Challenging Boys to be Mentally Awake (versus zoned out video gamers)

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Part of our weekly scout troop meetings is devoted to studying the ideals of the program and whether they measure up to scriptures, and how boys can take these concepts and use them as building blocks to develop their sense of “manliness” in practical ways.

This week, we studied part of our scout pledge which explains our “duty to self” (out of three duties — Duty to God, Duty to Others being the first and second priorities). Our duty to self states that we keep ourselves physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. Now, we’ve previously discussed these three areas, but on this night we wanted to delve deeper into what it means to be “mentally awake” and to discuss how we could discipline ourselves to be “mentally awake”.

Some quotes from William Bennett’s book “The Book of Man” helped set the stage for the discussion. Here’s a snippet:

“It is natural to think of men first as physical beings and to describe manhood as muscle, strength, power and actions — whether heroic and courageous or weak and timid. But the true root of a man’s existence is his ability to think and reflect. In the Bible, God’s first task for man was to name creation and be its caretaker — an internal, reflective activity…Reflection and contemplation separate men from the rest of creation…A man sharpens and strengthens his body through exercise; he sharpens and strengthens his mind through thought and reflection–like spiritual calisthenics and study. Much like a body goes to waste without exercise, so, too, will a thoughtless mind…In the act of prayer, man studies and dissects his own soul while recognizing that there is an order and a power greater than himself to whom he is accountable. Prayer brings us closer to God in the same way that engaging in conversation with another human strengthens our relationship with that person…As you will see throughout this chapter, men who prayed incessantly believed that God would answer–and he often did so in powerful ways.”

As a discussion, the boys bit into the questions with urgency, but then had to back off to re-examine their thoughts. Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  • So would you agree that internal reflection and prayer and faith practice have a direct role to play in becoming and maintaining our mental health?
  • What would you question or add to this concept?
  • Do you feel that spending a little time each day reading the bible, or praying, or going to Sunday school each week helps keep you mentally awake?
  • Would you, personally, feel the same way if you simply substituted your favorite comic book or such in place of the Bible? Why or why not?
  • In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul writes “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” How does this scripture reference relate to tonight’s topic?

How about you? Is it desirable to develop mental discipline that we might be called “mentally awake?”

If you’d like to see our whole article/discussion wrap up, here’s a link —


I am personally dismayed at the vast difference in intellectual maturity between teenaged boys and girls. It honestly troubles me when I see the ladies paying close attention (relatively speaking!) to Sunday School or Youth Group lessons while the boys zone out or otherwise “drift away.” This is only the most obvious example of this maturity gap. Perhaps it’s always been this way. Maybe it hasn’t

The boys talk about their favorite video games - the girls read books. The girls have ambition and initiative - the boys are generally lazy.

I’m drawing broad generalizations, but these are my thoughts. I run a small business and employ young guys and I can tell you this trend is cross-cultural - inside and outside the church. They’re lazy. They don’t want to work. They are adrift, with little ambition. I have also seen studies which suggest many more women are graduating from college than men.

This is all very disturbing to me. Increasingly, Christian leaders are going to have to fight pushback on egalitarian “equality” in Pastoral ministry. How sad that, more and more, the young ladies seem to be more interested in things of God than our young men are. This will make the fight more difficult.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

This is why I put my sons into scouting instead of co-ed youth group (sorry youth pastors out there!)

Deut 6:6-7 says “And these words, which I command thee [fathers] this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou [fathers] shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou [fathers] sittest in thine house, and when thou [fathers] walkest by the way, and when thou [fathers] liest down, and when thou [fathers] risest up.”

For boys (for at least the past 103 years since scouting started, and probably a LOT longer than that) they need to be hands on and participating in some way under the guidance of an older Man (preferably their own father, but others could step in - Titus 2:6-8 talks about mentoring in good DEEDS not sitting in classrooms). They need a different challenge to get the “data” from out here to “in there” (in their minds eye).

So I agree with Jim that getting outdoors, working with dad on a project, holding the tools, taking a hike, going camping provides the backdrop for asking questions, challenging, discussing and such.

Asking a boy to sit still with his hands folded in his lap while paying close attention to a long, dry discussion is like asking him to become something he’s not — a girl.

It is no wonder that if we persist in treating boys like girls, they won’t engage, they won’t care (they’ll appear to be lazy when they simply are not being given challenges or responsibilities). Treat them like God made them and teach them the way God told us men to do it and they’ll become interested (or they’ll at least learn that they’re committed by gender to step it up and take the responsibilities that they ought to be grasping). They’re only modeling what they see and hear. If dad sits at home and reads the paper on Sunday mornings, they why should little johnny care about Sunday school either? Especially when its boring, out of context and punishes him for being wired the way he is wired (by God).

In our scout group, I’ll pick one night every couple of months and put the youngest scouts (11 y.o.) in charge of the meeting — unexpectedly and without any warning. The older scouts have to remain silent. All of the scouts hate it at first, but it wakes them up that 1) the job of the older scouts WAS to prepare the younger to take over someday and 2) the job of the younger IS to work on getting ready to lead at a moment’s notice with no warning. It makes them engage. Primus Inter Pares — first among equals leadership. Are you ready to step up in place of your pastor if he suddenly fell ill and it was time to worship? Or would you cancel the services until he felt better? Or would you ask a woman to lead worship simply because a generation of males refuse to be men?

