Raising godly sons in a godless culture
Fireproof star and father of six Kirk Cameron has put together a new resource, "Boy's Passage, Man's Journey", to support fathers in raising their sons into godly men. He talks here about what it means to be a man in the biblical sense and the critic
CT: As a father of three sons, what has your own experience of raising them been like? Have you felt supported or unsupported? Has it been challenging?
Kirk: I've got a good relationship with my dad and that was very helpful for me in raising my son. But as a whole, the concept of manhood being synonymous with godliness is not a concept that is largely supported in today's culture. There was a time when it was, especially in Britain. The virtue and courage and chivalry abounded in certain times. But raising children today is a great challenge and one of those challenges is successfully transitioning your children from childhood to adulthood. And that's really what Boy's Passage, Man's Journey is all about. It's giving fathers a plan for how to transition to their sons into manhood.
CT: That transition takes many years. Where do you start?
Kirk: First, it's importance to understand there's power in a plan. If you have no plan there is little power to affect the life of your child. If you just let them stumble into adulthood without being intentional about the qualities or worldview you would like them to build upon, they are likely not to have what they need to be successful. Just like you would plan for a wedding or a birthday party or vacation, how much more important is it to plan for our children's life and their adulthood. A plan allows parents to intentionally map out a course to adulthood for their children. That consists of three very specific things: number one, intentional blessing. Number two, lifelong mentoring. Number three, a rite of passage ceremony.
CT: Do you feel pressure on yourself especially as a Christian to be a godly father and raise godly sons?
Kirk: I think every good father feels pressure to be the kind of father and husband and man that their children need. There is just a God-given, built-in sense of responsibility that you are raising the next generation within your home. Boy's Passage, Man's Journey is going to make it more manageable and help fathers wrap their arms around this thing called fatherhood and give them a course to run on so that they don't feel like they are wandering aimlessly through fatherhood without a clue on how to bring up their boys.
I'm really excited about this whole project. The accompanying DVD is really designed for a group of men to watch together. It'll bring up a lot of questions, particularly for men who never got these kinds of things from their own fathers, or fathers whose children have grown and they feel like they are hearing these things too late and are thinking about what they can do now. So it's about encouraging men and fathers and giving them a blueprint for raising their sons. I'm glad I have this resource while I am still a father with young kids.
CT: You mentioned intentional blessing. What does that look like in reality?
Kirk: In the Bible we see the concept of a blessing over and over and over. We see God bless Abraham. Isaac gives his blessing to Jacob and when Esau does not get the blessing it grieves him deeply. We see the Father blessing Christ at his baptism when he says, 'This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.'
Blessing is positive, encouraging, affirming things you can do for your child to impart value and worth and vision into your kids. It comes through things like positive and encouraging words, saying, 'Son I'm proud of you, God has a plan for your life, you are different from other children, you are going to do amazing things in your life as you follow God faithfully, I believe in you.'
Words have great power and they can either build your child up or tear them down. James speaks of the tongue being a very powerful thing that can set a forest on fire. Words like, 'You idiot' or 'When will you ever learn?' or 'When will you be like your brother?' can be devastating and many people still have those words ringing in their ears as adults.
Another way to bless your children is through prayer. Take the time to pray with your children and for your children. It's earth to heaven communication and when we pray for our children it releases blessing from heaven for them. We can also bless our children with appropriate physical touch. Children who are never held, never hugged, never touched often grow up looking for physical intimacy in all the wrong ways and that leads to so much promiscuity and sexual perversion.
CT: You mention lifelong mentoring. How important do you think a father's impact is on who that child becomes as an adult?
Kirk: The impact is tremendous. It's all important. As a father we are modelling and picturing the love of God and faithfulness to our children, what repentance looks like, what forgiveness looks like, what joy looks like, what it means to be a provider and protector and a prophet and a priest to your children. These are all biblical concepts that if children don't see lived out from a living breathing human being in their life, they're really not going to know how to emulate these things. God gives parents not just to preach a sermon to them from a pulpit but to live that sermon at the kitchen table and on the living room couch, as they show them what it's like to be a Christian man, a Christian woman, and to love and serve people.
The best way to go through life is with a mentor to show you how it's done. When you have someone who's not merely speaking words to you but accompanying those words with a life that puts flesh and bones to the concepts, then you have a coach who is helping you to succeed in the Kingdom of God.
Kids were never meant to be raised by the state, the government, even by the church, the youth pastor, a coach. They were meant to be raised by their parents. When parents neglect their responsibility to make raising their children the top of their priority list, the fallout and consequences show up in the next generation and particularly in the third generation. They are just lost in the wilderness and don't have a spiritual map to lead them to the place of blessing and they are just confused, marriage goes down the toilet, and children end up getting raised by their peers and pretty soon you have a whole generation of kids who haven't a clue what the Ten Commandments are.
CT: The prevailing concept of manhood today comes to a great extent through pop and Hollywood culture. What does it actually mean to be a man in a biblical sense?
Kirk: Someone once said that manhood and Christlikeness are synonymous and I think that's a great phrase to think about because ultimately the model we have for manhood is of course in the God man Jesus Christ. This is God in human flesh, he came in the form of Jesus, a man who loved God with all his heart, and who came not to be served but to serve and lay down his life for others. So we've got a terrific picture of manhood in the life of Christ himself. Other pictures of great manhood would be in the life of the Apostle Paul and Moses and the other great biblical figures. But a great recipe for manhood can be found in Psalm 1: "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night."
Proverbs is also fantastic because in fact they are instruction given from King David to his son. It's a terrific place to look for godly virtues and true masculinity and manhood, and what it means to be men who are really living out the image of God, speaking truth and praying for our families, providing in every way, not just financially but spiritually and emotionally, and protecting in all these things.
CT: High school is such a difficult environment because of the peer pressure to behave in a way that is counter to Christian values. Do you think fathers also have a role in instilling confidence in their sons about their faith?
Kirk: Absolutely. It's what a great military leader is able to do, to inspire his troops even when things look bleak. George Washington was so famous for rallying the spirits of his troops and inspiring confidence when they were far outnumbered. Very similarly, a father needs to do the same thing. You may live in a culture where it seems that you are the only one following after God and trying to do the right thing. Particularly for boys, a father is the one the sons look to and say 'I want to be like him'. And whether boys want to or not, many of them end up being like their fathers. We become much like what we are around and the more time godly fathers can spend with their children, affirming their faith, building their character and constructing their world view around the Bible and Christ, they have a much better chance of becoming godly men in a godless culture.
CT: The resource is for fathers but what would you say is the role of the mother? How can wives support the fathers in raising their sons?
Kirk: My wife is the love of my life and I could not do what I do without her support and help and she is incredibly influential in the lives of our children because she spends more time with them. I'm not as qualified to talk about the role of mum as my wife or pastor would be, but I can say this: the role of the mother is such a high calling and holy duty and it is just priceless in its value to the successful raising of children.
Boy's Passage, Man's Journey is available to purchase from Kirk Cameron's online store