Becoming a Man
We need to help boys become
responsible men, and grandpa can help!
by James Munk
I have two pictures
that I find instructive: one is a picture from
my first year in college; the other is a picture
of my grandfather at about the same age. Mine
was taken at an 80’s throwback party; I’m
wearing a teal leisure suit with an ostentatious
dress shirt. My grandfather’s was taken in China
around 1945 during what I assume was Operation
Beleaguer, the US occupation of China
after the surrender of Japan in World War 2.
He’s in uniform.
Now, I’m neither ashamed of my time in college
nor of my attendance at that 80’s party. I was a
pretty good student, and a fairly moral young
man – but my grandfather and I had pretty
different mentalities at the same age. Why? In
large part, because the response needed from my
grandfather was high, costly, and obvious. Not
so from me. What great things did I need to
respond to? Homework? Chores? Negative peer
pressure? My grandfather was worried about the
Third Reich and Imperial Japan. We had different
concerns, and so responded differently.
When people say, “He’s a responsible young man,”
they might mean, “He’s a good steward of his
belongings.” Or, “He’s a man of his word.” But
responsibility is more than that. Consider the
composition of the word itself: “responsible” is
“response + able”: able to make the right
response in a given circumstance; to be able to
do the right thing.
Many say that young men are growing less
responsible. This is not a good trend. We need
young people – especially young men – that know
what the good of a situation is, and who rise to
do it, regardless of the personal cost. I work
full time as a missionary to high school and
college students. We teach our men that one of
the primary marks of masculine character ought
to be responsibility. This is critical for a
healthy family, community or society.
If young men today are less responsible, it
might be because less is asked of them. There’s
not currently a world war, but our nation, our
society, is facing some major threats:
dissolution of marriage, loss of fatherhood,
secularization, technological uncertainty – and
no one really knows how these things will turn
out, but good men able to respond will be part
of what is needed.
That means we need to help boys become
responsible men, and grandpa can help! How?
Help his eyes actually see. Youth
benefit when they learn to see, not just watch.
One youth work exercise commonly used is called
“observation training.” For example: look at
this picture for one minute.
Now, answer these questions… What color was
Darth Vader’s light saber? How many humans were
in the photo? Teaching kids to look and see can
be fun but it also equips them to identify what
needs to be done.
A grandparent, like a youth-worker, walks beside
the youth and then asks, what should we
do to help? It’s tempting to complain about
politics and sports, taxes and cultural
collapse. It’s better to talk about the things
you and he can affect. Help him identify
what is necessary to bring order or beauty to a
room, a closet, the garage. Then help him work
towards implementing his vision.
Give him real work. Midway through
college, I participated in a program called
Detroit Summer Outreach. I showed up, was given
a 15-passenger van, 3 assistant staff, and a
team of 8 high-schoolers. My job was to get them
to various work sites all over the city, plan
our work day, and motivate the team. When I got
the keys to the van, I felt the real weight of
responsibility: if I couldn’t figure out how to
make this thing work, it wasn’t going to get
done. That was the first time I had a job with
Grandpa, your grandson isn’t growing up on a
farm with lots of ready opportunities for real
work – but there are many amazing opportunities
like the one I experienced. Look for them, and
offer to help pay for the ones that will give
your grandson real work, real authority, and
Encourage him. Literally: give him
courage. Don’t just tell him he’s a good kid,
impress upon him your belief that he has an
important part to play in your family, your
country, and the Kingdom of God. Help him to see
the challenges of his day and that he has a role
to fill in overcoming them.
For Discussion: What was your history of
For Action: How can you give your
grandson a responsibility that will help him
mature? How can you help him take greater
responsibility right where he is in his family
This article was first published in Grandly:
The Strategic Grandparents Club,
copyright © 2019 Grandly: The Strategic
Grandparents Club. Used with permission.
For access to other inspirational articles in Grandly, sign up for a free membership at www.grandly.org.
James Munk lives with his wife Michelle in
Lansing, Michigan. He is the director of Kairos
North America, works with
University Christian Outreach, and is a
Coordinator for the Work of Christ community.
photo of grandfather and grandson working
together, by (c) copyright Zinkevych
bigstock.com Photo ID: 215933506