I have worked in the field of higher education for almost twelve years. I first began as a professor at a mid-sized secular university where I taught masculine subjects, including architecture and construction management. I not only trained students to develop designs, build models, and use power tools but built full-scale buildings with them as well. After ten years as a college professor, the Lord transitioned me to serve as a campus minister to a small private university. His calling to collegiate ministry has allowed me to expand beyond the educational and professional development of young adults to an even more important area: spiritual development. Through both of these careers on college campuses, I have witnessed many disturbing trends as well as spiritual needs, the bulk of which relate to young adult men.
“On college campuses, I have witnessed many disturbing trends, the bulk of which relate to young adult men.”
My experience in higher education has shown me an important truth: males in college need more fathering, not less. It is often assumed that when young males leave home to pursue an education that the father’s primary work is complete – young males must now completely grow up and become men who can function on their own. They do not need too much input from their father lest they stay dependent. In reality, fathers of college-aged males should do the exact opposite; they should be a young adult male’s primary mentor.
Some of the most important decisions a young adult male will make tend to occur during the college years. Most will determine their vocational path or at least a general direction. Many will decide the type of woman they might someday marry or even find their spouse in college. Most crucial during the young adult years, however, is the establishment of a God-centered worldview. For eighteen years, males live under the protection of their father’s home as well as his faith. The college years will no doubt challenge the worldview of a young male’s childhood and demand that they establish their own during these transitional years between adolescence and adulthood.
When considering the magnitude of the decisions inherent to young adulthood as well as the establishment of worldview that naturally occurs during this time, fathers must view these years as some of the most essential with their sons. Numerous individuals – from professors to peers – attempt to pour knowledge into young males during the collegiate experience. Young adult males will be mentored and discipled by a variety of individuals and towards a diversity of causes and ideals. Without a father to spiritually mentor them and help them synthesize new knowledge as well as complex cultural and relational experiences, young males will often drift towards a secular worldview. Self will be the prominent focus of this worldview and career, entertainment and pleasure will be areas of fulfillment. A relationship with God will be limited to a childhood experience and not become an adulthood reality.
Over the years, I have led a couple of different multigenerational men’s ministries. One of the most repetitive comments I receive from older men – one’s in their sixties, seventies, and eighties – is that they wish their father, or a father-figure, would have shared with them important truths about a developing a Christ-like manhood during the young adult years. Many of these older men believe that their greatest mistakes and bad habits were made once they were living on their own after high school. Although it was their time to launch into the fullness of manhood, they realized that the spiritual mentorship of a father would have prevented numerous heartaches, bad decisions, and detrimental practices.
Fathers of young adult males: father them more, not less. Fathers of high school boys: prepare to father them as much, if not more, during their young adult years. I am not suggesting that young adult males stay home rather than attending college or get a degree and then return home afterward – quite the contrary. Young adult males definitely do not need parents babying them and enabling passivity. They also do not need to live under the same rules as they did in high school. What young adult males need is their father to continue with them in their journey towards the authentic manhood that God desires. A father-son relationship should expand in depth and fathers must provide guidance on more mature issues. As someone whose career has focused on this demographic for much of my life, what I am suggesting is that fathers don’t stop the primary discipleship of sons during the young adult years; they should enhance it and evolve it to meet the needs of their sons.
Bio: Chad Everhart serves as one of nine regional campus missionaries for the Kentucky Baptist Convention as well as Campus Minister to the University of the Cumberlands. After ten years serving as a professor and department chair of architecture and construction management at Appalachian State University, Chad answered God’s call to a mission field and people group for which his previous vocation prepared him: college students. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a dissertation focus on professors as key disciple makers. Besides being a major school nerd, Chad loves to hike, surf, hunt, fish, and farm. He and his wife, April, have been married for 12 years and have four young children.