The Intentional Father

Physical Copy:

By: Jon Tyson

Rating: A+

This is one of the more important books to me. Being a Dad is one of the most important roles I will play in my life.

This summary is a longer one. It is meant to be prescriptive. At the end, I created a checklist to summarize the steps the author prescribes.

Introduction: There is a need for Fathers

“The role of fatherhood is one of the most overlooked yet crucial roles in our society. The data and our own experience could not be clearer. When a father is present, emotionally healthy, and involved in his child’s life, the child has a tremendous advantage in the world to navigate its complexities and challenges with joy and confidence.”

When we say we’re raising a child, what we’re actually communicating, based on the history of the phrase, is, “I want you. I want you in my life. I’m going to take responsibility for you, and I’m going to give you everything I can to help you grow up and mature into the best person you can be.”

Children without fathers:

  • Are 4 times more likely to live in poverty
  • Are more likely to suffer emotional and behavioral problems
  • Have higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born into married homes
  • Have two times the risk of infant mortality
  • Are more likely to go to prison. Only one in five prison inmates grew up with their father present
  • Are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity

In almost every other culture, there is a codified, intentional, intense pathway to develop adolescents into adults. But in Western, US culture, there’s almost nothing.

Do you know what’s really killing our young people today?

The answer is self-initiation.

When there’s no older generation intentionally ushering boys into manhood, when there’s no tribe of mentors or fathers taking their sons along a predetermined path, many of our young men try to establish themselves, attempting to walk through the wilderness of adolescence with the hope that, somehow, they’ll find their way into adulthood on their own.

Chapter 2: Five Kinds of Fathers

The Principle

Being a father is one of the most sacred responsibilities a man can have. The current crisis among fathers threatens to destroy this generation.

  • Type 1: The Irresponsible Father
  • Type 2: The Ignorant Father
  • Type 3: The Inconsistent Father
  • Type 4: The Involved Father 
  • Type 5: The Intentional Father

What is the definition of a man?

A man is an image bearer and son of God entrusted with power and the responsibility to create, cultivate, care, and defend, for God’s glory and the good of others.

Our goal is to help our sons become like Jesus. Because Jesus was the best man who ever lived. Look at his life, his cause, his compassion, his courage, his love for other people, his walk with his heavenly Father, his willingness to confront hypocrisy, his personal integrity.

Part 2: Preparation

Chapter 3: A Preview of the Possible

The Principle

We need to have a vision of the day our sons will leave our homes and work backward from that day with a plan to help them gain the knowledge, skills, character, and experiences they need. This will enable them to move into the world as confident and healthy men.

Exercise # 1: Preparing for That Day

Answer the four important questions to think through before your son leaves home:

  1. What do you want your son to know? (About God, himself, and life.)
  2. Who do you want him to be? (What character do you want your son to exhibit?)
  3. What do you want him to be able to do? (Practical skills and things you wish someone taught you.)
  4. What experiences do you want him to have? (What experiences can reinforce 1 through 3?)

Exercise #2: Create an Asset Map

Dream about the journey you will prepare for your son. 

What tools, experiences, people, places, and trips can you put together in order to develop something extraordinary for him?

Exercise #3: Form an Intentional Father Cohort

Get together a group of dads to do this together with and meet regularly.

Chapter 4: Honoring Your Father

The Principle

We are called to deal with the brokenness of our past, understand the blessings we have inherited, and pass on a legacy of healing to our sons.

Fathers were boys once, and very few of them were guided into manhood properly. And then our fathers were still boys when they had to take on the label of “father” to raise us, and many of them didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

It’s important to realize that all of us have complicated relationships with our fathers, whether because of what they did or what they didn’t do. What we have to learn to do is actually begin to view them as men. 

Write a tribute letter to your father as a way of honoring him.

Write down your story for your son to read. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the most beautiful moments of my life, and what are the most broken moments of my life?
  • What are the highs, and what are the lows?
  • What are the mountains, and what are the valleys?
  • What happened? Name it.
  • What did you feel? Embrace it.
  • How did you respond? Own it.
  • How did this shape you? Understand it.
  • What did you learn? Extract it.
  • How can you grow from this? Use it.

Part 3: Initiation

Chapter 5: Ceremony

The Principle: 

Adolescent boys need to know they are being invited into a journey of growth and development out of childhood and into manhood. There needs to be a definitive break from normal life into liminal space where they can emerge and grow as men.

