What can the church to do help mentor the lost men in our society, the boys who grow up looking for a role model?
The only way to foster genuine mentoring relationships is to build a church that's truly intergenerational. Believers need to get out of the habit of segregating themselves according to age groups. Younger men need older men who can come alongside them, walk with them through the tough spots of life, and show them what it means to be a man who really trusts God for all his needs and who puts other people's concerns and interests ahead of his own.
To put it another way, men need to be nurtured within the context of community. The church, as Christ's Body, is uniquely equipped to meet this need. But we have to remember that it won't happen automatically. If we're going to build men up in the image of Christ, we're going to have to be intentional about creating thriving men's ministries in our local congregations.
As you survey the state of manhood and fatherhood in our society, what distresses you and what gives you hope?
I'd say that, on the whole, men today have a much fuzzier concept of who they are and what they're supposed to be doing than did their fathers and grandfathers. The feminist movement has done a great job of opening up all kinds of new doors and opportunities for women, but in the process, one of its unfortunate side-effects has been to rob men of their purpose as provider and protector. Somehow, guys today need to rediscover and reclaim that aspect of their identity.
On the other hand, I see signs that many young dads are stepping up to the plate and playing a much more active role in their children's lives than was often the case in past generations. Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, recently reported that fathers have almost doubled the average amount of time they spend with their children each week, from 4.2 hours in 1995 to 7.3 hours in 2011. That's good news.
What encouragement can you give to fathers who have come from broken families and feel ill-equipped to raise families of their own?
I'd encourage them to believe that, with God's help, he can rise above his origins and his present situation. I'm not necessarily saying that this will be an easy process. I also think it's important to remember that none of us will ever be perfect in this life. Nevertheless, new life in Christ is not just a fantasy. It's something we lay hold of by faith.
New growth, new horizons, and new ways of thinking and behaving are all part of God's plan for those who turn their hearts over to him and trust him to lead the way. You just have to find the gumption to say, "The past is the past and the old patterns stop here. By the grace of God I'm going to take a different path!"
How would you advise pastors, church leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and politicians to help shape the next generation of young men?
This is an art, not a science. Every man is different, and re-creation in the image of Christ is a unique process for each individual. But on the whole, I'd say that men at the beginning of the 21st century desperately need three things: people to love and be loved by, a place to belong, and meaningful work to do. The church, the community, business, industry, and the corporate world can all contribute something toward the meeting of these needs. But the place where it all begins—the most important piece of the puzzle—is the family.