Several years ago, DeWayne Washington had a vision to reach young men in his community who were struggling. Now, as founder of the Gentlemen's Society, DeWayne talks about the curriculum he developed that is changing directionless boys into thriving young men.
Several years ago, DeWayne Washington had a vision to reach young men in his community who were struggling. Now, as founder of the Gentlemen's Society, DeWayne talks about the curriculum he developed that is changing directionless boys into thriving young men.
Bob: When a young man signs up to be a part of DeWayne Washington’s Gentlemen’s Society, he’s given an assignment. He is to go meet with his high school principal and tell him something like this—
DeWayne: “Hey, I’m a part of this organization now, Gentlemen’s Society; and it’s charging me to become a better man. If there is some advice that you have for me—you can help me along the way; let me know. If you see me acting in a way that’s not being a gentleman, let me know, as well, so I can straighten up. And, If you need anything, know that I am here to help you out because that is part of my charge of being a gentleman.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife® Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. DeWayne Washington joins us today to tell us how he turns young men into gentlemen. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition—now on the countdown—week here before Christmas. Everybody is excited about the Christmas holidays, but we’re also excited about what has been happening here at FamilyLife with a growing matching-gift fund. Now, we’re praying that our FamilyLife Today listeners will come along and say, “We’ll help you take advantage of that matching gift.”
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Today, we’re going to be talking about equipping young men to know how to be men. I wish I could ask every listener right now, “Just look at your radio. Look at there. You don’t have the dial like you used to have, but I want you to think about all the stations. How many of them are all about helping you in life’s most important commitments?—your relationship with God, your spouse, and your children? Well, that’s what we’re about here every day on FamilyLife Today.
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You know, I just had the sense, when I came in here today, that this is one of those days—Dennis is going to get—the juices are just going to get flowing.
Dennis: The soap box has been pulled out and is on the table. (Laughter)
Bob: This is something that you’re passionate about.
Dennis: I really am. I just want to start by reminding our listeners—over in the book of First Kings—David is in the process of dying; and in Chapter 2, he pulls his son apart. He says to his son, “I’m about to die. Be strong and show yourself a man.” That little snapshot of that deathbed statement by David to Solomon is—I think, Bob, it encapsulates a lot of truth we’re missing today with younger men. Younger men need an older man in their lives to call them to step up.
We’ve got a guy in the studio who has been doing that for a number of years. DeWayne Washington joins us on FamilyLife Today. DeWayne, you agree with that, don’t you?
DeWayne: You know, I would agree with that as long as we put it in there that I’m standing on the shoulders of those that stepped up long before I did.
Dennis: Yes. Well, glad you join us here on FamilyLife Today. I agree with that.
DeWayne is a pastor. He is a father of four children. He is the husband of Tanisha, for 16 years. He has founded a group of young men between the ages of 8 and 18 called The Gentlemen’s Society.
DeWayne: Yes, sir.
Dennis: Explain what that is.
DeWayne: What we do at The Gentlemen’s Society is—we take, like you’ve said, those kids between 8 and 18. We train them how to become gentlemen. We do about 23 different courses—everything from speech and communication, anger management, behavior modification. You name it. Everything that a father would teach his kid before he’s 18, we have a course for that.
Bob: You’re doing this in a culture where a lot of these young men don’t have fathers.
DeWayne: An overwhelming majority of the young men that come through our program do not have—not only don’t have a father in their life—many of them don’t have a male figurehead in their life at all.
Bob: In fact, you were telling us about a meeting that you had where you kind of made that point clear; right?
DeWayne: Right. A few years ago, we brought all the sites together in Fort Worth, and we start asking them questions. Basically, if you could answer, “Yes,” to the question, you could remain standing; but if you could not answer, “Yes,” then, you had to sit down.
So, we had everyone stand up. All the young gentlemen stood up, and the very first question that we asked was, “Have you ever met your father?” About 50 percent of them were gone right away—never even met their father.
