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Fatherhood
Byron Howell Family Home Page

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This web page served as a resource for a Wednesday-night class on fatherhood during the Spring quarter of 2000 at the Germantown Church of Christ near Memphis, Tennessee. The class was open to fathers of teen and pre-teen boys. The name of the class was Raising a Modern-Day Knight and it was partially based on a book of the same name by Robert Lewis. Other resource material is listed below, as well as class topics and lesson notes. The lesson notes are grouped into two parts, lessons from the Raising a Modern Day Knight book and lessons from the Planned Topics.

Also take a look at a devotional talk entitled Boys to Men that was based on this class. (Select the back button on your browser to return from the Boys to Men page.)

 Class Resources
  • The Bible
  • Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis
  • How a Man Prepares His Sons for Life by Michael O'Donnell
  • Anchor Man and Point Man by Steve Farrar
  • The Blessing by Gary Smalley & John Trent
  • The New Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman
  • The Book of Virtues by William Bennett
  • Boyhood Daze by Dave Meurer
  • "God's Way or My Way" tape by Frank Peretti
 Supporting Topics
  • Raising a modern-day knight (4-6 weeks)
  • Humanism, relativism, and other nasty isms
  • Personality types and parenting
  • The threat of the new tolerance
  • Passing on the blessing to your son
  • Teaching our sons to own their faith
  • Teaching our sons to share their faith
  • The influence of birth order
  • Helping our sons find heroes
  • Men and mentoring
 Father & Son Outing:
         A "knight" to remember

On friday evening, April 28, we had about 30 people attend a father & son outing. Many thanks to Mark George (and Melinda) for hosting the gathering. The chili dogs were great. Byron amused that crowd with a demonstration of the nearly-lost art of kazoo-playing, hamboning, and manualism (playing his hands). (Ok, I guess you just had to be there to get the full impact.) The activities turned a bit more serious after that, however. Howard Howell from the Millington Church of Christ spoke to the group about his death-defying experience with cancer and how it changed his perspective on life. Howard, Byron, Andrew, and Aaron Howell sang several rousing songs. Around the campfire, Byron held up a knight's sword as he spoke about how the knight's Code of Conduct and the scriptures both called us to integrity, loyalty, courage, and respect for others. Each father in turn introduced his son and told of something he admired or appreciated about him. The fathers also spoke of their love for their boys. Andrew led us in a few songs and Joe Brumfield (Germantown Church of Christ youth minister) closed out the evening with a prayer around the fire. Especially for our sons, it really was a "knight" to remember.

 Wednesday-Knight Lesson 1:
         The glory of sons is their fathers

I outlined plans for the class. My strong interest in this topic comes from the fact that I was fortunate to have good role models growing up, I have three sons, and I have served as a youth minister and school teacher. Also, I love kids. Highlights from the class follow:

  • Imagine that your son is 18, the car is packed and he is getting ready to go off to college. As you say goodbye your mind is flooded with memories of your boy growing up. With a tear in your eye, you send him on his way -- but with what? Some memories? A little advice? Or will he go off to school with a clear and Biblical concept of what it means to be a man?
  • The father of Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer, wrote about his son in a book called "A Father's Story." Looking back during some of Jeffrey's youthful struggles, Lionel Dahmer said "I wasn't there... He began to sink into himself... He might be drifting..." When dads are absent or uninvolved, their boys can drift. Our American culture seems to promote fatherless families. What a high price we pay for that!
  • Proverbs 17:6 "Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers." What great honor and delight a grandson brings to his grandfather! That boy makes his grandfather feel like a king! And what little boy does not brag about his father? Dad possesses authority and a position of awe in the mind of his boy. Every Dad begins fatherhood as the object of praise and admiration. No wonder an encouraging word from Dad is so important to a son! What an awesome opportunity and challenge we have when it comes to guiding our sons into manhood.
  Wednesday-Knight Lesson 2:
         Give them the best things

We each told some things about our boys and their interests. I announced this web site and its purpose. I also talked about plans for an evening retreat for fathers and sons. I have asked my brother if he would speak to us about his bout with cancer and how it affected his perspective on life in his younger years. Some notes from the class:

  • Involved fathers often work hard to give attention to their son's homework, school activities, church events, and sports. But we need to give our boys not only the good things, but the best things. We need to give them a vision of Godly manhood.
  • Fathers are encouraged to ask their sons what they believe a real man is like. Over the next few weeks, we want to work with our boys to help them develop a clear (and Biblical) picture of manhood.
  • I presented a preview of some future discussions: Adam failed to live up to his responsiblities as a man in the garden. The second Adam (Jesus) succeeded, however. A real man needs a will to obey, a work to do, and a woman to love. Adam failed in these three areas (as we sometimes do), but Jesus did not. (The "woman" Jesus loved was, of course, the church.) A real man needs to live responsiblity, lead courageously, and love unselfishly. We need to help our boys learn to accept responsibility, take a stand for what is right, and treat women (and girls) with honor and respect. (Sounds a little like a knight's code of conduct, doesn't it?)

