I sat in the back of the youth group stunned at the words I just heard from the youth pastor. I looked at the other father who was with me and quietly asked him, “Did I just hear that correctly?” Unfortunately, I had. The newly hired youth pastor was passionately teaching teenagers, including my son, that same-sex attraction was okay and encouraged them to pursue relationships with other same-sex attracted individuals. Later, this same pastor would inform students that he didn’t see anything wrong with crossdressing and that he embraced social justice ideology.
I’ve been a pastor for nearly twenty years, some of that as a youth pastor. I always envisioned my children going to youth group. When progressive views and values were being taught to my son, that changed the trajectory and plans for our family. Youth group is a modern invention that replicates age-based public education. It’s only 70 years old. While I’m not opposed to it, I’m also not married to it. And you shouldn’t be either. Christians have successfully passed on lifelong faith to the next generation for 1950 years before youth group existed and will continue to do so long after it is gone.
God used that experience as a catalyst to encourage a group of five fathers to launch a father and son small group that we call The Man Co. and it has turned out to be a huge blessing for all of us. This article will explain what we do, how we operate the group, and some of the reasons we do what we do. My hope is that you will consider launching a Man Co. group to disciple your son.
A Means to Disciple our Son
God has given the church an important role in the life of the family. Every family in our father and son group worships corporately, serves actively, is involved in different discipleship ministries of the church while recognizing that we are not going to rely on the church to disciple our sons and especially not a 20’s-something individual with half-baked ideas, toxic-theology, and disastrous guidance for life-choices. One of the reasons we homeschool our five children is to do all that we can to help them become mature, godly adults who walk with Christ all their days. God has given parents, specifically fathers, the role of discipling children. A father and son group became a practical way for us to obey God’s command to raise our children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
The Man Co. is a Wednesday night small group gathering from 6:45-8:30 for middle and high school guys and dads to help one another become mature men who know, love, and serve Christ. We have boys in our group who are from a single-parent home and do not have a godly father-figure in their life. Our focus is on spiritual growth, essential manhood skills, incredible food, and outrageous fun. We want to help our sons embrace and become biblical men, so everything we do is designed toward this end goal. We rotate between homes and the fathers share leadership of the group, so the time commitment outside of our weekly meetings is minimal.
A Community of Godly Men
One of the greatest blessings that we have experienced has been the community of godly friendships that have developed for the dads as well as the sons. Unfortunately, many dads don’t spend much time with other men in quality and long-lasting relationships and many teenage boys don’t have quality friends. After all, we are working hard all day, then get home and focus on our family and it leaves little time for gathering with other men. As a father, it’s been hard to justify a regular commitment separate from my family that takes me away from the home. But a father and son group is the best of both worlds where friendships with godly men are developed while we disciple our sons!
My sons have been blessed to learn from the example, wisdom, and life experiences of the other men in our group. They have been exhorted to holiness, warned about poor life choices, taught invaluable life lessons, and learned what it means to be a man who leads, provides, and protects. To become a man it helps to be around other godly men. Boys will not become mature, godly men by spending their time with immature, ungodly individuals their same age. As a father, I am grateful for other men who have a Titus 2 influence on my sons and model what it looks like to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
Studying God’s Word Together
The childhood and teen years are the time when individuals will acquire the good or bad habits they will have the rest of their lives. J.C. Ryle correctly observed the force of habits in life and reminds us why the child and young adult years are so important:
Habits have long roots. Sin, once allowed to nestle in your bosom, will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are threefold cords not easily broken. Well says the prophet, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). Habits are like stones rolling downhill—the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak, when it is a sapling—a hundred men cannot root it up, when it is a full-grown tree. . . . So it is with habits: the older the stronger—the longer they have held possession, the harder they will be to cast out.[i]
One of the habits we want our sons to develop is a personal quiet time studying God’s Word daily. Studying the Bible as a group trains our sons to study the Bible as an individual and it allows us to discuss critical topics with our sons such as providing guidance on sound doctrine and thinking about social issues from a biblical perspective.
Our rhythm is to study the Bible as a group twice a month, which works out to every other week. We began the year studying the book of Ephesians and the second half of the year studied 1 Timothy. We cover one chapter per study, which is a manageable pace for everyone. If you are interested in the digital study guide for Ephesians that we wrote for our group, it is available at GospelShapedFamily.com in the store. We purchased a Bible dictionary, Bible commentary, and Bible concordance and gave these study tools to each son in the fall. These tools are used to study the Bible each week and trains sons how to study the Bible as well as how to use reference material.
Essential Manhood Skills, Fun, and Food
Once a month we focus our weekly gathering on teaching the boys an essential manhood skill that will help them grow up into a mature, godly man. It’s a nice change-of-pace from studying the Bible, provides experiential learning, and leverages the strengths of each father. Our list of essential manhood skills that we taught included the following areas: money management, how to budget and invest; interview skills, how to write a resume and how to interview for a job; common etiquette and how to tie a tie; how to choose a date and woe the girl; simple car maintenance, how to change a tire and the oil. Items on our list that we didn’t get to and will include in a future year: how to grill the most amazing meat, small engine repair, how to use common power tools, how to shoot and clean a gun, and first aid skills. For a broader list with resources and teaching points, see my book 50 Things Every Child Needs to Know Before Leaving Home.
We have a lot of fun together and once a month we plan a fun evening. Our fun events include bowling, a cribbage night, snow tubing, disc golf, Favorite Things Christmas party where we exchanged gifts, Bigger and Better party, end of year party grilling out, and a father and son campout. We eat a meal together each week. Whoever hosts also provides food. Since many fathers are coming straight from work and some of our sons are coming from afternoon commitments, the meal is helpful and allows us to begin each gathering with conversation around great food.
Joining the Circle of Men
It is an arduous journey to reach manhood. Becoming a mature adult is highly ambiguous in our culture. Compared with other societies, ours is short on activities or milestones that mark the arrival of maturity and manhood. In addition, manhood is in a state of confusion today. Society no longer knows what a man is or how a man acts. What is the manhood image that the culture gives us? Feminized culture, indecisive guys, lovers of adrenaline, and weak or passive men. Many boys do not have a compelling vision of what it means to be a godly man. In our generation, a quiet crisis has taken place for young people that has teenagers arriving at the doorstep of manhood who are not prepared to launch well. The Man Co. helps to change all of that. Fathers, here is an opportunity for you to step up and take leadership to raise your son to be a future man by being actively engaged in your son’s life, have high expectations for him, and disciple him to maturity in Christ. A young man who has arrived on the threshold of manhood needs to be invited to join the circle of men. The Man Co. is our way of discipling our sons in a community of godly men studying God’s Word together and training them with essential manhood skills while having fun and eating great food. Maybe it will be for you as well!
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
1 Corinthians 13:11
[i] J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (Moscow: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2002), 12.