Those people growing up live in post industrial societies where people have been homogenised, deracinated, detribalised, and have become both the perpetrators and victims of a vacuous consumerism, sometimes feel a lack. They may turn to on of inumerable addictions, some of which are more socially approved of, some less. Graffiti, vandalism, alcoholism, gangs, drugs, authoritarian structures where the other is demonised, workaholism, internet addictions, shopping, overeating...when some of these people go shopping for traditions and ceremonies that will enhance their lives, and give them a sense of their worth and their place in the universe. Judaism might want to be there offering them something.
An expanded Bar Mitzvah (as discussed below) might offer a lot to people who have not grown up with a particlar faith tradition, and are looking for a rite of pasage which will help them to meaningfully transition (now there's an American refitting of a noun as a verb!) from one life stage to the next. Jewish congregations could offer this ceremony as part of their outreach programmes.
they call it a rite of passage
but from where to where
and is it to become more righteous
or more riotous
hard to get it right
the son of commandments
on a mission from G-d
to laugh without reservation
sing without hesitation
serve without calculation
be without justification
Reviewing the age of Bat and Bar Mitzvah
While the current age of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah (12 for girls, 13 for boys) is well timed to coincide with the onset of puberty, in many other ways, in this time and place, 13 is not an age when children enter into adulthood, but rather into the narcissistic and intense highs and lows of adolescence. It might make a lot more sense to have the ceremony at 17 or 18, where it might co-incide with other events and markers of adulthood such as legal majority, driving licences, final year(s) at school, or even the completion of school. Any comments or responses from readers?
I personally would like to see the bar mitzvah in general gaining extra layers of meaning by evolving into a male rite-of passage /initiation ceremony where boys are mentored into meaningful, powerful and compassionate manhood by older males. It would involve a little bit of adrenalin (maybe with some white water rafting, or a long hike....see the Mankind project https://mankindproject.org.au/ and
The Bar / Bat Mitzvah process (for it is a process, not a single ceremony) would also involve some sex education (so that boys don't just get their ideas from their peers and from porn sites etc etc) where the sacredness of sex is emphasised, and some community/tzedaka type work where the barmitzvah or batmitzvah contributes a certain number of volunteer hours for a worthwhile organisation or cause of their choice - mine would be CLAW http://www.claw-sa.org/ or the Tibetan Bhuddist project in Groot Marico or several bautiful organisations in Israel...of course everyone will have their own list.
AND a very unostentatious community ceremony in a shul where the child reads from the torah, gives a dvar torah ( a personal interpretation of their portion) and is acknowledged for all they have achieved by their community, AND their parents are acknowledged for having raised a productive and responsible member of the community (takes a village to raise a child, but nevertheless parents have a central role)