  Wednesday-Knight Lesson 3:
         A vision for manhood

  • Men are responsible for many of society's problems. They cause nearly all rapes, burglaries, offenses against the family and drunk driving incidents. Where can boys get a vision of manhood to strive after? (1) The community used to have a shared vision of manhood. These days our society presents an unclear and distorted picture for our sons. (2) The family should be the place where fathers pass to their sons an identity of man as God would have it. As fathers, we need to affirm to our sons a vision of manhood. (3) The church through the centuries has lifted up a vision of manhood. But the radical women's movement and "political correctness" has caused a push for gender neutrality in many churches. Paul's admonition in I Cor. 16:13 to "act like men" can ring a little hollow.
  • The first Adam (I Cor. 15:45) was a man separated from God. The second Adam (Christ) represents a man in union with God. Some manhood principles are: (1) A real man rejects passivity - Even though boys are physically agressive, they are often passive when it comes to social and spiritural obligations. (2) A real man accepts responsibility - A wise father will train his son to embrace the following: a will to obey (God's will), a work to do (not just vocation), and a woman to love (his wife). (3) A real man leads courageously - Authentic men were designed to lead, not follow. (I Cor. 11:3) (4) A real man expects the greater reward - God's man can have an abundant life, an honorable name, a wife who respects him, children who bring joy to his life, and the respect of other men in the community.

  Wednesday-Knight Lesson 4:
         A transcendent cause

  • The men who survived the battle of Peleliu carry a heavy burden. It was the bloodiest battle per square mile of World War II. But hardest part about the memories of that battle in the Philippines was that the 8500 men who were wounded or died did so unnecessarily. The battle turned out to be of no value to the war effort. Nothing squashes a man's spirit like irrelevance. So it is with all men. For life to be meaningful, we need to latch on to a transcendent cause.
  • What constitutes a transcendent cause? It must be truly heroic (a noble effort calling forth bravery and sacrifice), timeless (containing significance beyond the moment), and supremely meaningful. Fathers must instill in their sons the importance of remembering their creator in the days of their youth (Eccl. 12:1). The only antidote to the futility of life is a transcendent cause.

  Wednesday-Knight Lesson 5:
         Milestones to manhood

  • Some fathers may want to create a family crest or coat of arms. You could have a ring made with the coat of arms on it and/or have it framed.
  • The following is list of milestones that can be celebrated with your son to help him appreciate and take note of his progress as he grows to be a real man of God.
    (1) Puberty - As a page, learns what a real man is. Read Dobson's book for teens. Celebrate with a cookout and advice from Dad and other men. Now takes on more responsibilities.
    (2) H.S. graduation - As a squire, does self-assessment and considers courses of study for future career. Celebrate with dinner, give him a Bible, letters from mentors. Now more of a peer than before.
    (3) College graduation - As a knight, evaluate life and career goals. Celebrate with dinner and gift such as a ring with family coat of arms. He now joins the other men in a mentoring role. Now self-supporting.
    (4) Marriage - With a dedication for his life and a promise to his new wife, he considers family goals. Celebrate with dinner (food is the common element here!) and give him framed, family coat of arms. Discuss responsibilities to new family.

 Supporting Topics Lesson 1:
         Humanism, relativism, and other nasty isms

Over two class periods the class listened to an excellent audio tape by Frank Peretti called "God's Way or My Way." That tape is a recording of a rather lively presentation by Mr. Peretti to young people about humanism, relativism, and other dangerous isms that they face in our culture today. The tape came from a Focus on the Family broadcast. Some highlights from the tape...

