What’s the ideal model for male growth and development? Here’s a simple 5-stage model that sets a standard for all men, overlaid with a Biblical twist. ♦
I was reminded this week of the Male Growth Model which I lay out over 5 distinct stages of development – Boyhood, Apprentice, Journeyman, Master, and Sage.1 While this model applies to all men worldwide, I particularly align this with how we as men should progress and develop in Christian/Biblical wisdom and maturity.
Question: Does the Bible really have anything specific to say on this matter?
Actually, not specifically.
While we may normally think of modern male growth and development in terms of a process that moves from childhood/adolescence, college/university training, then career, family and retirement, the Bible leaves us with other goals and objectives. We can apply the Biblical perspective to bring true value and richness to the entire spectrum of a man’s life.
But even for Christian men, this model may challenge the current trajectory of your life.
Yes. There are numerous examples of men in the Bible that we watch grow from boyhood to adulthood. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon are a few well-known Old Testament samples. We certainly know that these men, while Godly (at times), were not perfect men. Their lives are fraught with youthful arrogance, selfishness, early successes, failures, and mistakes.
Are we to live like these men? How do we map to their odd and peculiar lifestyles and Old Testament settings? It doesn’t really seem to apply.
God’s Real Male Model
Actually, there is one definitive example in the Bible of a man that follows God’s intended male growth model. It’s Jesus. Yes, Jesus is the perfect man who, even in His short tenure on earth, left us with a real model to follow and even project into old age.
Look at Jesus in light of the 5 growth stages of a man’s life. To keep it simple, I use well-known guild tradesman terminology (Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master) front-ended by Boyhood and concluding with Sage:
1) BOYHOOD (Childhood and Adolescence, Age 0-17) – From birth a boy is under the watchful care of his parents and is to be raised up spiritually and emotionally in the ways and teachings of the Lord. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…” – 2 Timothy 3:14-15. Jesus was raised as all Jewish boys at that time: “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” – Deuteronomy 6:4.
A young boy, any boy, through early adulthood should be taught a code of conduct (Biblical precepts) which teaches of a cause (God) bigger than himself. Anything less does a child, particularly a boy, a disservice.
2) APPRENTICE (Early Adulthood, Age 18-30) – At this point a young man settles into a work/vocation where he grows in skill and experience. Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. – Proverbs 12:24. Jesus became a carpenter under the tutelage of his earthly father, Joseph. “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” – Matthew 13:55.
These can be years of experimentation in fields of vocational practice, but through age 30 they are years of skill development and honed expertise as a young apprentice. No need to rush or push. Things even out by the end of this stage.
3) JOURNEYMAN (Adulthood, Age 31-45) – This next age bracket can be a time of flourishing and thriving at home and at work if the right decisions are made. Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go. – 1 Kings 2:3. At about this time Jesus started His ministry. He, of course, did not live deep into this stage. We can imagine however that had He lived longer He would have continued to operate in His clear strength and calling. Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – Luke 2:52.
These are prime growth years of a man’s career when one is on the rise and progressing through the ranks. However, power and success in one’s calling and “wheelhouse” are often countered by doubts, mistakes and questions about relative performance, losses, setbacks, integrity, life-balance frustrations, marriage, and family pressures.
Often during this stage, poor choices are made about jobs, finances, relationships, and children. If ever the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ made sense, it could apply to these years particularly. Additionally, for most men, at about the 3-decade mark, they come to that “fork in the road” job choice – that crisis of decision – to continue the status quo or take the risky road (think start-up, launching on your own, or moving into new responsibility in a company, etc.). All the more reason that one should seek God’s guidance in discernment and honest, surrendering prayer. God will not forsake the man who seeks Him.
4) MASTER (Middle Adulthood, Age 45-60) – Having weathered the growth years of the Journeyman, a man’s productivity now peaks at the Master stage. Or it should. At this age he is mature and seasoned in knowledge, skills and application of all he has learned over decades of experience. Of course, Jesus operated like a young Master well before ever reaching this stage.
Masters are skilled workman, managers, directors, vice presidents, presidents, owners and corporate/government leaders. Yet many men at this age are but fools, listening or following still only their own selfish desires and inclinations. Know that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7. These are often the “wake-up” years for many men who reassess a life gone sideways. Fortunately, God is ever patient.
5) SAGE (Late Adulthood, Age 61+) – Man was actually not designed for retirement. Man slows down and his productive years of labor wind down due to physical decline, yet the mind at this age should still be wise, tempered and ripe for the picking. Jesus would have been an incredibly wise older man. Even in His short life He modeled one who molds, mentors, develops and disciples the next generation.
The Godly sage-man should be what I would call “a fountain for youth” – of knowledge, guidance, assurance and teaching for his children and next generations. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. – James 3:17. Consider the good fruit and impact of an aged man, not the trophy showcases or golf handicap.
The Road We Travel
For all men, it’s a long and winding road. The sooner we relinquish the reins of control to the all-wise God, the better the life in peace, wisdom, even joy. And not only for a grown man and his family, but for subsequent generations and all those he encounters and influences.
Are you on the right growth path?
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:3-5
1 Boys to Men – A Growth Model, by Michael Griego, Biblical Viewpoint, https://biblicalviewpoint.com/2015/03/14/boys-to-men-a-growth-model/, 2015.