Making an Impact on Young Men
Dr. Harold Davis, president of the TALKS Mentoring Movement, shares about the young men he mentors. Without fathers in their lives, these young men are getting their cues from the street and making poor choices. Davis tells how mentoring these young men and exposing them to the gospel is changing lives and investing in their future.
About the Guest
Dr. Harold Davis shares about the young men he mentors. Without fathers in their lives, these young men are getting their cues from the street and making poor choices.
Making an Impact on Young Men
Bob: When Dr. Harold Davis sits down to mentor elementary school-aged young men, there are certain things he wants to make sure they internalize as they begin the mentoring process.
Harold: We have thesis statements. The boy’s thesis statement says that every boy needs a man in his face, challenging him with wisdom regarding critical issues and decisions in his life. Every boy needs a man who will firmly, and unflinchingly, and lovingly correct him with wisdom when he’s made a bad decision. Our prisons are full of young men who had no one to get in their face, telling them that they were wrong, and then provide them with a solution. Boys memorize that in the third grade. And yes; they can.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday; April 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Where do you start and what’s the process to follow if you want to help a young boy become a young man? We’re going to talk with Harold Davis about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think all we have to do is kind of look around at—whether it’s headlines or even the community you live in—it doesn’t’ take long to recognize that, when the family structure is not what God designed it to be, the cracks in the foundation of a society start to show up; don’t they?
Dennis: And the cracks get wider; and if they aren’t addressed, Bob, they will completely cause a society to implode.
Dennis: I think we are in very dangerous territory today because of the breakdown of the family in all segments of society.
We’ve got a friend with us today. There are those that—Bob, you and I have on the broadcast here—a kindred spirit. Then, there are those who are kindred spirits squared. [Laughter]
Dr. Harold Davis joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back after 19 years!
Harold: It’s been a minute, and it certainly is a pleasure to be back.
Dennis: It is good to have you back. I doubt if any of our listeners, listening right now, will remember—but there may be some who will remember Harold Davis. He is the head of TALKS Mentoring and has given leadership to that all the way back to the mid-‘90s. He and his wife Ollie have four children. He works at Grace Fellowship Church in Champagne, Illinois.
Harold: That’s right.
Dennis: I just think that guys like Harold are heroes, Bob; because they’re doing the work at the grassroots, where it really matters. I think, Harold, what you are doing here in the mentoring program is desperately needed.
Bob: You saw the issue that we are talking about here—the breakdown of the family—the fact that young people are growing up without a lot of guidance and direction from moms and dads.
You said, “We have to do something about this.”
Harold: “We have to do something about it.” It started many years ago, but the need is even greater today than it was then. It bothers me a little bit that I would think we would be winning by now, but we’re not. We’re still in need of warriors to get up and get involved and use the power of God to change lives.
Dennis: And that’s exactly what we’re doing on this broadcast. We’re going to take you near, as a listener, what’s taking place in boys’ and girls’ lives—single moms / single dads—where the family breaks up and the debris is all over the place. I want you to do that just right off the bat here, Harold. Take us into the epicenter of how this is happening; and introduce us to a boy or girl, who is really kind of a prototype of what we’re talking about here.
Harold: Well, that boy or girl could be in high school, they could be in the juvenile detention center, or they could be on the street. They are without guidance.
It terrifies me to think, right now in this day and age, what it would be like not to have the guidance of a father / not to have the restraint that a father provides. We all need restraints in our lives. We have young boys that are growing up without restraints / without the guidance, and the end result is many bad decisions. It behooves us to provide them with the wisdom that they need.
TALKS stands for T-A-L-K-S: Transferring a Little Knowledge Systematically. It’s all about getting the wisdom from the older generation down to the younger generation. If you stop and think about it, that’s been the way that all cultures have done it since any of us can look back and remember. We’re not doing it today. Our children are learning from the wrong people. I remember, back in the day when we were young, we had our artists and our music people that we got down with and partied with; but we also had to go to church on Sunday—
—we got the balance—plus, we had the restraining forces of mom and dad.
Dennis: —and the barber.
Harold: —and everybody.
Dennis: As you walked down the street, you had people looking out for kids in the community.
Harold: —in the community. I was with two little boys in a middle school—one was a little white boy / one was a little black boy. The little black boy said that he lives with his granny. He says: “I live with my granny. This Friday, they’re getting a babysitter and she’s going to go to the club.” They named the club, which is a strip club, and everybody in my city knows this. The little white boy said, “My auntie dances at the club.” The little black boy said, “Well, they don’t wear any clothes when they dance at that club; do they?” The little white boy said, “Well, I think my auntie wears clothes.”
I am sitting here, listening to them talk and I said: “Granny’s going to the club / auntie’s dancing in the club. Who’s baking the cookies?!”
