Coming of Age Ceremonies 3. What Would You Say To A Young New Adult?

In our family, we believe it’s helpful to set a particular time in a young man’s life to begin transitioning him to adult roles. We talked about our reasons here, and explained who we involve in that formal time of recognition, here

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We want to impress on the young man that these new expectations and opportunities he will be experiencing are common to all men, not just the notions of his parents. It’s powerful to hear wisdom from many people, not just Mom and Dad, and it’s especially powerful when you hear the truth your parents have spoken being repeated in different words from a whole community.

The ceremony can take whatever form suits your sense of propriety and style. Some families have adopted symbolic rituals much like conferring knighthood on a squire, with the traditional accolade with a long sword which is them presented to the young man. (Historically, knighthood was sometimes conferred by the monarch approaching the candidate and sounding boxing his ears. We don’t recommend this practice!) Others have long periods of preparation and study with their sons memorizing passages of Scripture or catechisms, preparing a speech or message to deliver at the ceremony.

We use a less elaborate form, focusing on words of welcome, exhortation, and encouragement to the young man. In our ceremony, we invite several men of significance to the boy’s life to prepare short presentations about what it means to be a man. These will each focus on a character trait, some wisdom which the speaker has learned; we encourage the men we invite to think, “What do you wish you had known when you were 13?”

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We also encourage the men to bring an inexpensive item as an object lesson to illustrate their point. This can be a lot of fun for all concerned. Some examples we’ve seen:

= A man should be visionary, looking to the road ahead, and seeking insight where he doesn’t see it himself. The gift was a small pair of binoculars, a way for a hunter to see his quarry far off; in the same way, a man should seek ways and counselors to help him understand what lies ahead.

= A man’s gifts and skills can be used constructively, to build and to beautify useful objects. The same skills can be abused, though, and turned into destructive ends. The gift was an antique carpenter’s plane from a relative’s collection of handmade tools.

= A man should be prepared for all kinds of situations. The gift was a folding multi-tool, as an example of an easily-carried solution for many unexpected needs.

In our family, the culminating presentation is always given by Hal, encouraging our son to be a faithful student of God’s word, looking to the Bible for God’s wisdom and direction in every part of life. The gift here is a leather-bound study Bible of the sort both parents have used for years. This actually is a follow up to an earlier gift – when each of our children has learned to read, we celebrated that achievement with a large-print presentation Bible of their own. The inexpensive Bible we give then recognizes that young children can be pretty careless with their belongings; by the time they’re 13, usually the old Bible is pretty worn, and a high-quality replacement has double meaning to them!

Next: Who Should Speak To The Next Young Man?

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