Rites of Passage

Why is This Here?

A rite of passage is an extremely powerful process for working with teenagers and can be adapted in many ways to fit a particular group of teenagers or an organization.  A basic overview is provided here along with an example of a 9-month rite of passage focused on the 3 core challenges of the teen heroic journey and basic notes on how to design one.

Rites of Passage – Becoming the Author

A rite of passage is a process through which teenagers discover key things about themselves, about others, about how to relate to and work with others and build knowledge and skills required to be successful as young adults.

Teenager to Young Adult. A rite of passage marks the transition from one stage of life to another. A rite of passage is a great way to support teenagers in the last part of their teen years and acknowledge that they are entering the world of young adults. At the end of the rite of passage it is clear to the teenagers involved that they have crossed the threshold from teenager to young adult.  To be a credible transition to young adulthood the rite of passage must be comprehensive and challenging.

Others. A rite of passage can also mark the transition from elementary school to junior high or junior high to high school, but here we are focused on the teenager to young adult transition.

Together. One built in benefit of a rite of passage is that it clearly means that “heroes don’t go alone” on the journey. A rite of passage provides both peers to support the journey and adults to serve as guides, helpers, healers, etc.

Members. Membership can be gender specific or mixed. Groups can range from 6-18 members. Beyond 8 members, more than one adult guide is desirable.

Timing. A true rite of passage should be at least six months in length, but preferably 9-12 months. The frequency of meetings can vary by group, but should be at least monthly. One advantage of longer rites of passage is that they allow more group development as well as deeper learning by participants.

Adults. The adult roles can also vary, but are usually guides that stay with the group, content experts that are involved for specified times, and admin support to support the process.

Topics. A rite of passage modeled on the teen heroic journey would naturally focus on:

  • Becoming the author of a life
  • Figuring out one’s identity as a young adult
  • Relationships with parents, peers, romantic partners and sexual partners
  • Selected competencies of a young adult
  • Connecting with others and building support
  • Planning and staying on track
  • Mastery and “learning to love the plateau”
  • Dealing with “inbetweenity” and building resilience
  • Being part of a group

Design. Rites of passage can be designed in many ways. An example focused on the heroic journey of teenagers is outlined below. It is just an example because any rite of passage needs to be adapted to the sponsoring organization, the teenagers to be involved and the staffing available. Community considerations can also play a big part in adaptation.

Teen Heroic Journey Rite of Passage Design

Basic Notes

  • Core topics match the three core challenges of teenagers – identity, relationships and competencies
  • Other topics can be added, for example topics specific to a school, community, culture or specific competencies of importance
  • The group will develop as a group and how to be an effective member of a group is a naturally integrated topic
  • Staffing requires topic experts and a consistent guide(s) to provide structure and safety over the life of the group. Once you have alumni, carefully selected alumni may be able to provide staffing, which can be a major bonus.
  • The size of a group can range from 6-18. Beyond 8 members, however, the ability to conduct break-out groups is required as is more than one guide.
  • Sessions should be no more than a month apart to avoid disconnecting and a loss of momentum.


  • Session design is not easy and requires a good deal of thought and work to ensure the right experts and resources are available.
  • Effective meetings of any kind are characterized by (1) good design and prep, (2) good facilitation and (3) good follow-up. Rite of passage sessions are no different. Staff need to design and prep any adults involved in a session –  and participants will get the most out of a session if they have a chance to do some prep before-hand. That gets them in an active vs. passive posture, decreases the time required for providing information and increases discussion/application time.
  • In most cases experts need to be oriented to the group and process and their approach vetted to ensure that it fits the group. That may take very little time, but it should not be overlooked.


Sample Design PDF

The sample chart is in PDF form because it is too wide to display on the site.  It is, therefore not interactive, but it is a good illustration.

Click here for a PDF of Rite of Passages