Harold: I’m telling you! So we’ve got a situation. Now, it’s not every family / it’s not everybody; but the percentage is absolutely too high.
I remember when I was in the projects, as a kid—all the dads were there—nine out of ten dads were there in the projects, as a kid. It’s just the flip now, and many dads are not there. Those voids are going to affect our society—the whole of society. It’s not like it used to be. I remember, years ago, one of my neighbors said, “I’m moving a little further out to get away from the negativity.” Well, negativity is everywhere—it’s on the internet—it’s coming in your home, and it’s a battle for the minds.
I believe that the church that Jesus Christ died for is the only help. It’s the only remedy for these problems that we’re looking at.
Bob: Harold, you knew, as a dad, you had a responsibility with the kids who were growing up in your house. You needed to have talks with them and to transfer knowledge onto them. But there came a point, as you were raising your own kids, when you thought: “I can’t just stop with my kids.
“I’ve got to do this with other kids, who aren’t getting this kind of guidance.” When did that dawn on you, and how did you begin to engage in that?
Harold: Right; well, it dawned on me, maybe when they were in junior high school. I remember one day—at the time, my wife was driving a Lincoln Continental; and I had an old Mercedes that was kind of my toy. We made a mistake, and we both showed up at the middle school to pick our kids up. She pulled up in a Lincoln Continental—it wasn’t spanking brand-new, but it was a big car / it was impressive. I showed up in my old Mercedes. The kids began to tease my children and tell them that: “You’re rich! You guys are rich!” They began to hate on them and give them a hard time.
I saw that and I thought to myself, “My kids have got to function and matriculate in this environment with these children.” I said, “I need to go into the school and do what I can to let the children know me. I need to be around for my kids,” you know.
The schools have changed, and they can be very—they can be a threatening place.
Dennis: So let’s just put it in terms of what you’re doing tomorrow morning here, after this broadcast today, you’re hanging around.
Dennis: Tomorrow morning, you’re taking some of the—I assume guys—I don’t know if there any girls on the list.
Harold: Yes; they’re on the list too.
Dennis: Okay; so they’re going too. You’re going to take them and do what?
Harold: Well, we’re going to do a TALKS mentoring training in the morning. First of all, I haven’t been here in a long time. This facility has grown—you have a lot of people here. First thing I saw, when I pulled up was mentors—it’s a lot of mentors in this building!
There are two elementary schools very close—so a few people are going to get trained in the morning. We’re going to run to the elementary school and introduce the principal to the program. We have great anecdotal data. Matter of fact, two PhDs have done their dissertations with TALKS and three masters degrees have done their dissertations with TALKS—so we’re going to go meet the principal.
We’re going to tell her what we’re going to do.
Dennis: Okay now. Hold on. You’re just going to take half a dozen, maybe, parents with you. And you’re going to walk right into the school tomorrow morning—
Harold: That’s correct; that’s correct.
Dennis: —8:30 / 9:00 after school started.
Harold: Yes; we’re going to introduce ourselves to the principal—let her know we’re going to mentor: “We have mentors for you.” And again, TALKS mentoring is different. It’s not like you sit down and say: “Hi, how are you doing? How’s your day going?”
We have thesis statements. The boys’ thesis statement says that every boy needs a man in his face, challenging him with wisdom regarding critical issues and decisions in his life. Every boy needs a man who will firmly and unflinchingly and lovingly correct him, with wisdom, when he’s made a bad decision. Our prisons are full of young men who had no one to get in their face, telling them that they were wrong, and then provide them with a solution. Boys memorize that in the third grade. And yes; they can—they have that capacity.
We have high expectations of the children we mentor; okay? So they’re memorizing many different things—various quotes—
—all designed to give them a paradigm. See, you need a paradigm. If you stop and think about it, the Bible gives us a paradigm. Bob, I’m not supposed to kill. Why?—because the Bible says so. I’m not supposed to steal. Dennis, that’s a nice jacket you have on. I would really like it—I would really like it, but I’m not supposed to steal it. Because why? The Bible says—the Bible puts us in a box—it puts us in a paradigm.
We have a society that has rejected the Bible; so we go into the public schools and we give children paradigms through the quotes. The thesis statement teaches us to respect adults—realize that, when they challenge you, they have your best interests at heart. We have all types of quotes that the children memorize—we share wisdom. It’s about giving the children a way to think and think about this. The memorization of wisdom is a prerequisite and a preparation for the memorization of Scripture.
