I do not have the space or time to do this subject justice–not to mention experience and knowledge. Two things encourage me to make a humble attempt, however. First, I’m not posing as an expert or know-it-all. I’m merely trying to jumpstart a thought process in the minds of fellow Christians who may or may not have similar concerns. Second, my employer, Dr. Albert Mohler, is writing a book on raising boys to be men that will much more expertly guide Christians in training boys to be responsible, godly, courageous men. Until that book comes out, until the comet of his wisdom strikes the earth, I guess you’re stuck with guys like me, and our acorns in the wind, our attempts to craft plans for manhood.
I’m going to go quickly here because I want to get to the college years. Before then, though, suffice it to say that a boy should be trained from birth to be a man. He should be raised and loved by a strong man of God, a man who need not have one particular temperament or personality but who should exhibit qualities of strength, godliness, humility, and gentleness. The boy should be raised to love God, to love the church, to revere his mother, to treat his sisters with care and love, and to beat up his brothers whenever the need arises. On the last point, I’m mostly joking. Brothers should be close, and boys should be taught to love one another just as they would be taught to love their sisters. Manhood does not transfer into loving care toward women and churlish boorishness (or boorish churlishness) toward men. Men can be kind to both sexes, and should be taught to do so from birth. Though mom may be especially close to the boy in his early years, dad should be right there, and should guide him into a gracious but strong manliness as the years go by. He should teach him what it means to be a man, to be a protector, provider and leader of others. He should show him what work involves, and model industriousness before him. He should encourage his son in his studies, whether done in the context of the home or the local school (especially as he gets older). Dad should discipline his son, being watchful over his boy to make sure that he learns not to mistreat others, an instinct inherent in many boys that matures into full-fledged anger and violence as the years go by. Dad should cherish his son, play sports with him, go fishing with him, read to him, and encourage his charge to be mature and responsible in all he does. The boy should come away from childhood enjoying boyhood but very much wanting to be a man–to wear his dad’s clothes, love one woman as his father does, take dominion over the earth in distinctly masculine ways.
When the boy gets to college, he should understand himself as in college not to goof off, play video games endlessly, take unchallenging courses, rebel against authority, and devote himself relentlessly to unserious things like sports and entertainment. The boy should understand himself as a man, albeit a young man, who is responsible for cultivating a life of maturity and responsibility. He has time to figure out his path, to be sure, and he should enjoy his years of study, but he enjoys them while seeking to set a course of responsibility for himself. It is on this point that I close, and that we will continue later, but not without a further word. Too many young Christian men have no such understanding of their college years. It is right to enjoy college, to enjoy close fellowship with one’s peers, to pursue recreation to some extent, but it is not right to see college as an extended summer camp. It is not good to throw one’s youthful energy and zeal into things that do not matter and causes that will not last. Our culture has wholeheartedly accepted the idea that college is a time of unbounded fun and unseriousness, and this is very harmful. As Christians, we should work against this, both by encouraging college students to take life seriously, and by training future men to be men indeed.