FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Encouraging Your Son Toward Manhood

with Robert Lewis | June 9, 2006
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On today's broadcast, respected author and pastor Robert Lewis tells fathers what they can do to transition their sons from boyhood to manhood.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • On today's broadcast, respected author and pastor Robert Lewis tells fathers what they can do to transition their sons from boyhood to manhood.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Robert Lewis tells fathers what they can do to transition their sons from boyhood to manhood.

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Encouraging Your Son Toward Manhood

With Robert Lewis
June 09, 2006
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Bob: A man can face challenges in a variety of settings – in the marketplace, on the sports field, even in his spiritual life or in his thought life.  But there may be one arena that a man enters where the challenge takes him by surprise.

Man: Being a dad is a full-time job.  It's 24/7.  If you don't look at it that way, you're going to miss out on some great opportunities and also some opportunities that are very needed.  It's hard, because you want to be their friend, but you also are an authority figure, and you've got a responsibility as a parent, and sometimes the things that you have to do are tough, because you think you're raising them right, and you're doing the right thing, but it may not be easy for you to see your child suffer or struggle.  It's very hard.  But it's enjoying – it's a hard enjoyment.

Man: It's something I'll look back on and never forget.

Robert: That's why I want every dad to know the power of vision – how it harnesses all those undefined energies to live in a constructive, noble way, and once you've done it with your sons, you can do it for a lifetime.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 9th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  And the Marines may be looking for a few good men, but our sons are looking to us and asking the question, "Can you be a good dad?"  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  I'm just curious – between you and our guest today, Dr. Robert Lewis, who has been with us this week on FamilyLife Today – Robert, welcome back to the program …

Robert: … thank you, Bob …

Bob: … between the two of you, would you venture to guess how many swords you've bought?

Dennis: All I know is there are several boats riding a little higher in the water today because I've had a few ceremonies.  If you've ever seen Robert Lewis's book, "Raising a Modern Day Knight," on the front is this magnificent sword.  It can be purchased on eBay, because I got it.  And, you know something?  This is no downstream sword.

Bob: You've got to shell out a few dollars for this?

Dennis: No, I'm not talking about the cost, but the edge on the sword – I mean – I've got the exact replica of what's on your book, Robert, and you could shave with that thing.

Bob: How many of those have you bought?  One, two, three …

Dennis: Actually, three, and I've got …

Bob: You're a few behind, aren't you?

Dennis: I've got two more that I need to purchase, and I've been thinking about how to best go about this, and we need to keep this a secret because my newest son, who I grafted into my family, may be listening, and I want him to be surprised by this, but I'm going to write a poem and give him a charge to manhood, and it needs to be at an appropriate time, though.

Bob: Have you bought a few swords?

Robert: I have bought a number of swords.

Bob: But you only have two sons?

Robert: I only have two sons.  I've got two Excalibur swords that – one from the cover of the book that was given to me, and then one that was given to me by my Men's Fraternity one year, and those two swords are special, because those will be the two I'll leave to my two sons.

Bob: And the others that you've bought?

Robert: The others that I've bought, I bought to initiate key guys that I've had in my life that have supported me in Men's Fraternity and had special moments where I've given them that as a memento of being a part of my team and helping lead men to manhood.

Bob: We've been talking this week about that subject – how it is that a father can engage with his son …

Dennis: … and how he can lead him to manhood, and the way you do that, Bob, is by …

Bob: … a sword.

Dennis: Give him a sword.  That makes him a man.

Robert: Guys do love swords.  You pull out a big sword, and everybody just sits a little taller.

Dennis: But, you know, it's meaningful for a man.

Robert:  It's a road mark.

Dennis: I'm telling you.

Robert: It marks a moment that is super special with something that's deeply masculine.

Bob: We've spent time talking this week about understanding a definition of manhood and how a guy needs to do that, especially if he wants to raise sons to become men.  And we've talked about how desperate that need is in our culture today, and then we've talked about some of the developmental steps along the way.  I'm just curious – as you look back, as a father of two sons – four children but two sons – if you had to pick out those defining moments as a dad, where you would say, "I think a part of the delivery happened here; a part of the connection was made; I think this was one of those lightbulb moments for my boys, where they went, "Okay, I get a fresh piece of this."  Where would some of those moments be?

Robert: Well, at bedrock, Bob, and I don't want to pass by this too quickly.  I think sharing the story of Christ, not in a Sunday school kind of academic way but in just a life way in our home, and then seeing both of my sons at different moments – I can still remember it as fresh right now in my mind as the day it happened.  I can remember with Garrett standing at the top of the stairs, and I started walking up the stairs that night, and he said, "Dad, I need Jesus."