Actually, Bob, we were really just asking one question, “Do you have your father at home with you right now?” In other words, “When you go home today, will your father be there? Do you have a father that you live with?”
Out of all the people that were there, only one of those gentlemen had a father at home—just one. That will tell you the type of situation that we are looking at. All these kids—they don’t have a father.
Dennis: DeWayne, you’ve worked in youth ministry for a number of years. You’re now a pastor. How important do you think a father is? Now, this is just kind of like playing softball right now. I’m giving you a slow pitch, right over the middle of the plate. I mean, how absolutely important are fathers in the process of raising young men?
DeWayne: You know, it’s kind of like this. If I wanted to—you say softball—if I wanted to become a softball player, the very first thing I would do is find a good softball player, or at least find a video of softball players, and go to school.
Dennis: So, you’d know what one looks like.
DeWayne: So, you know what one looks like. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re doing the right thing? If you don’t have a father in your life, how in the world would you know how to be a good father or a good husband?
Now, the thing that messes up our society is that if you don’t know how to be a good husband or a good father, then that spills over to your community. Are you a great community leader? Probably not. So, you are helping to destroy the fabric of our community all because there’s not a good, strong male role model in your life.
Bob: Did you grow up with a strong dad in your home, teaching you what it meant to be a man?
DeWayne: Actually, I did not have a strong man in my house. What I was blessed to have is—that as I grew up, I had different type of mentors in my life. They may not have been in my house, but I was blessed to have—for example, in business, I had people that were able to oversee me, be my mentor, and show me about business.
Even in running youth organizations, I had those that were older than me—several generations older that were able to say, “Well, DeWayne, this is what you want to do here. This is what you want to look out for. This is the type of insurance you want to have.”
One of the things that scared me to death, as I was getting older, was getting married.
Dennis: You’re not the first man to be scared to death about getting married. (Laughter)
DeWayne: I’m telling you, Dennis, it scared me so bad because after I asked my wife to marry me, it dawned on me, “I’ve never seen this done right.” (Laughter)
DeWayne: Like, “How in the world?!”
Dennis: What’s that supposed to do? What’s that supposed to look like?
DeWayne: Exactly. What is it supposed to look like? If you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, you don’t know if you’ve got it right or wrong.
So, one of the things that I did—I’m so glad God had me interview, literally, hundreds of couples—those that were still together after 50 years, those who had broke up after six days, and everything in between. Even those—what scared me the most were those that had been married for 20 years and, then, decided to call it quits after 20 years.
In that, there is a lot of insight that you can gather from that. Then, you pick your mentors from there—from those people who have been married forever—and they’re still married, and they still like each other. They can tell you, and they can show you, “Here is how you become a great father, husband, or what have you.”
Dennis: You and I both were kind of laughing about the slow-pitch illustration. If you wanted to play softball, you would find somebody who had played the game so you knew what it looked like.
Tell us about one young man who has come to your society, The Gentlemen’s Society, recently. Just give us a picture of where he’s come from, what his frame of reference is, and how he’s coming into your group to get these 24 different courses that you teach.
DeWayne: You know I can—there are so many stories. There’s one that sticks out. There was a young gentleman who—he, actually, started gang activity. He joined a gang at 11. For those of those who don’t know, the average age of individuals that join gangs is actually nine years old. A lot of people didn’t realize that. So, at 11, he was two years late.
Dennis: In other words, they are looking for a place to belong; and a gang gives them a chance to identify with other young men who are older than them.
DeWayne: Kind of. I mean, one of the things I talk about in Gentlemen’s Society a lot is that if I can control what you see and what you hear, I can control to some degree what you think.
One of the things that we talk about is the war that is going on right now. Well, a lot of them have never been to Afghanistan or been to Iraq; but we believe it because of what we’ve seen and heard. So, these kids grow up in this mentality.