Fishing, boating, sports, scouts, whatever — just not sitting in a circle for hours of “book learning”.

Also, when do young men join the men’s ministry at your church? 18? 21? When they’re already married and have children? How about at 12 years old or 13? Why not that early? Do they not have to confront peer pressure, pornography and more? Why wait until they already struggle with a problem? When will we teach them to be adults — when they’re already adult age? Why continue this mixed coed process through their teen years? Where does it say this in the Bible? I see what Titus 2 says — it doesn’t say put the boys and girls in a room and lecture them until they go to college. It does say men mentor boys and women mentor girls. If it’s good enough to be in the Bible, it’s good enough for me, but then again, I’m strange.

We’re talking at cross purposes. The church simply cannot substitute for a good home life. You can do all the rough and tough stuff at home. Why not “suffer” the teens to sit down and have a Bible study together?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.


You said,

Asking a boy to sit still with his hands folded in his lap while paying close attention to a long, dry discussion is like asking him to become something he’s not — a girl.

This is a problematic statement. One cannot study the Word unless they patiently study it. One certainly cannot lead worship and rightly divide the Word of truth, unless they study it. Yes, hands on ministry is great. But, we need to be prepared. The only way that one is prepared. Often preparation, comes from lectures, and sermons. That is not any anyway girlie.

Roger Carlson, Pastor Berean Baptist Church

Good Afternoon, Pastor.

First, I apologize if I offended you in any way. I didn’t say or mean to imply that careful study of the Word is unimportant (Ezra 7:10; Ps 49:3; Ps 119:97), or something better suited to females than males. In fact, it was the basis of the intial posting that we need to work to help boys become “mentally awake” through contemplation, reflection and study!

Clearly my statement is problematic in that it’s hardly a full treatise on the subject of male learning/behavior vs. female learning/behavior and doesn’t fully address age or maturity level. After all, are we talking about six year olds, 12 year olds or 18 year old males? I’d have higher expectations that older, more mature boys can handle longer “study sessions”, and that independent study (at any age) might prove more fruitful than sitting in a room full of distractions for most boys.

I have to wonder why do so many churches dismiss their children to “children’s church” if sitting through the sermon is so critical to their development? Wouldn’t it be better to take a family-integrated approach and disciple them together?

Could we not also agree that God blesses each of us with may different and divergent talents, vocational callings and such? Not all boys will grow up to be pastors of a church (they will have very serious responsibilities, spiritually, for their family), but they may be like Bezalel — a fine craftsman (Exodus 31:3-5) or even Joshua who was filled with the spirit of wisdom after being Moses’ right hand man in action, not sitting in classrooms (Deut 4:6)?

This is hardly a new phenomenon in American culture — look at Tom Sawyer or Ferris Buehler. These are bright (if fictional characters) who don’t like sitting in boring classrooms. David was a shepherd before becoming King — did he sit in classrooms with long lectures as a child? How about Solomon, Samuel, or Yeshua? His disciples traveled the dusty road, fished, camped, and discussed, but they weren’t 13 years old at the time — of course, when they were 13 they were “of age” and doing the work of the household already (fishing for a living).

To suggest that boys (age 6-18) can’t or won’t be able to “study the Word”, “lead worship”, “divide the Word” or become prepared for life without sitting still for hours on end seems to be an equally extreme position at the other end of the spectrum.

References: and or even

The passivity of the lecture method is not attractive to boys. I have 3 boys, and they respond much better if they are actively part of whatever we are studying.

However, they don’t need to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” or “In Right, Out Right, Up Right, Down Right” to be ‘actively participating’. They need to be motivated, whether it is demanding material or a challenging discussion. They want to be pushed. Why we think this means playing ‘Bible baseball’ is beyond me.

It is a fact that boys and girls learn differently. In any discussion, boys are going to be more interested in the facts, the mechanics of the situation. What blew up, how did it blow up, and where did the pieces land?

The girls, however, are more interested in the personal aspect. Something blew up- did anyone get hurt? Who is helping them pick up the pieces? What will they do now? Hand me a hanky.

It’s a generality, of course. But these kinds of generalities are based on research and statistics that show boys and girls respond differently to various stimuli.

I don’t see why we should reject that, if the Lord saw fit to design men and women differently, then why not use that knowledge to reach them in the way that fits them best?

Love Leonard Sax, by the way (in a platonic he’s-the-author-of-some-really-good-books kind of way). I read Why Gender Matters years ago, and shouted “AMEN!” about every other paragraph.


I do agree. I was just trying to give you a balance. Not everyone man will grow up to be a pastor. But it is also true that not every man will be a craftsman. I am one of those men. I have no interest in building anything. But I love firefighting and tearing things apart. :) Men are different than women and that is a blessing - it’s God’s design. It is also God’s design that every man is made differently.

Roger Carlson, Pastor Berean Baptist Church