Dennis: How old was he?

Robert: He was probably six.  That's so fresh in my mind, because it just – God used that moment to bring him to himself.  I think the other was – it was a little more funny in that I was taking a shower, and I stepped out of the shower, and there was my son, Mason, crying, because he had figured out he was a sinner in his little mind, and he needed Christ to go to heaven.  And both of those moments just were real special, because those are life-defining moments, and I don't want to pass by into manhood – this is the Christian.  This is being imbibed with the Son of God into their life that allows all this other discussion to take place and so for our listeners that's, to me, bedrock.

Bob: Ultimately, nobody can embrace a biblical understanding of manhood in their own strength, can they?

Robert: That's exactly right, and they need to know where the source is so you can refer to that.  So I think those were the defining moments.  I think the other two things that stand out in my mind the most as major defining moments – a, would be ceremonies that I teamed with some other dads to do with our sons at different stages of their life to mark passages to the next stage.  And, again, it's within the grasp of any dad to do that, and it's fun, too.

Dennis: Robert, I want to stop you there for a just a moment about ceremonies, because this really is part of the core message of what you talk about in raising a modern day knight.  You think, in our culture today, we've lost the art of creating special moments around family and around our children growing up.  We've lost the ability to create ceremony.  Why is that so important as we raise our sons?

Robert: Well, because a son needs markers.  He needs – remember, we talked about vision, and vision can be given in the everyday, but vision takes on a special significance when a lot of attention, expense, imagery, and symbols are used.  That's why we have things like graduation; that's why we have a wedding ceremony; that's why Jesus had baptism, and I think that American culture, for whatever reason, never developed ceremonies.  I'm not sure why.  That would be a worthy discussion from somebody else, but ceremonies are marked – manhood ceremonies – in a lot of cultures around the world, and they're very effective.

 What I want to do is take what I've seen in history and bring it to the table for the Christian boy and let him have those experiences, because when you walk into a room on a particular evening with a group of men, and they are there to talk to you about the nuggets of manhood, the substance of manhood, and they're going to give you – put a ring on your finger, do some other things, that takes on a mystical almost quality to it that drives a memory deep into the heart of a son that then you play off of in the everyday of life.

Bob: You know what our engineer is doing in the other room?

Robert: What?

Bob: He's looking on eBay at swords.  I mean, we've lost him completely.  He's just surfing eBay looking at swords.  Something sparked this.  I'm just telling you.

Dennis: He's found four different swords – how many dollars?

Keith: $4,000.

Bob: $4,000.

Dennis: That's a little more, Bob, than the hundred bucks that I paid for my Excalibur sword.

Bob: Robert, let me ask you – you said 13 is where you started and, of course, if you know anything about Jewish history, you know that 13 is the year of the bar mitzvah for the boy – that 13th birthday is his initiation into manhood.  I'm sure that's why you picked that.  It's also about the time that adolescence is beginning to develop, and that the male hormone is beginning to find its way all through the body.  What are you trying to mark in a young boy's life at 13?

Robert: Well, I'm trying to do two things – one, I’m preparing him for this new transition that's about to take place in his life.  So leading up to his ceremony, I use some tapes to introduce him to some of those changes, and we'd meet early in the morning, have breakfast, listen to those tapes, interact over them.

Bob: Something like the Passport to Purity?

Robert: Like the Passport to Purity, which would be excellent, just to give a discussion point, because here's a dad – I didn't feel competent in instructing my son, so I let somebody else do it, and I just interacted with him over the concepts.  But then when he turned 13, we had finished those sessions.  We went out and celebrated his 13th birthday, just he and I, special one-on-one time, and in that moment I said, "Garrett, I'm going to share something with you that's very important.  I'm going to share with you the definition of manhood."  And I said, "I'm going to have you memorize it with me tonight.  You won't fully understand it, but here is what I promise you – we'll talk about it the rest of our lives." 

 So I introduced that definition to him.  He immediately could remember it.  He memorized it, then I laid my hands on him, and I prayed over him that that definition would grow in his life and would change his life and give him direction and vision in life.  And that was what we did.  And so it celebrated two things – one, it was a preparation for the next stage, but it started the conversation about what it meant to be a man.  That's what we did at 13.

Dennis: And, you know, for a lot of us, we look at that transition between 12 and 13, just around, you know, the raging hormones, as you mentioned, Bob, of a young adolescent boy of just trying to bring some of that into perspective and try to give him some understanding of what's about to happen to his body, what's about to happen to the way he thinks, and the changes that are about to take place in him.  But what I like about what you're talking about here is really twofold.  You're preparing him for the issues he's going to face later on in adolescence, the choices that he must make as a wise young man, but you're also setting him on a course with a clear definition of what a man is and what a man does.