Intentional Steps

Severing Ceremony

This is when your wife tells your son of the importance of the initiation journey ahead and that their relationship will change as he becomes a man.

Talk through the severing dinner steps with your wife and come up with a plan she’s willing to carry out. Plan out the night and make it as meaningful as you can. 

Initiation Ceremony

Brainstorm a powerful initiation, something your son will remember that will help him understand he is stepping out on a new journey. Take your time, make it meaningful, and go big.

Create an evening, day, or weekend to initiate your son into the Primal Path.

Chapter 6: Home

The Principle

Until we know the story we are in, we will never know the character we are called to become. It is important that young men get a sense of a larger story and tradition, so they have some context for living well and break the delusion that the world revolves around them.

I believe one of the great gifts that provides orientation and perspective for a self-focused teenager is to let him know your story – your family background, the place you grew up, and the moments that shaped you into the man and father you are today.

Intentional Steps

Write your story and show your story to help your son know your family legacy and history. Maybe there are things to be proud of; maybe there are cautionary tales.

Story Context Trip

Where will you go? Which parts of your timeline and story are important for your son to know and understand? List out those places.

What special things can you do that will make this trip memorable for your son? What will create bonding moments that will last a lifetime? List out those activities.

What memorable ways can you show and impart your values to your son? What will help impress them upon him? List out those values.

You want this trip to put your son’s story in context and help him understand more about you. You want this to build a foundation for the rest of your years together.

Chapter 7: Values

The Principle

Without values, a man is rudderless in a sea of relativity and compromise. With values, a man can navigate complexity and confusion with confidence and clarity. Infusing values – those of the family, those of manhood, and personal ones – is a great gift from a father to a son.

What are your values? Have you ever really taken the time to clarify what you and your family are all about? What matters to you as an adult? What do you want your child to understand from your story?

Jesus embodied these values (Rom. 8:29):

  • Wisdom. He showed us the wonder of the kingdom through provocative parables and gave us truth that not only informs and inspires but also sets us free.
  • Self-Control. Jesus showed remarkable self-restraint when going to the cross.
  • Courage. Jesus boldly faced the cross when his disciples fled under pressure.
  • Justice. Jesus advocated for the oppressed, created space for the outcast, and confronted hypocrisy in the systems of his day.

Intentional Steps

How will you model and embody the values Christ did (Wisdom, Self-Control, Courage, Justice)?

Exercise: The Values Audit

Write these down and share them with your son.

Family Values

  • What do you regard as valuable as a family? Why? How does this show up?
  • What values do you need to embrace to thrive and function in your home?
  • How do you act when under stress? In joy? In boredom?

Personal Values

  • What matters to you? What have you admired in others?
  • What do you want to impart to your son?
  • What have you learned about pain, joy, God, and yourself?
  • What aspirational values do you want to see developed in your son?
  • What values from your mountains and valleys exercise do you want to pass on to him?

Part 4: Formation

Chapter 8: Five Shifts

The Principle

To mark progress from adolescence into manhood, a boy needs to understand how boys act and think compared to men. He needs growth and direction and challenges to move along this continuum so he can see the progress he is making toward maturity.

5 Rules of Manhood:

  1. Life is hard.
  2. You are not important.
  3. Your life is not about you.
  4. You are not in control.
  5. You are going to die.

5 Shifts

  1. Shift from ease to difficulty.
  2. Shift from caring only for themselves to caring about others.
  3. Shift from life is about me to you are part of the story, not the whole story.
  4. Shift from control to surrender.
  5. Shift from the temporary to the eternal.

The life of a boy is a life of ease, a life of self in which we try to control everything, and a life spent living in the moment. But the beauty of being a man is that a man embraces difficulty, cares about others, is part of a greater story, is willing to surrender to a greater cause, and lives for the eternal, not the temporary.

These aren’t just generic manhood shifts – these are the shifts that help our sons become more like Jesus.

Intentional Steps

Make a plan and a list of resources you’d like to use for each shift. Plan to take at least a month or two on each shift.

Chapter 9: The Power of Preparing for Moments

The Principle

So much of our lives is defined by moments. Moments of wonder, moments of heartache, moments of accomplishment, moments of regret. An intentional father is aware of the power of moments and works hard in advance to create life-changing ones. 