This particular kid—his whole family was into drug activity. So, for him, it’s, “This is what I’m supposed to do. When I look around, this is what I see. It’s the route I’m going to go.” For example, if we flip the script, there are people who have graduated from Yale. They look at their son and say, “Okay, you’re going to follow in my footsteps.” That kid thinks, “Okay, I’m going to go to Yale because that is—my whole family went to Yale. My dad went to Yale. My mom went to Yale. That’s where I’m going to go.” Well, if you take the opposite of that, that’s the mentality that we have with some of these young boys.
He had started gang activity at 11. Long story short, he got involved with our organization. He turned his life around, did a lot of wonderful things, turned into a straight-A student. We spent a lot of time up at the school in between that. He had been kicked out of school and everything else. Long story short, the kid is a straight-A student, just graduated, on his way to A&M.
We had another kid that just graduated—
Bob: Wait. Wait. Before you go to another kid, I want to know how did this young man, at age 11, who’s already starting to hang around with the gangs—how does he even show up on the doorstep of The Gentlemen’s Society?
DeWayne: I should backtrack. We originally started The Gentlemen’s Society as part of our church. I was a youth pastor at that time. We had a lot of programs for young women—nothing for young men. So, The Gentlemen’s Society came out of that.
He happened to be part of that ministry. At the time—our ministry believes in reaching the hopeless while serving the needy. At that time, he was a part of our ministry. He’s part of our youth ministry. He just kind of got inducted by default. We talked to him all the time. He talks about being original GS, OGS—OG, OGS.
Anyway, he was kind of inducted early on automatically. For whatever reason, when I first met this kid, there was just something about him. I told his mom, I said, “You know what? This kid is going to go to college. We’re going to help him get there no matter what we have to do.” I’m getting chills. I might tear up a little bit, but this last May—May or June—was his graduation.
I’m sitting next to his mom when she turns to me and she said, “You told me that he was going to graduate from high school, first of all; and he’s going to go to college.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram did a story on him. As we were sitting there, we were looking at his different acceptance letters to several colleges. He had different options. So, it was just a wonderful thing to see that progression and knowing that we were, at least, a part of that changing of the mentalities.
Dennis: You know, as you are talking, I keep thinking of the book, First Thessalonians, Chapter 2, where Paul talked repeatedly about how he had behaved in front of this church and this group of believers to disciple them. I want to read this here because this is really what you’re doing with these young men.
He says in verse 11 of Chapter 2, “For you know how we, like a father with his children, we exhorted each of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God who calls you into His kingdom and glory.” Now a dad—a dad is supposed to charge, to encourage, exhort, and call them up. That’s normative; but when dad’s not there, all of those muscles don’t get built—
Dennis: —in a young man’s soul and life to be able to step up.
Dennis: One of the reasons why Bob and I want to talk with you is—I happen to believe there are men listening right now—single men, married men, dads who already have got more than enough kids to say grace over—but who have been stirred by the Spirit of God to do something about some of these young men who don’t have a daddy in their lives.
What you’re talking about doing here through The Gentlemen’s Society is to provide that kind of role model and spiritual infusion to take Jesus Christ close to these young men, wrap flesh around it, and show them how to do life. That’s normative.
DeWayne: Exactly. You know, you’re going to get me all excited here. (Laughter) You mentioned—
Dennis: Bob warned you on the front-end.
DeWayne: I’m loving this! You mentioned charge; right? I love that word, “charge” because we actually have that written into our program. At the end of every single session, we have something called a charge. In other words, “Here’s an opportunity for you to go and do something that you just learned.” It’s a specific charge.
Now, sometimes, it’s just as simple as you have to go and set up a meeting with your principal; for example, that’s one of our charges. We have another charge when we go through speech and—
Dennis: Hold it. Hold it. What would a boy do in setting up a meeting with a principal? What’s he going to do with it?
DeWayne: Well, that’s just it. It’s actually threefold. It’s kind of—number one: they’ve never done it. That’s a guarantee. I’ve yet to have a kid that has done it.