Bob: There are some listeners who are hearing us talk about this and going:
“I think it would be great if moms and dads were at the local elementary or junior high saying, ‘We’d love to mentor three or four students—take an hour a week—take them through some of the material you have developed,” which is a part of what makes it easy; because you’ve got the topics, you’ve got the outlines, you’ve got videos that mentors and kids can watch together. But they are thinking, “If I go into my local elementary school and they find out I am a Christian, they’re going to shut this down immediately.”
Harold: Well, the Lord is good. I used to be an elementary school music specialist—I taught elementary school music. I know where the lines are that you can’t cross. The first book I wrote, Talks My Father Never Had with Me, was for the black church. It was filled with Scripture. I remember my neighbor was a middle school principal. I went to my mailbox—he was at his mailbox. He said: “I saw the book—great book. But it’s got too much God stuff in it. Can you fix it so that we can use it in school?”
And we did—we have quotes from famous Americans.
We also have quotes from Peter the fisherman and Paul of Tarsus and other people. It’s literature—it’s legal. We go in as citizens: “That’s my school too. I pay taxes. That’s my school too. I have a right to come in here. I’m not preaching the Bible, but I am preaching the principles of the Bible, which everybody needs.”
Bob: This is not designed to be evangelistic—at least, overtly or on the frontend. This is designed to be character formation—
Bob: —transference of wisdom, as you said. It’s really about what makes a healthy society and a healthy culture, which the Bible clearly speaks to.
But I’m looking at the subjects. I’m looking at one of your books, which is called Talking Through Transitions. In here, you talk about subjects like excessive television viewing,—
Bob: —refusing to do things because you don’t understand, unaddressed anger,—
Bob: —not being able to read, understanding the power of sex, and getting caught in the trap of drugs. These are things these kids are facing every day.
You’re just saying, “Let’s talk about how we navigate these issues so you don’t get caught in the trap.”
Dennis: Bob, here’s another one. If you don’t think this is relevant today—Chapter Five?—this is a talk—a talk you have with the young person—“A Tendency Toward Violence...”
Harold: A “Tendency Toward Violence.”
Dennis: It says: “…an Indication that You Are at Risk.”
Dennis: You’re helping the child know how to cope with a culture that is putting them at risk!
Dennis: And it’s an adult doing that, which is what the child needs.
Harold: Yes; yes. I really got some issues. I have to be careful right now, because I am not in my pulpit; but—
Dennis: This is a pretty good pulpit.
Harold: Yes, it is; but it—
Dennis: You can let it go, Harold. You can let it go.
Harold: Okay. These are what I call smut TV. I am so embarrassed / I am so angry when I turn—I don’t watch it—but every now and then I am in an environment where it is on and I have to watch it, like in my auto repair shop or somewhere.
The people who go on smut TV and share their personal problems with somebody—who is exploiting them for the ratings—that just galls me. I am on a personal campaign to get black people to turn their TV off. It’s just bugging me to death.
We used to go to the pastor. The pastor would solve all your problems—work it out with you—if you needed to holler at each other in the pastor’s office [Laughter]—but now people don’t have pastors, and they’re taking their personal and private business on public TV. The reason I’m saying this is—I’ve been in some homes where I’ve seen the mother sitting and watching this, totally engrossed. I’ve seen the children sitting down and watch it beside them. How are these kids going to have a decent relationship?
Harold: HOW?! Learning the way you deal is—you always fight—because they always fight on these TV shows. It’s absolutely insane and degrading.
Dennis: It normalizes disrespectful behavior, which [respectful behavior] every child must learn from their parents. If we don’t teach it to them, where are they going to get it?
Harold: I’m so excited. My church, Grace Fellowship Church—we’re just going out and getting people. Man, people are hungry. The Lord has gifted me with the ability to stop anybody and talk to them. I have that gift, because I have a secret weapon; and it’s called the Holy Spirit.
Bob: That’s right.
Harold: When I get up in the morning, I put Him on. He’s the bumper as I go around and I bump into people / I talk to people. The first thing they detect from me is the Spirit of God, and it puts them at ease. I’m inviting people to the church. We’re getting—I don’t want anybody from anybody else’s church—we want totally non-churched people / people who come in, who know nothing. They are completely—what do you say?—wet behind the ears. We’re building a church based on the hunger and the need that’s out there. It’s incredible.
Dennis: That’s really why you wrote the book, Talking Through Transitions,which was for a single mom—
Dennis: —who is coaching her son through a number of dangerous issues in the culture. This is meant to equip her to be able to do that; or put it in the hands of another adult, who can take this book and put it in the hands of a single mom.
Harold: Yes; sure. Well, it’s specifically for black boys. There’s a video that goes with it that has four successful black men discussing the pertinent chapters in the book. My favorite chapter is the one on father issues, where these four successful men, unscripted, begin to discuss their hurts and their pains. That father issue comes up, and we’re almost at the point of tears and they talk about—it’s so incredible / it just blew me away. The Spirit of God just took over in the video session and just kind of blew me away—that how people have daddy issues / people have daddy issues—grown people have daddy issues.