Intentional Steps

Develop a list and design experiences to help mark these moments in the life of your son.

Master Moments List for your Son

What is the moment? Why does it matter? How will you mark it? Included below are some example moments you may want to think through and plan for your son.

  • Getting a phone
  • Wet dream
  • First exposure to porn
  • First shave
  • First girlfriend
  • First breakup
  • Exposure to drugs
  • Exposure to the LGBTQ world
  • First fight
  • First death
  • First loss in something that matters to him
  • First job
  • First paycheck
  • Exposure to racism
  • Getting his license and first car
  • Prom
  • Graduation
  • Baptism
  • Bullying
  • Lying to you, your wife, or other authority figures
  • Doubts about faith

Chapter 10: Being Good at Being a Man

The Principle

Young men today don’t aspire to a moralistic vision of generic goodness. They want a deep understanding of what a man actually is and how to be good at that. They want the vision and skill to master the art of manhood. In this framework, confidence comes through competence. We must learn to transfer the tangible skills and the key elements of manhood to our sons.

Men need actual discipleship and development, specific advice and skills and ways of living in the world that help us learn how to be good at being men.

One of the main challenges men face these days is a lack of competence at being a man and therefore they lack confidence at being a man.

Confidence comes from competence.

The discipling process:

  • I do, you watch, we talk.
  • I do, you help, we talk.
  • You do, I help, we talk.
  • You do, I watch, we talk.
  • You do, someone else watches.

Intentional Steps

What are some things in which your son has natural interest and you could help him achieve competency? Make a list, and then be prepared to add to that list in the next chapter.

Make a list of the skills you wish someone had taught you when you were approaching adulthood.

Chapter 11: Roles to Master

The Principle

In order for your son to be good at being a man, he needs to understand and grow in the key roles of manhood. Learning and growing in knowledge, skill, and character in those areas will produce confidence as he moves out into the world.

Being a father is not about efficiency; it’s about discipleship. Being a father is not about time management; it’s about heart development.

Role 1: Disciple: Being discipled is nothing more than being trained to become like Jesus.

Role 2: Lover: We don’t want our sons to take the cultural view of women but to understand the privilege and wonder of having a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. We want them to know the purpose and joy of marriage and how to prepare to become a man of commitment and faithfulness.

Role 3: Leader: “A man accepts responsibility, rejects passivity, leads courageously, and lives for the greater reward.” Fear-based passivity must be acknowledged, confronted, and pushed out of a young man’s life.

Role 4: Warrior: Men need a cause. A cause is bigger than a vision, more expansive than a strategy, and more long-lasting than a season. Your son needs the gift of learning to fight through pain, being mentally tough, and acquiring physical skills over time.

Role 5: Brother: Give them a framework to confront their friends well, build a brotherhood, and have a godly good time.

Role 6: Wise Man: We live in a culture of fools. Men need to learn to become wise. Use the book of Proverbs as a foundation to talk about living out the role of a wise man, discussing the traits of the foolish and the wise and identifying both in our culture.

Intentional Steps

Write down each of the 6 roles and then list out various ways you can introduce them to your son. What activities would you like to do? What books would be good to read? What concepts do you want to dig into? 

Chapter 12: Self-Discovery

The Principle

Our goal as fathers is to help our sons discover who God has made and called them to be. We are not to make them in our own image but to help them along the path of grace so that they are renewed in the image of their Creator. This will bring them confidence and vision to move forward.

Intentional Steps

  • When will you begin this process of testing and self-evaluations?
  • What are the specific tests you plan on having your son take?
  • Who will help you walk through these various tests?
  • What is your plan for exploring the results of these tests?

Use the following to help process each of the tests with your son.


  • What does this mean?
  • What does it explain?
  • What does it have implications for?
  • What does it help others know?

Chapter 13: The Arc of Life

The Principle

Young men rarely think long and hard about the decisions and directions they want their lives to take. The horizon of their thinking often extends to the end of their current season and the start of the next. But wise men understand the arc and seasons of a life and seek to live well in each season to minimize regret and maximize joy.