  • The road of rebellion can lead from humanism ("you're just an accident of nature") to relativism ("there is no absolute truth") to new age occultism ("the problem isn't sin, it's ignorance') to witchcraft ("search for power") to satanism ("who else are we worshipping when we reject God?").
  • II Timothy refers to "doctrines of demons." Here are some: (1) Truth is relative. - We live in a society based on opinion. "Nothing is true. Nothing is knowable. Nothing matters." This view provides no meaningful guidelines for your son to live by. (2) God is impersonal. - That way you get to pull the strings. Yoda says "The force is all around you." (3) All is one. - There are two ways to get "rid of God"; make nothing God (deny He exists) or make everything God (consider the creation to be God). (4) There is no death. - People believe in reincarnation because they don't want to be accountable to God or because they want to believe they can evolve into god. Karma implies you have to work off the sins of your past life. East Indians use it as the "reason" not to help the poor and starving people around them. {Byron's favorite bumper sticker: My karma ran over my dogma} (5) Cosmic Consciousness. - Go into a trance and turn your mind over to an outside entity. II Thess. 2 says God will let us believe lies.
  • A family on vacation notices a bumble bee in the car. The little girl in the back seat gets frightened, since she is deathly allergic to bee stings. The girl's father reaches out and grabs the bee out of the air, squeezing it tightly in his hand until it stings him. Then he lets it go. The little girl is still afraid when she sees the bee buzzing and flying around, but the father reassures her. He shows her the stinger in his hand that he willingly took on her behalf. - In our mind's eye when we look at the nail-scarred hands of Jesus, we can be reassured that he has taken the sting of death on our behalf. When we are in Christ, all satan can do is buzz around and make a lot of noise.

 Supporting Topics Lesson 2:
         Birth order and disorder

The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman is a fascinating study in the effect of birth order on personalities. An understanding of this can help us as fathers to deal with our wives, our children, and others.

  • The first born (as well as an only child) often is a perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, critical, serious, and scholarly. They may be high achievers in science, medicine, or law. They can make good accountants, bookkeepers, executive secretaries, engineers, computer programmers, and nurses. They may become pilots, teachers, or President. They like jobs that require precision, strong powers of concentration, and mental discipline. Raised in an adult world, they live under lots of pressure to perform. They become the family standard bearers. Some are eager to please, to nurture, or be caregivers. Others are more strong willed and aggressive. The latter become high achievers and hard drivers. First borns are usually confident that they will be taken seriously by those around them. The down side is pressure, stress, and frustration.
  • The middle child is often a mediator, has few pictures in the family album, avoids conflict, is independent, extremely loyal to the peer group, with many friends, and a maverick. Middle children are more difficult to characterize in a general way. They often don't get much respect. The second born often charts a different course than the first born. They can be good mediators, tend to be more secretive, are less likely to have to seek professional counseling, like to "run with the pack" as teenagers, and generally have fewer hang-ups than first and last borns. It is critical to help them hook up with a good peer group, because if they identify with a bad one, it will be difficult to overcome.
  • The last born may be manipulative, charming, blaming others, a show off, people person, precocious, and engaging. Last borns often make good salesmen, announcers and anchorpersons on radio and TV. They tend to love the limelight, be the family clown, and often do not do well in school. They may have a poor self image because they can grow up feeling inadequate -- all the older siblings can tie their shoes, read, write, etc. before they (the last borns) can. They can be self centered, but are often perceptive people persons -- funny, charming, and persuasive. They need to learn to accept responsibility, be more tidy, help others quietly, and not blame others. Last borns are often very compatible with first borns as mates.
  • Other factors that must be considered are:
    (1) Spacing - A gap of 5+ years produces another "first born" rather than a middle child.
    (2) Gender - When a gender difference creates someone "special" it can put pressure on the siblings immediately above and below.
    (3) Physical size or appearance - A younger brother who is bigger and stronger than the older brother can dominate, taking over the "first born" leadership role. One sister who is much prettier than another can upset the order. A sickly first born who is cared for by a younger sibling can change the normal order.
  • Tips for fathering:
    (1) First borns - Don't critize every thing they do. They need to know exactly what the rules are. Recognize their special place in the family.
    (2) Middle children - Help them feel special -- not a fifth wheel. Set aside time to talk and draw them out of their secretiveness. Don't always give them hand-me-downs. Take more pictures!
    (3) Last borns - Don't let them manipulate you. When necessary, call their bluff. Don't make them feel stupid or too dependent on others. They need their fair share of responsibilities. They need to folow the family rules and not get away with murder. Don't let them get too clobbered or cuddled. Get them reading. Don't do all the work for them. Pick out a nice first born for them to marry -- they'll probably make a great team! (PS Jeanette is a first born and I am a last born!)
  • An interesting study is to look at the birth order of some Bible characters. Jesus and John the baptist were first borns. See any first born qualities in them? David was a last born (I Sam. 16:11) who liked to entertain and did not always follow the rules. Any guess as to the birth order of Martha and Mary? Notice who owned the house (Luke 10:38-42). Finally, consider the personality differences between the prodigal son and his first-born brother (Luke 15:11-32).
  • Final warning: Birth order characteristics can help you understand and deal with others better, but your birth order is not an excuse to sin! Regardless of our circumstances, we are responsible before God for our actions.