STEP 2: Email #2
Explaining the ROP to the Men
The second step in planning a Rite of Passage is to explain to the men that you are inviting the details of exactly what will be happening during the weekend. This is especially important for men who have never attended a ROP before; you want to be sure they know what they are signing up for. Once you explain the ROP weekend to them in detail, you also want to ask for the men to commit to attending the weekend or not, so you can plan your weekend accordingly.
The text below is a sample email for you to copy and send to your group. Please feel free to edit as you see fit.
To: All men invited to the ROP weekend
When: 3 months before ROP weekend
Subject: [Boy’s name]’s rite of passage weekend - Activity Details
I want to take the time to explain some of the activities that are going to make up [boys name]’s rite of passage weekend. Please read this email carefully, because if you choose to attend, you will need to prepare for a few of the rituals beforehand.
The first thing that we are going to do is participate in a fun activity as a group. Right now, I am thinking that we will stop and do [activity] on our drive up to the location. Doing something fun as a group will help [boy’s name] loosen up a bit and it’s a good opportunity for us all to have some quality bonding time together.
We will then continue on our way and finish the drive to the cabin. Before we enter the cabin, we will have an ‘entrance ceremony’. The purpose of this ceremony is to remember that we are in the holy presence of God, and to officially start [boys name]’s rite of passage. We will stand in a circle just outside the front door of the cabin, and I will lead us in prayer and read Exodus 3:1-10, which is the story of Moses and the burning bush.
The cabin is going to be our sacred space for the weekend, so there are a couple of special rules. First, once you enter the cabin, you will not be able to leave the cabin until the weekend is over (except of course in the case of an emergency). Second, we will take our shoes off before entering the cabin and leave them outside.
When we are finished with the entrance prayer, we will send 2 guys into the cabin, and the rest of us will hand the luggage in to them. Remember - once you enter the cabin, you can’t leave!
When all the luggage has been loaded into the cabin and we have all entered, [boys name] and one other man will start a fire in the wood stove. Just like Moses was in the presence of God in the figure of the burning bush, the fire for us is going to represent God’s presence throughout the weekend. We are all going to be responsible for keeping the fire going for the duration of the weekend and not letting it burn itself out.
I will be asking [boys name] to make leadership decisions throughout the weekend, like who cooks, who cleans, who sleeps in each bedroom, etc. I want to give him a little bit more leadership responsibility and learn what it is like to make decisions that affect other people, now that he is entering manhood. I know with this group that I don’t even have to say this, but please be cooperative and don’t complain about any of his decisions; I want this to be a good first experience of leadership for him.
After we unpack our bags, cook dinner, and clean up, we will start the next phase of the ROP. We will all gather in a circle near the fire, and each one of us will share with him some advice about ‘what it means to be a man.’ This is meant to be a sincere conversation, but also informal and relaxed. I will make it clear that we all agree to a ‘what is said here, stays here’ policy before we begin. Your advice may include something along the lines of: a man knows his limits, a man respects women, a man takes a leap of faith when he believes in himself, a man does the right thing even when it is difficult, a man makes sacrifices for his family, etc. If you can incorporate a personal story to go along with your message, that would be even better. Please come prepared with 5 to 10 minutes worth of ‘what it means to be a man’ advice that you want to share with [boy’s name].
After the sharing of what it means to be a man, we will give [boy’s name] the opportunity to ask us any questions that he might have. Then we will move on to the next ritual, which is the sharing of scripture. Each one of us will pick a meaningful passage from scripture, read it to the group, and share why we picked that passage. Please pick out your scripture passage before the weekend, and prepare a 5 to 10 minute reflection. This exercise should be informal and relaxed as well; you are not expected to lead a seminary level Bible study, just a quick reflection of why you picked the passage and what it means to you. You don’t have to write out an entire speech beforehand, but you should at least know the major topics that you want to talk about in your reflection.
Before we go to bed on that first night, I will be presenting [boy's name] with a special family gift, and also with letters written to him by the family. In a few weeks, I am going to send another email to you men, as well as the women of the family and other adult role models in [boys name]’s life, asking each of you to write a letter to him. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into the requirements of the letters in this email, but just know that at the end of the first night, I will be presenting the letters to [boys name].
Before we go to bed, I will ask [boys name] to pick shifts during the night for each man to put more wood on the fire. Remember, we have to keep the fire going all weekend.
On Sunday morning, we will cook breakfast and eat together. After the dishes and kitchen are cleaned, we will gather in a circle again near the fire. The next ceremony is known as the ribbon ceremony. Each of us, including [boys name], will have a 2 to 3 foot long stick. All of us, minus [boy’s name], will come prepared with 4 to 6 ribbons, each with a positive or negative character trait that we see in ourselves written on each ribbon. For example, my ribbons might be: thrifty, short temper, caring, and jealous. We will have our ribbons tied to our sticks, and [boy's name]’s stick will be empty.
We will go around the circle sharing what character traits we wrote down on our ribbons, and why we wrote them down. Once one of us has finished sharing, [boys name] will untie any character traits that he wants to take from us off of our stick, and tie them onto his. Hopefully he will pick only our positive traits, and we will be left with just our negative traits on our stick. We will take our leftover ribbons and throw them in the fire, signifying our commitment to improve ourselves and ‘burn away’ these negative characteristics from our lives.
When one of us has burned his ribbons with the negative character traits, the next man in the circle will share and [boy’s name] will remove the ribbons that he wants, until we have all shared and [boy's name] stick is full of ribbons.
After the ribbon ceremony, we will do a final cleaning of the house, pack up our gear, extinguish the fire, and exit the cabin. Outside of the cabin, we will conduct the final ceremony, called the final blessing. I will ask [boys name] to read a small prayer that I have prepared and to bless each one of us individually. Then we will get in the cars and drive home.
When we arrive at home, we will have a birthday party planned for [boy's name], with his siblings, cousins, aunts, grandmother, and a few friends present. The birthday party is a ‘coming home’ party of sorts. Remember, we want to keep our ROP weekend a secret from the other children of the family under the age of 13, so we can surprise them on their 13th birthday as well. I will make this clear to [boy’s name] before we get home from the weekend.
This email should give you a pretty good idea of what the weekend is going to look like. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. At this point, I would like each of you to kindly RSVP ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to coming along the weekend with us, if you have not done so already. I would love it if you all attended, but I completely understand if you cannot or do not want to come along - no hard feelings here.
I know it is not going to be a small task to pull this weekend off, and I could not be more proud to do it with anyone besides this group of men. The next email that you will see from me will explain the letter.