The Arc of Life:

  • High School: Exposing us to life. Experience what is out there.
  • College: Learning. About your path, God, and yourself.
  • 20s: Growing. Who are you as a person and getting better at that.
  • 30s: Editing. You get a sense of your purpose and begin shutting off what doesn’t matter to focus.
  • 40s: Mastering. You have energy, skill, idealism, and a cause. You go for it.
  • 50s: Harvesting. Bringing in the results of decades of life’s work.
  • 60s: Guiding. You take attention away from yourself and focus on the generations to come.
  • 70s: Imparting. Taking everything deposited in your life and pouring it out for others.
  • 80s: Savoring. Every meaningful moment.
  • 90s: Preparing. Preparing to reach the finish line.

Intentional Steps

Make a list that includes at least one person from each of these life stages in life for your son to meet with.

Help your son come up with a list of questions that will generate the kind of discussion you’re looking for – namely, dialogue that explores joys and temptations at each stage of life.

Part 5: Recognition

Chapter 14: The Gap Year

The Principle

Young men need a liminal space where they are removed from the normal rhythm and routine of life and given time and opportunity to see what is inside of them. They need space to encounter those who have grown up in completely different cultural contexts and bond with other men. In modern life, nothing does this quite as well as a gap year.

Goals for a gap year:

  • First: encounter the poor and realize that life isn’t about you.
  • Second: Don’t jump on the career path just yet. Give time to think about who you are and where you want to go.
  • Third: A father-son pilgrimage. Do something hard together. Climb a mountain etc.

Intentional Steps

What are some ideas you have for a gap year and a father-son pilgrimage? Dream big and think about some of the details. When? How long? Where? How?

Chapter 15: Ceremony of Welcome and Blessing

The Principle

If a son does not receive blessing from his father, he will spend the rest of his life trying to earn that blessing. Creating a blessing ceremony will help cement our sons’ identity and heal wounds they have suffered along the way. It is something only we as fathers give to our sons. 

Imagine this moment. Your son has returned from his gap year. He’s received your family values, made the 5 shifts, thought through the defining moments of his life, mastered 6 roles of being a man, discovered who he is, seen the world, been through all of these incredible experiences, and now he’s returned home.

“Dad, what’s next?”

“Whatever happens next,” you reply, “you’re going to get my blessing and operate out of that for the rest of your life.”

Intentional Steps

  • Make a list of the people you’d like to be present at this ceremony of blessing.
  • Where would you like to have it?
  • What affirmations should be spoken?
  • What gifts should you give your child?
  • How could you make this an extraordinary night where he delights in, and receives, your blessing?


This feels overwhelming. But there is no greater responsibility. Here is a checklist to wrap your mind around.


  1. Answer 4 questions to address before your son leaves home:
    1. What do you want your son to know? (About God, himself, and life.)
    2. Who do you want him to be? (What character do you want your son to exhibit?)
    3. What do you want him to be able to do? (Practical skills and things you wish someone taught you.)
    4. What experiences do you want him to have? (What experiences can reinforce 1 through 3?)
  2. Create an Plan
    1. Write out the journey you will prepare for your son (tools, experiences, people, places, and trips) in order to develop him into the man he is capable of. Plan how you will address important moments, the firsts.
    2. Write down your values and share them with your son.
    3. Teach your son the 5 shifts into manhood through scripture, movies, books, and trips.
      1. Shift from ease to difficulty.
      2. Shift from caring only for themselves to caring about others.
      3. Shift from life is about me to you are part of the story, not the whole story.
      4. Shift from control to surrender.
      5. Shift from the temporary to the eternal.
    4. Teach your son the 6 roles of a man through scripture, movies, books, and trips.
      1. Disciple
      2. Lover
      3. Leader
      4. Warrior
      5. Brother
      6. Wise Man
  3. Form an Intentional Father Cohort
  4. Write a tribute letter to your father as a way of honoring him.
  5. Write down your story for your son to read.
  6. Have your wife conduct a severing ceremony prior to beginning the initiation.
  7. Conduct an initiation ceremony to begin the initiation into manhood.
  8. Take your son on a trip to your hometown and share important stories with him to impart wisdom, values, and lessons learned.
  9. Gap Year
    1. Help your son plan a gap year to encounter the poor, take time to think about who he is and where he wants to go, and go on a father-son pilgrimage to conclude the year.
    2. Have your son take multiple personality tests and process the results with him.
    3. Help your son go to lunch or coffee with a man in each of these stages: High School, College, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. Help him plan to discuss joys and temptations in each stage of life.
  10. Give your blessing.
    1. At the end of the gap year give your son your blessing in a meaningful ceremony. 

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