on their lives in the present and in the future. They are still connected today.

We must NAME HIM – ‘To name someone means that we have profound and intimate relationship with him.’ Nicknames are a great example of the power of names. They are often terms of endearment used by close family or friends or admirers. If you SEE your boys well (been curious about him, developed an appreciation of his uniqueness, and gained a vision for him), ‘it’s likely that you will be motivated to speak what you have seen by naming him.’ If it is accurate, we offer a boy an identity he can’t quite see for himself, we offer a direction for his reputation, his promise and his glory that will help direct his movements and decisions going forward. When I named my son in public, he could ALWAYS trust that I would speak highly of him. Are we speaking highly of our brothers? Our husbands? Our sons? Our family?

We DRAW HIM OUT – This is where a boy’s heart is challenged, invited, coaxed, and directed toward integrity, intimacy, and to be known. In Hebrew, the word that means ‘to draw’ is hiphil. The same word translates ‘to be saved.’ This highlights the truth that the work of drawing a boy out is the work of saving him. Saving him beyond life’s disappointments, shattered dreams, and the rubble of many opinions of what it means to be a man of faith, a disciple of Jesus Christ who is our boy’s true Savior. “The truth is, a boy can do everything right and follow all the rules, but if his heart’s not in it, his life will be aimless and ultimately meaningless. A boy must be engaged with and directed in an ongoing and intimate relationship with himself, with others, and with God. It’s our job to draw him out and help him to keep his heart.” (pg 207)

Just as a kid learns best about Jesus by spending time with men and women who love Jesus, boys need men of faith who invest in their lives. Yet few men invest in children’s ministry. I’ve appealed to many men to join the ranks. My son and his rambunctious fellow 3rd-5th graders called their Sunday school teacher ‘Harry Braveheart Booth.’ This man was ready for battle with them and the distractions of life every single Sunday. I prayed for this man, regularly. I prayed for men to step into my son’s life in the areas where I could not with a joy and fire for Jesus. I pray today for older men to continue to step into my sons’ lives, and for the churches who are my grandsons’ home churches. I pray for the men who have said YES in the local church where I serve and I reach out to them often with gratitude and hope and wonder.

Oh to meet the needs of all children with the love and hope found in Jesus! The struggle is real in trying to be all things for all people who walk through our local church’s doors as well as who we meet along the sidewalks of life. As a lead in ministry with children, it is helpful to be aware of the needs of others that may not be intuitive. Though I grew up with brothers and their friends, married a boy, raised one, and feel the ministry I’ve been called to lead is realistically boy-friendly, it is important to provide an environment where men of faith in our great God get the best start possible in partnership with their amazing families. So I read, I study, and I share with you.

How are you seeing, naming, and drawing out the children in your charge?

“Without a positive male role model in your life, it’s extremely difficult to become a man who benefits his family and benefits his society.” Donald Miller