I’m noticing a trend in ministry: sons are rebelling. These are outstanding families. They have solid marriages and great kids. They gave their children a Christian education, lots of love, fun times, and security. So, why are their sons doing whatever they want to do—instead of following God? Not every son is living in a terrible way, but some are. They’re out of church and seemingly turning their backs on their upbringing. Why is this happening?
I’m not sure.
Maybe, though, it’s what I’ll call the Successful Dad Syndrome. I think it’s difficult for a young man to follow in the footsteps of a successful father—in any occupation. When the father is outstanding, I believe the son feels pressure on him—justified or not—to be like his dad. People expect him to live up to a high standard. That’s daunting, to say the least! A sensitive young man may feel defeated before he even begins. I’ve watched it happen over and over again. The dad is amazing. People look up to him. And then, here comes his son. People think the young man will take up the baton and run with it—and many sons get the baton in their hands, look at it, and throw it to the ground. Do they want to be their dad? Are you kidding? Absolutely not! So, they reject what Dad represents, even if it’s spiritual leadership.
Why are we losing our sons? I don’t believe it’s the parents’ fault, the siblings’ fault, the church’s fault, or necessarily the lure of the world.
It could be the pressure of expectations and the young person’s inability to find his own way.
Another reason might be childhood abuse. I’m using “abuse” in a global sense: bullying, sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. Many children (male and female) in pastors’ homes have been abused at one time or another. It is damaging, and it’s real. I believe that one of the reasons young men have turned their backs on the faith of their fathers is that they were badly hurt.
Or, maybe the son has seen all the stresses and heartbreaks in ministry, and he becomes disillusioned. I’ve watched my parents suffer. Why should I want to serve God and subject my own family to these kinds of pressures and disappointments? The greatest heartaches are in the ministry—but also the greatest joys. Maybe he missed seeing the joys.
Why are we losing our sons?
Maybe we’re failing to help them over their hurdles. I believe it’s important for a young man to have someone alongside his father (not in place of) to mentor and counsel him. What other man in the church or Christian school can help him transition from childhood to manhood? Who can help him make sound decisions about studies, goals, and his future? Who can he call on for biblical advice and counsel? With whom can he pray?
The Bible has many instructions for sons. (They’re for daughters, too, but especially for sons.) I believe God wants to see strong Christian men from generation to generation. Let’s read a few of these passages. They’re all in Proverbs and begin with . . .
- hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck (1:8-9).
- if sinners entice thee, consent thou not (1:10).
- walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path (1:15).
- if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee (2:1).
- forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments (3:1).
- despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction (3:11).
- Hear . . . and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many (4:10).
- attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding (5:1).
- Do this now . . . and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend (6:3).
- keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother (6:20).
- Cease . . . to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge (19:27).
- if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine (23:15).
- give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (23:26).
- fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change (24:21).
Our sons need to know that it really doesn’t matter what others think. God only wants them to be obedient servants. Then, we’ll have successful sons. I know that’s what my husband and I desire for our son. I’m sure that’s what you want for yours, too.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth;
but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,
that thou mayest observe to do according to
all that is written therein:
for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous,
and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:8).