I married a couple—highly intelligent couple—both of them were lawyers. We had extensive premarital counseling—intense/extensive premarital counseling. They got married—beautiful wedding. Within three months, they were in crisis after the wedding. I got them together. I put on my black and white striped shirt with my whistle in my hand:
“You sit over here / you sit over here. Let’s talk.” We began to talk and discovered that she had a father and three older brothers. All of her life, men have been telling her what to do. When she put on that ring, she felt trapped. All he had to say was, “Baby, can you hand me that?”—she was like, “Don’t tell me what to do!” She had never dealt with her issues—her father issues / her scars. We have to show them and help them see it, because so many people have issues. They live and act out of those issues, not even realizing what the motivation is.
Dennis: So what you’re saying here, through your TALKS Mentoring Program, is—you’re saying that a mom / a dad can be powerful to walk into a school and get three young people using your content. They can begin to transmit this knowledge to these young people, and you’re talking about the primacy of face to face.
We’re also internet-inclined. We’re losing the personal touch of getting in another person’s grill / in their face—chest to chest or heart to heart—putting your arm around them and coaching them in how to do life.
Bob: I’m still trying to imagine myself going into my local elementary school next week and sitting down with the principal and saying, “Have you got three young boys that I could get with for an hour a week?”
Harold: Thirty minutes—you’re with them for 30 minutes.
Bob: “Thirty minutes. And we’re going to have conversations about…” and I’ll list some of these things. I’ve got your book. “I want to take them through Dr. Harold Davis’s book, Talks My Father Never Had with Me. I’m going to take them through that material.” The principal looks at it. Now, she doesn’t know me from anybody. She probably doesn’t know the students well enough to be able to think, “Well who would be the right three boys?” How does all of this come together?
Harold: Right. What we do—and again, I taught elementary school—I know the kids.
We ask for a high-performing child, a mid-performing child, and a low-performing child in the same group. Mix them up racially and everything—just mix them up and get those three different levels in there—so that’s what we do. The teacher can point those children out. We send permission slips home for the kids. I also sent a DVD home for the parents to look at, or we could do a link.
Listen to this very carefully: “It’s not a mentoring program / it’s a leadership program.” Mentoring is negative. We call it a leadership program. We tell Jerome: “Jerome, Miss Johnson says you have leadership potential. We’re putting you in the leadership program.” Jerome likes that /Jerome’s mother likes that. That’s better than—mentoring means—you have it—it has come to mean—the children have taught me that they perceive it as the fact that “I have a deficit.”
Bob: Well, here’s where I’m hoping that our listeners, who have been hearing us talk about this and are thinking: “This is something I would have a heart to do. If I just had some help, I would love to be able to sit down with a group of elementary, or junior high, or senior high students and do this kind of leadership development with them.”
You’ve created the template for making that happen. If our listeners will come to our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, we will link them to your website for the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Program. They can get access to the curriculum you’ve got / they can get access to the resources that are available. The website will give them what they need so that they could set up an appointment with the school principal and say: “This is something that I would like to begin doing with students here at your school. Is there a way to make this happen?” Or this is something a church could adopt and make a church-wide program.
I just want to encourage listeners: “Come to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link of the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Program website.
Look at what Harold has created—what he’s got available that could get you started doing this with young men and with young women,” because you’ve got curriculum for young women; right?
Bob: Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out what Harold’s got available. See if this is something you could take the initiative to begin in your community. The website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also mention, while you are there—and Harold, I don’t know if you’re aware of this—but we’ve had a lot of dads, over the last couple of years, who have in the summer months decided to take their teenage sons through our Stepping Up® video curriculum as a mentoring / as a leadership program with them. The summer months give you some extended time / opportunity—the course is ten-weeks long. There are ten sessions you go through. There’s a workbook for everybody who is going through it. You get together and watch about a 30-minute video and then have some conversation.
When this is done with dads and teenage sons together, there have been some special things happen for those parents. Let me just say to a dad, who might be listening: “If you’ve got a son who is 16, or 17, or 18, why don’t you plan a project this summer, where you and other dads get together with your son and their sons and go through the Stepping Up video series from FamilyLife? I think you’ll find it’s something that can be really helpful as you’re raising your boys to adulthood.” Find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com; or if you have any questions about any of this, call us—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.”
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We’d love to send those prayer cards out to you to encourage you to pray for one another in your marriage and to pray more regularly for your children.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow. Harold Davis is going to be here again. We’re going to continue talking about what we can do in our community to help young men and young women grow up to maturity and grow in wisdom. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with 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.
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