This spring I took 15 college guys from Colorado to the West Coast for a week. Our daily itinerary was simple.
Morning: Sitting with the Lord for several hours.
Meals: Sharing meals and life together.
Afternoon: Random adventures and surfing into the evening.
Nighttime: Process what we saw, what we learned, what is being changed in our lives.
We have been doing this trip for 10 years. It is popular, it is a highlight, it is compelling, and it is needed. I'm thinking about the richness of this trip over the past decade as I mull the question: "Where are all the men?"
In the mission of Young Life, we have seen a steady decline in involvement from men.
Less men in Campaigners and discipleship.
Shortage of men in summer staff.
Oftentimes less men in leadership or attending Young Life College.
Fewer men applying for field staff or other positions.
I think boys and men today have a deep longing for apprenticeship, which requires a master artisan. I know that in our culture we are losing the deep wisdom that comes from sitting and doing something slowly and repeating that process for years until we are masterful in our craft. I believe the art of making disciples (building Christ into boys and mending Jesus through a man) is one of those tradecrafts where there are fewer and fewer masterfully skilled workers to be found. Part of the reason why the art is being lost is because it takes so much time.
Even the new ways to connect, engage and train men are found lacking. Purchasing an app or going to church on your phone from the comfort of your couch, listening to a podcast and going to a weekend retreat don’t address the core problem. The make-a-disciple curriculum we watch Jesus employ stands in stark contrast to what we practice today. With 12 and with 72, Jesus' method was one of radical submission to His authority, shock therapy and enormous amounts of time spent together. I do not believe that the result of the new ways offered today will yield formed young men who can weather the elements and be found standing as old pylons against a rising tide. But we need those kind of men.
Young men are being discipled in a culture that teaches and rewards people for gaining "followers" who do not actually follow you anywhere. This inevitably bleeds into our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. I think if we want to see pockets of authentic-faith, character-compelling, follow-worthy men arise, they are going to graduate from a different line.
I believe if we want to be a part of shaping the hungry hordes of guys looking for someone to tell them the way, we are going to have to lead from a different cut. We must be the ones who are marked not by efficiency but by lives of withdrawing often to lonely places to drink deep droughts with the Lord. Then we return. We spend much time with a handful and freely give a few the best of what we have fought for in Christ and hard-won through obedience so that they can outrun us … and our names are forgotten.
To not lose the men, we need to spend the time to do a few key things.
Make yourself available.
Run with the men who run and ask to be poured into.
Give parameters of the relationship and make sure your voice has “weight.”
Be committed to the cost of discipleship — time.
I see men who are hungry, starved and desperate. If we raise our expectations, they will come running!
Written by: Greg Hook, Area Director (Young Life College Director), Fort Collins, Colorado email@example.com