Robert: That's exactly right.  At 16 I remember in Garrett's particular case, it was one of the great ceremonies.  He was going through a real tough time.  I invited three of his best friends and some men that he admired to be a part of reading a sheet of paper that each man constructed to brag on my son about what he was good at, and they all said the same thing.  My son, at the time, was struggling in school, struggling with athletics, and even having some struggles with friendships, and these guys reaffirmed him that night that he needs to continue on this course and develop his mind – of course, he ended up going to medical school – stick with sports, he was struggling.  He wasn't even playing in sports and, of course, his dad had been an athlete and he thought, "I'm failing at that," and he was just reaffirmed – just do your best.  You're a loyal teammate, do that kind of thing, and he went on and did that.  It was just a huge turning point.

 And about friendships and all these young guys who went out that night told Garrett, which he didn't know at the time, they all told Garrett the same thing – "Garrett, you're the most faithful friend we know."  He stood tall that night.  It was a great – and then I reaffirmed the definition, talked about rejecting passivity, don't fall back being a victim, be responsible, fight through feelings, expect the greater reward.  I remember, several years later, at the football banquet, he was given the award as most valuable player.  Not because he was the best player but because he showed the greatest heart and effort.  It affirmed him for who he was.

 I remember, at the 18-year-old ceremony with my son, Mason, we took five of his best friends for six weeks, and we did a six-week thing called "Preparing for College," and we took one subject every week, and we explored those just a little bit, but then we had the dads tell stories of what they did in each one of those areas in college.  And, of course, we shared a lot of failures.  It was kind of a gut-check time because some of the dads got very explicit in talking to their sons about what they regretted; what they did wrong; and then also what we did right, but then during that time we had each of the sons fill out two goals under each one of those areas, that if they were graduating from college that day, they would want to have accomplished those two goals. 

 And then we threw a banquet down at the Capitol Hotel, which you know is a very nice hotel.  We all dressed in suits and ties, went down, did a special thing, had each of the sons stand up and read his finished goals, prayed over each one of those sons, and celebrated that they had a vision for the next four years of how they were going to look on the day they graduated.  That was an unbelievable ceremony.

Dennis: You know, besides the obvious of the benefit to the young man, the thing I like about what you're talking about here, Robert, is this gives older men purpose.  It gives them a sense, as they age, of having their own noble mission to fulfill as they run their race on out to the finish line.  And I see a lot of older guys rusting out, who really don't have any idea where the finish line is for them.  But this gives them a sense of direction, because it ties them to the next generation.

Robert: Well, see, that's what I like about it, because if a dad learns to do – that he can deposit substantive things in his son's life – Dennis, you know this, we see this at church – you get older guys whose sons have since gone away, and because those men have had success with their sons, they start turning to young businessmen and others and start mentoring.  They go into inner city and mentor because they know they can contribute substance, vision, into a young man's life, because they've experienced it with their own son.  So it just keeps a guy – it keeps his wheels greased, to be a contributor to Kingdom things the rest of his life.

Dennis: I had a lunch like this this past week with a young man, and he started out, he said, "You know, Mr. Rainey, you're awfully busy.  Why would you take any time for me?"  And I said, "Oh, my goodness, this is such a privilege to listen to your story and hear how God is at work in your life; to be able to cheer you on and just – if I can do nothing more than just encourage you in the process, as a man, as you hammer out where He's taking you, that's a great honor and a great privilege."

 And, Robert, I never thought of it in that way, but I don't have any sons at home anymore, and the reason I had lunch with him, as I told him, I said, "You know what?  This is reality.  It's connecting me with a living human being who is struggling and going through a change of direction in his life, his vocation, and wants to talk about it with an older man who doesn't have an agenda."  And I don't.

Robert: See, Dennis, you know the power of vision.  That's what I want every dad to know the power of vision, how it harnesses all those undefined energies to live in a constructive, noble way.  And once you've done it with your sons, you can do it for a lifetime.

 So what I've enjoyed most – Bob asked me the question, what were the things I look back on and say were the defining moments was leading my sons to Christ, it was doing ceremonies with my sons, the third thing was doing special, one-on-one times especially during the teenage years, taking my sons away – just me and one son – and doing something together to build a memory.  Those things – the things that happened on those special one-on-one getaways bonded us in ways that even to this day we look back on – I remember taking Mason up to the mountains of Wyoming and climbing a mountain together, and, to this day, we look back and what we experience together, climbing that mountain over two days, and the thrills and the fears and the conversations – it was just him and his dad.  And, let me tell you, nothing – I don't think there's hardly anything else to see a guy tear up on when he's 50, 60 years old, and he starts talking about a time when it was just me and dad together. 

