There are several ways you can mark milestones for young men and establish points of remembrance along the way. Two ways to do this with Challengers are the Challengers Prayer Vigil and the Challengers Rite of Passage.
The first thing you can do as a Challengers leader is to make the first encounter for your new Challengers with your group the Challengers Prayer Vigil. The prayer vigil should be an important and solemn occasion. For some of your new Challengers, the prayer vigil may be the most serious look they have taken at their faith and their relationship with Christ. You can help your new Challengers understand that they are taking their first steps in their journey into manhood by gauging their walk with Christ by what God’s Word has to say about it.
On the other end of the continuum you may want to prepare a Challengers Rite of Passage Ceremony for your Challengers as they finish their time in your Challengers group. This can be done around an 18th birthday, at the end of a senior year in high school, or at the end of a young man’s time with you as a member of the group.
In between these two events, the beginning and end of a young man’s time in your Challenger’s group, look for ways to commemorate accomplishments, celebrate victories, and acknowledge what God is doing in the lives of your Challengers. Celebration of God’s movement and praise to Him for it are always appropriate.
The Challengers Prayer Vigil is a tool and opportunity for Challengers and their leaders to periodically pause and evaluate personal progress and development in living out their on-mission commitment. Challengers should periodically (annually or twice yearly) get alone with God in an unhurried setting to evaluate how they are developing as missional Christians.
To complete the Challengers Prayer Vigil, each person will need a copy of “My Challengers Prayer Vigil,” a Bible, and a pen or pencil. The setting for the prayer vigil should provide each person with a quiet place and plenty of uninterrupted time. The prayer vigil is a time of worship, reflection, personal evaluation, confession, thanksgiving, and commitment. Ideally, all members of a Challengers group would complete the prayer vigil at the same time, but separately, in an open-ended setting.
The leader(s) should be available for counseling or sharing as needed. A time of voluntary sharing soon after all members have completed their prayer vigil is appropriate and helpful. Campouts, lock-ins, and retreats are excellent opportunities for the Challengers Prayer Vigil.
One of many things that has been lost in modern culture is the commemoration of a boy becoming a man. For that matter, when does a boy become a man? Many people would say when he turns 18. Others would say obtaining a driver’s license or a first job is the turning point.
Seeing that a rite of passage into manhood is lost in many modern cultures coupled with the failure of mature men to train and mentor boys, it is easy to understand why some boys have difficulty with the concept of becoming mature, responsible men.
If the older Challenger has a father or father figure at home, meet with him approximately one year before the rite of passage ceremony is to take place. You will want the Challenger’s father to take a major role in planning the event and the lead role in the event itself. (If the Challenger doesn’t have a father or father figure in his life, ask him if he would like to choose a man in the church to stand up with him or offer to enlist a man from the church for him.)
Another reason for the lead time is that you will need to make the event special and memorable for the Challenger. There may be family members who need to be a part of the ceremony and planning will take time.
You can hold a rite of passage ceremony in a number of ways, and you can create your own. What follows is an example of one way to plan, prepare, and host one type of ceremony.
After you meet with the Challenger’s father, have the father ask his son to make a list of the men who have been most influential in his life. The Challenger will need some time to think about the list and compile it. This should not take more than three to four weeks. The number of men is not important, but at least 10–20 is ideal. If the Challenger has a large family, the number may be larger.
Follow up with the father to be sure he has secured the list and that it is complete. He will want to review the list to be sure his son has not forgotten anyone. Work with the father to set a date for the ceremony. Make sure he checks with his family. The Challengers leader should check church, school, and community calendars to avoid any major conflicts. The event will have greater impact if it is a surprise for the Challenger, so let everyone know that it is a surprise event, like a surprise party, and they should not tell the Challenger about it.
After the date is set, secure a location for the ceremony and plan for a simple meal or refreshments. The family may also want to take the lead on this. Work with them and be sensitive to their needs and desires.
Have the father contact all of the men on his son’s list. He should explain that his son has identified each man as one who has had a significant influence in his son’s life. He should explain the ceremony and stress how much it would mean to him and to his son to have the man attend the ceremony and share a brief word to mark his son’s rite of passage.
Explain to the men that at the ceremony each of them will tell the Challenger something important he has learned from life. Allow the Challenger’s father to go last.
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