Read Them Their Rites: The Need for Rites of Passage


Editor’s note: This post is the first in a two-part series.  Next Post: Part 2 – The Need for Ritual Space

Mixed Martial Arts, hazing, and binge drinking. Modern youth engage in all sorts of extreme sports and risky behaviors. What for?

Dr. Arne Rubenstein, Australian Rites of Passage Director, points out that people are happiest as children up to the age of 12. They are least happy at 16. Happiness then flatlines at 18, up from age 16, but never reaching the levels of age 12. Check his Ted Talk here. (Don’t miss the father blessing his son at the end).

What’s with the sudden drop in well being between ages 12-18? We have innate desires for:

  • Belonging
  • Approval
  • Blessing
  • Challenge
  • Honor
  • Being seen and affirmed
  • Connection

Throughout history, communities have provided formal rites of passage to fulfill these desires and to mark the maturation of its members. Fathers of Old Testament blessed their firstborns. Aboriginal tribes send their sons on walkabouts. And Boys Scouts perform Eagle Scout Award Ceremonies.

With rites of passages, we can feed those innate desires that fuel maturation.  We usually celebrate these rites of passages with ceremonies or rituals.  In these rituals, communities honor participants for who they were, who they are, and who they can be.  Participants are seen in their glory by elders and peers.  As Arne Rubenstein observes, participants in rites of passages are invited to become productive participants in that society.

What happens if a man is not explicitly acknowledged and not invited into society?  He becomes disenfranchised, and he will find what he needs elsewhere.  At age 16, it will be drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and other destructive behaviors.

Some might even find themselves in cuffs, being read their rights.  Michael Carlie reminds us that, “Gangs form in response to a lack of acceptable rites of passage from childhood to adulthood and offer alternative rites of passage to adulthood for their members.”

In March of 2004, The Crucible Project’s initial weekend changed my life forever.  There, I learned it was okay to be enraged at times, and yet sensitive and creative. I was able to get things off my chest that I thought I would carry to my grave.  With that rite of passage, I became a man of God, a doer or the word, not just a hearer.

What if we gave our sons and daughters what they need instead of leaving them to find it on their own?  Might the formal rite of passage be a remedy for broken people in a broken world?

What rites of passages do we have—getting a driver’s license, graduating high school, losing virginity, and getting married? Are these enough?


  • What rites of passage have helped you?
  • Are our Christian rites of passages, like baptism, structured in a meaningful way?
  • How can we ensure that a rite of passage remains meaningful?

By Marc Mantasoot

Marc completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2004 and graduated from our two-year transformational program in 2008. He wants to help others pursue their God-given joy and free the world of ego. He is an award-winning poet, writer, small groups/discipleship coach, high school English teacher and martial arts trainer.  He provides powerful methods for life transformation at  His greatest joys: Creating scenes with his son, lining up My Little Ponies with his baby girl, and pursuing his irresistible wife.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons