December 2, 2014

How Circles and Rites of Passage Weekends Transform Young Men

Two Thoughts on Transformation:

1. The Power of a Circle: A recent article in the Minneapolis StarTribune describes an interesting use of group circles in schools. We all know about the existence and dangers of cliques in high school. In some communities, for young guys, they are called gangs. In this case, there were serious tensions, sometimes leading to fights, between African-American students and the Karen community of recently arrived refugee students from Myanmar. There are about 8,000 Karen refugees who have settled in Minnesota over the past decade and most of them are in the east metro of Minneapolis.

Multicultural Leaders group at Roseville High School - (Photo David Joles)

The StarTribune article describes how a high school junior named Soe from the Karen community approached his teacher with a proposal. Rather than continue to feel the discrimination and get in fights, he wanted to talk. It wasn't long before a circle of "Multicultural Leaders" was convened and a conversation between the young men of the two cultures got started. That initiative has blossomed and now includes additional schools, and other minorities in the dialogue. Sitting across the room and listening to each other has reduced racial tensions, led to cross-cultural friendships, stopped fights, and maybe it will even keep teen gangs from being formed in the community.

. . . maybe it will even keep teen gangs
from being formed in the community.

In my experience, when young men, or any group, come together and have an honest and open dialogue, they always learn this one valuable lesson. Soe said during the conversations, he realized everyone liked similar sports and music. He said, “We found out we are not different that much. We’re almost the same, except for the color of our skin.” That is real transformation.

2. The Power of a Rites of Passage Weekend: If you take what happens in a young guy's circle, add about 20 -30 good men, run it for a weekend, conduct a continuous series of challenging physical and emotional experiences, add in some ritual, toss in some fun, teen food, and fires, the impact on the young men (and the old guys) is also powerful.

The video clip below is from Boys to Men Arizona. It will give you a brief sense of what happens on a passage weekend and the impact on both the men and the young guys. Some of the activities may look strange to the outsider, but the events and processes are all designed to speak directly to the young male reality. As one man says, "We use the fun part to get to deeper stuff that's inside these young men."

Listen closely to what the young guys say about their experience. A well run rites of passage experience, like the impact of an on-going support group circle, can have a life-changing effect on a young male.

If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

A great scenario for sustaining a young man's growth would be for him to come out of an ongoing school (or church, or community) support circle, experience a weekend passage event, and then return to the circle of support to build on his self-discovery and commitments. Or like the Arizona men, meet with the guys a couple times a month to hang out, have an adventure, eat some food and check in about what's going on in your life. Time with men willing to have fun AND be real is part of what creates the transformational juice.

. . . it wasn't just crap,
it was real!

If you hear the call to be part these kinds of experiences, give me an e-shout, or check out the website of Boys to Men Arizona. I can guarantee you the men showing up for this work with young guys are gloriously imperfect men just like you and me. Your masculine hardwiring and willingness to take the risk are the only credentials you need. There may be a group like Boys to Men Arizona or something similar near you now. It just also might be possible for you and a couple men you know to get something started that will serve the young males in your part of the world. It really could be that simple!

What I can say for sure is the young guys are waiting!

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