The Project Manhood™ boys program assists churches to reach and develop at-risk boys into responsible, educated, employed, and self-sufficient young men. The program, when fully implemented, helps churches, schools and nonprofit programs be comprehensive and male-specific in their approach and it enables them to reach a generation of boys and their parents.
Project Manhood™ was conceived in 1989 by Rev. Sheldon D. Nix, Ph.D., M.S.W., now the Executive Director of The Life Center
in Delaware and the former founding Pastor/Head Coach
of Life Worth Living Fellowship in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Nix for the past 5 years has also been the Coordinator for the Delaware Fatherhood & Family Coalition
, a state-wide network of government and community agencies and churches empowering men to be effective fathers.
A pilot test of the core program was conducted with 140 African American and Latino boys in Camden, New Jersey in 5 churches, and proved to be enormously successful. Since that time, over 45 churches around the country, including 39 in the D.C. area, have received training in implementing the program, and some have operated for over 10 years. In addition, hundreds of churches have utilized the curricula very successfully.
The Components of Project Manhood for Boys
A comprehensive program consists of 6 core activities that faith-based organizations can implement:
Manhood Training. The core of the program is what we call “manhood training.” When operated by churches and other ministries, it consists of weekly biblically-based group sessions in which men lead boys to develop a new understanding of the values, attitudes, skills, and habits of responsible adult men. A core curriculum for African American males has been developed, and we propose the modification of that curriculum for other groups. The program also encourages utilization of other curricula, including life skills and financial literacy training.
Case Management. A study conducted by Dr. Nix for the Pew Charitable Trusts revealed that churches do not connect their youth with services and resources available in their communities. Project Manhood trains churches in how to offer basic case management services:
- assessment of needs;
- identification of local resources; and
- effective referrals.
Mentoring-Coaching. A key intervention in the Project Manhood model is the provision of a mentor-coach. Mentoring focuses on providing young males with a role model, “friend,” and support person. Project Manhood tends to emphasize a group mentoring model because we have found that it sustains the involvement of African American and Latino men more than an individual mentoring approach does.
Coaching is more action-oriented than mentoring is. A coach helps boys become very clear on their goals for their lives at that point and enables them to better accomplish the desired results through personalized teaching, expanding awareness and designing supportive environments. Mentor-Coaches in Project Manhood thus provide emotional support and friendship while also providing focused guidance and support for changes in behavior.
Entrepreneurial Program. A comprehensive Project Manhood program includes teaching boys the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurship. Not only does learning to be an entrepreneur—and actually launching a business during the program—give a real-world focus to school learning, and teach self-sufficiency, but research has shown that it helps with a number of risk factors the program targets.
Tutoring. Project Manhood has always encouraged churches to include tutoring services for the boys. We developed a partnership with the HOSTS Learning organization to offer a much more structured tutoring component to Project Manhood boys. By providing an already-structured and well-researched tutoring service, faith-based organizations do not have to try to reinvent the wheel with the limited volunteer expertise available in most churches.
Career Development. Research on the key risk factors Project Manhood targets suggests that giving young males a sense of a valued future and a (mainstream) path toward reaching it is a critical intervention for preventing delinquency, gang involvement, and other dysfunctional behaviors while promoting school engagement and positive youth development.