 I walked into a prominent businessman's office one day, and there on his credenza was a picture.  It was a picture of him and his dad duck hunting, and I said to him, "Oh, look at that.  You and your dad were duck hunting years ago?"  He said, "Oh, yeah."  I said, "I bet you enjoyed doing that a lot with your dad."  And he said to me, "No," he said, "My dad was really busy.  That's the only time we ever went hunting."  But where is it?  It's enshrined on his desk, and he lives in that memory when it was just me and my dad.

 There's been scientific research that says most people live in their memories.  It's a large part of their life.  It's where they draw energy, or they draw things that de-energize them, and what you want to leave in your son are powerful memories that when he's at a down moment or when he's struggling or even when he's having a good time, he can go and revisit and re-energize.

Dennis: And, you know, as you were talking, my mind went back.  In fact, I can almost still hear the crunch of the leaves and the frosty wind on my face of going quail hunting with my daddy.  But those were great moments, and my dad didn't have the privilege of going through Men's Fraternity.  He had never read "Raising a Modern Day Knight."  He came from a broken home and, for all practical purposes, my dad shouldn't have been able to have done what he did, which was, really, put a lot of blocks in a young man's life, my life, to help me become whoever I am, as a man, and I just – when I first started out in a marriage, Robert, and I know you'll identify with this, a lot of what I look back on was the character and integrity of Hook Rainey, who had a curve ball that was wicked; who played catch with a boy on the front lawn day after day after day and imparted his life.  And even though he didn't do it nearly as purposefully as how you're instructing dads to do it here, he still did it and you know what?  I'm still going to the bank on it, just what you're talking about.

Robert: And it paid off, and, I tell you, Dennis, the thing – even just talking about this for a moment, you know, it's almost like we could shut the radio program down and just remember some special moments like that, because they're so pleasant, even now, thinking about it.  But what I want more than anything else is to have legions of sons who can tell a story like that.

Dennis: We do, too; we do, too.  Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.

Robert: It's been a privilege.

Bob: It's a major investment of your life over the last 20 years as you've coached dads on this subject, and some of that coaching has undoubtedly led to some of the memories that you're talking about, where dads have been intentional to connect heart-to-heart with their sons and pass on some wisdom and equip their sons to embrace God's perspective of manhood.  And I think, thanks to this DVD series that you and Dennis have done together, there are going to be a lot more dads who are going to be better equipped as they sit around in a small group and explore what it means to be a man and to raise sons who embrace that biblical picture of manhood.

 We've got copies of the video series in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and any of our listeners who are interested in finding out more about it, you can go online at, click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the screen.  That will take you right to the page where you can get information not only about the video curriculum but about the book, "Raising a Modern Day Knight," and other resources that are available including the book you wrote for couples called "Rocking the Roles," that helps couples understand our specific responsibilities in marriage.  And any of our listeners who are interested in getting the "Rocking the Roles" book together with "Raising a Modern Day Knight," we'll send to you at no additional cost the CDs that feature our conversation this week with Dr. Robert Lewis.  You can request those when you order online at  Again, go to our website, click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and someone on our team can help you with any questions you have about the video series or about the books.  Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll make sure to get these resources sent out to you.

 You know, I know that some of our listeners, when they do get in touch with us, make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  They recognize the fact that we are listener-supported; that we depend on donations from listeners to be able to continue this program on their station and on stations all across the country, and we thought that during the month of June we wanted to do something as a way to say thank you for those of you who are able to help us with a donation this month.  And we were thinking about a program we did not long ago with Elyse Fitzpatrick on the subject of eating.  Elyse has written a book called "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat," talking about how we can look more biblically at the whole subject of eating and avoid not only unhealthy but unbiblical approaches to food.

 There were many of you who contacted us when Elyse was on the air and said you wanted a copy of her book and the audio CD that goes with it, and we thought that this month we'd love to send that audio CD to any of you who would help with a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You can make that donation online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, and, in either case, just mention that you'd like the audio CD from Elyse Fitzpatrick.  We'll send it out to you.  If you're filling out the form online, when you come to the keycode box, if you just write the word "Eat" in that keycode box, we'll know that you want the CD sent to you and, again, we want to do this as our way of saying thanks for your support of this ministry.  We appreciate your prayers, we appreciate your financial partnership with us, and we appreciate you listening to FamilyLife Today.

 Well, I hope you have a great week.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in church, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday when we're going to meet a remarkable man who grew up in a remarkable home with a remarkable father – R.V. Brown joins us, and we're going to hear about his family and how his dad shaped his life.  I hope you can tune in for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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