Rite of Passage

I was recently contacted by the parent of one of my middle school students. She and her husband are planning a rite of passage ceremony for their son and was wondering if I had any input. They were particularly interested in what would be an appropriate time/age to do such a ceremony.

I think they are on to something big; something strategic and important. Here was my response to her.

While I agree with you that kids are in some ways growing up much sooner today, I on the other hand, believe they are growing up much slower. Our society has done a great dis-service to kids by in affect delaying adulthood.

There are three questions that every young person seeks answers to. It is the answer to these questions that in a lot of ways determines the conclusion of adolescence and the entrance into adulthood.

These questions are:

1. Who am I?

2. What power do I really have?

3. Where do I fit in?

It is at the beginning of adolescence (onset of puberty) in which kids begin to seek these answers, a great time for a rite of passage.

Recent studies have shown alarming trends.

• Pre-1900
the average age of puberty was 14+ and the average age of when those three questions were answered was 16

• 1980
the average age of puberty was 13 and the average age of when those three questions were answered was 18

• 2007
the average age of puberty is 12 and the average age of when those three questions are answered is the mid-20s.

This can be attributed to a number of factors. Our society has encouraged and promoted a prolonged adolescence, through encouraging prolonged college education, delayed marriage, etc. Another way we have done this is by not doing what you are seeking to do...a rite of passage.

I applaud their decision and their desire to see their son move into manhood. I wish more parents would do so. It is a practice that takes place in other cultures throughout the world, but has long been forgotten in ours. A rite of passage is a great way for parents to invite their kids into the process of becoming an adult. Adolescence is an intimating journey and one in which kids would benefit greatly from godly guidance and direction from their parents.

Band of Brothers is a great resource with good ideas on such a ceremony.


Jon Knapp said...

Why not put something together, and give all the parents of your middle schoolers information, and help on how to have a rite of passage ceremony for their kids. Could be a cool extension of your ministry, and empower parents to build into their kids.?

Michael said...


I've used Rites of passage ceremonies many times in youth ministry and I believe in their effectiveness. Inspired by your post, I am starting a series on Rites of passage on my blog at http://michaelferber.authorweblog.com/default.asp?date=new&permid=1772.

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