Bob: Usually, the principal is setting up the meeting with the boy. (Laughter)
DeWayne: Usually, it’s the other way around. So, what it’s doing—number one—is taking something they never thought about—didn’t think it’s possible—and it empowers that kid to say, “I have the ability to control some of my destiny.” In other words, “You are the head person, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been given the ability to sit down in front of the kings and queens. Now, my gift will make room for me.” So, I’m able to do that; right? (Laughter)
Not only can you do that—now once you get there, there are a couple things you have to do. Now, we don’t—we tell them kind of what to talk about, but they don’t really realize, “Why?”—you know—they never—I’ve never found one that actually catches it. Later on, some of them catch it.
First thing, they have to tell them that, “Hey, I’m a part of this organization now, Gentlemen’s Society. It’s charging me to become a better man. So, if there is some advice that you have for me that can help me along the way, let me know. If you see me acting in a way that’s not being a gentleman, let me know as well so I can straighten up; and if you need anything, know that I am here to help you out because that is part of my charge of being a gentleman.”
DeWayne: Now, what happens is that two things. Number one: The empowerment that they get when they’re able to get that done is just unparallel. I mean, they literally change when they’re like, “Wow! I can actually do that. I’m not a victim.” We teach them all the time, “Everything is your fault.” There’s no victim. “If it’s raining, it’s your fault.” Period. “Everything is your fault.” (Laughter) So, “Figure it out. Grab an umbrella so it doesn’t affect you, but it’s your fault.”
Dennis: You know, we’re laughing about this; but honestly, in that sub-culture of gangs, it’s real easy to begin to think, and act, and live as a victim—
Dennis: —where they take no responsibility for anything.
DeWayne: Right. We do the opposite, “Everything is your fault.”
As a matter of fact, we do a lot of work with children that live in the projects. Some of them are really, really young—10, 11, 12 years old. We’ll tell them—they’ll say, “Well, I can’t do that. I live in the projects.” I’m like, “Well, first of all, it’s your fault that you’re in the projects.” They’re like, “Well, it’s not my fault. My mom lives here.” I said, “It’s your fault. I know some kids that are younger than you that used their talents, skill, and ability; and now, they’re living in mansions. What are you doing?” (Laughter)
If you’re not—once again, “It’s your fault. Don’t wait for anyone else to do anything. You have some talents, skill, and ability; you can do it, too.” So, we go through all these things to teach them that, “You are empowered to change your situation.”
Think about it—if you are a group of 20 kids in an elementary school, in the middle of the projects, and you’re looking for a suit and tie, how many companies would love to sponsor that so that they don’t have to see people sagging their pants? They would love to do that, but you’re empowered to make that happen. You make that happen; I’m not going to make that happen. You look—God has given you everything that you need at your fingertips. The problem is you just have not reached out and grabbed it.
So, what we do is say, “You’re not a victim; you’re a victor. We’re going to teach and give you the skills that you already have inside of you—just going to cultivate those and make you the lion that you really are so that you can dominate your domain.”
Dennis: You know, I’m listening to you here; and I’ve had this thought three times in the conversation. So, I’m going to do something I’ve never done here on FamilyLife Today. Bob’s going to look at me and go, “What in the world is he getting ready to offer right now?”
Here’s what I want to do. How many young men do you have in The Gentlemen’s Society right now in the Fort Worth area?
DeWayne: In the Fort Worth area, we usually do about—we usually do about two to three hundred a year. This year will be a little bit more. It’ll just get over a thousand.
Dennis: A thousand.
DeWayne: For this year, coming up.
Dennis: (Laughter) Well, that’s a little more than what I was thinking about; but you know what, we’ll still do it. Alright. Here’s what I want to do. I would like to supply a book I’ve just finished for men, and for young men, and for boys called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. What I’d like to do is—I’m going to offer you, if you want them—now, you don’t have to take them—
DeWayne: The answer is, “Yes.” (Laughter)
Dennis: —if you don’t want them. Well, you don’t even know what’s in there; so, you better make sure you read it first, okay? I’d like to offer you all 1,000.
