May 3, 2016

Initiating Teenage Lads in the UK

It makes me happy to know that men around the world are supporting young guys on their path toward manhood. It's good work for men and always good for the boys. Dick Baker is a leader and mentor with JourneymanUK in Stroud, Gloucestershire, Great Britain. This is his story of how he found some direction for his life when he connected with other men and formed a group to initiate boys.

As I approach my 50th year, I feel grateful for an amazing first half of my life. I have always been an optimist, taken opportunities, and just gone with the flow. In many ways this has served me. But it was in my mid-thirties, after my wife and I had moved our family across the country for a better life, when I started to have questions about my purpose in life. Who was I really and how was I showing up in the world? Why had I spent so long without ever really asking these questions? I didn’t really know where to go for the answers, but having put out the questions, the answers, of course, came . . . just much later in life.

. . . an initiation of sorts in 2009
helped me to understand a lot more
about what it is to be a man.

As it turned out, going through an initiation of sorts in 2009 helped me to understand a lot more about what it is to be a man in today’s world and gave my life some meaningful direction. Some answers came as the result of my accepting an invitation to join other local men on an Inner Mentor Training (IMT) hosted by a Boys to Men leader from the United States.

Part of the IMT training was remembering what my teenage self was like. You see, my teenager didn't have many male role models to guide him. I hadn't learned to really trust myself, be true to myself, or even to accept myself. While there were men in my life, none of them took on the role of being a mentor and guide. I realized that if men had chosen to be involved in my life when I was a teenager, I might have stepped into early manhood more consciously and at the right age. I would have found I had real gifts to bring the world, was a person of value, and had men as guides for those difficult years.

To be honest after the IMT training, I was left feeling sad I had to wait to almost mid-life to find these gifts in myself. So when the men from Stroud were riding home from the training in a minibus, we all talked about how we might create something for teenage boys in our community. By the time we got home the seeds of movement were planted and JourneymanUK was born.

We held our first Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend in the spring of 2011. Since then our core of about 20 men, supported by many others, have done four passage weekends and held space for 52 boys to ‘initiate’ themselves on their way to manhood. After their weekend the boys earn the title of Journeyman or Jman, and there are now two Jman group mentoring circles for boys in Stroud and Bristol that meet regularly.

A Group Photo of the Whole Tribe

I recently asked a young man who went on his passage weekend in 2014 for feedback. He was still feeling the impact two years later. He said, “It hit me later on. When something comes up now, I understand it better. I think oh yeah that’s what Journeyman was about. It's like an epiphany! I’m feeling the benefits even more now."

. . . none of the men in JourneymanUK
can ever know what the impact
of having had this kind of initiation
earlier in our lives would have meant.

Like me, none of the men in JourneymanUK can ever know what the impact of having had this kind of initiation earlier in our lives would have meant. Yet, as we hold the space for today's boys, lovingly yet fierce, vulnerable yet standing strong, and often playful, we know we are doing important men's work and making a positive difference in the boys' lives. Today I know 52 boys who won't have to wait till mid-life to know they are seen, deemed trustworthy, appreciated, and have good men at their backs. In these experiences, I know I am not only serving the boys and thus the community, but healing my inner teenager along the way.

I've been on many passage weekends and each time I'm reminded that initiating and supporting young males moving toward manhood is really important and natural men's work. It's often life changing for the boys, and very good for the men, too! Even after fifteen years in the work, these weekend events always melt and reforms my masculine heart and makes me a better man. I'm thinking that's what's happened to Dick and the other men of JourneymanUK, and I hope you get a chance to discover that for yourself.

You can contact Dick Baker to learn about his experience at On the JourneymanUK website you can learn more about the organization and their upcoming Rites of Passage Adventure Weekend on the 7th – 10th of July, 2016.

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