DeWayne: Oh, wow!
Dennis: No cost.
Dennis: Now, here’s the kicker. I could do that, okay? We could just make that available from FamilyLife, but I would be robbing people who would like to be a part of what you are doing—who’d like to help supply 1,000 books to The Gentlemen’s Society in Fort Worth—
Dennis: —and so all day today, starting at the beginning of—at sunrise, when our broadcast starts being heard in Detroit and Washington, D.C., on WABA, the phones will be open. You can call in and say how many books you’d like to give.
Dennis: Give the money to help pay for the books, and we make the books available to The Gentlemen’s Society. We call some young men to step up because that’s exactly what you are doing. I think you are going to see, as you read this book, how important it is that an older man supply a book like this to a younger man. We need to be doing this all across the country, frankly.
There’s a bunch of boys and young men who don’t have the foggiest idea of what a man is or what a man does. That’s what you are talking about in The Gentlemen’s Society. It’s talking about finding your identity in Jesus Christ—not below your belt and not with women—but in a right relationship with God through Christ—then, start stepping up, and being courageous, and making a difference, where God has you.
Bob: I think, if we’re going to do this, though, we need to add a little stipulation. I think, that is, if you’ll pass these books along to these young men, the only requirement—the only thing we’re asking back from them—is when they’re done, we want them to write a book report and mail it off to us.
DeWayne: We’re going to require that anyway. That’s what I was just about to say. We have to—it has to be a charge with that.
Dennis: I like that. Yes. I like that idea.
DeWayne: I was just about to offer the same thing.
Dennis: So, I’m looking forward to 1,000 book reports.
DeWayne: There we go; me, too.
Dennis: I want to know—here’s the bottom line of the book report: “What is your action point”—
Dennis: —“for stepping up as a young man? It’s exactly like your charge you give them at the end of all 24 of those courses you teach.
Dennis: Make it practical, apply it to your life, and let’s see what happens. Then, you know what? When we get the book report, we’ll have DeWayne back on here. We’ll have you have a book report to our listening audience who helped fund this deal.
DeWayne: You know what? I’m going to take it a step farther. Not only are we going to say that they need to supply us with a book report; but I need to know, “What other young man you’re going to supply this book with so that they will be able to help step up as well?”
Dennis: Yes, pass it on.
DeWayne: Yes, got to pass it on.
Dennis: Pass it on.
Bob: Alright; so, if you’re interested in helping us send some of these books to these young men at The Gentlemen’s Society in Fort Worth, Texas—1,000 books—go to FamilyLifeToday.com; click the button that says, “I Care”, and make an end-of-the-year donation.
The good news is—when you make that donation, not only are you helping us send these books to Fort Worth, but that donation is going to be doubled because of the matching-gift opportunity that has been made available to us that has now gone past $3.5 million and is continuing to grow.
So, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I Care”, and make a donation. Again, not only will your donation be matched, but you’ll be helping us get these books in the hands of these young men in Fort Worth, Texas. We’ll report back to you when we get some of these book reports. We’ll post them on the web and share with you what these young men have been learning.
If you don’t have a copy of Dennis’ book for yourself, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and order a copy of the book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call us toll-free to request a copy of the book—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Once again, thanks to all of you who are helping us toward our year-end matching-gift goal. We do appreciate hearing from you—got a ways to go before we’re going to get near that $3.5 million mark.
There’s still a chance that number is going to grow here in the last week. So, if you can help with the year-end gift, we would love to hear from you. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, make an online donation; or call us toll-free at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Be sure to join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to talk more with DeWayne Washington about the good work that he is doing in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and hear about how that idea can be replicated in other cities all around the country. Hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today—his name is Keith Lynch—and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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