This transcript is taken from a Stand in the Gap Today program originally airing Nov. 29. To listen to the program please click HERE.
Jamie Mitchell: Well, welcome to the Tuesday edition of Stand In the Gap Today. I’m Jamie Mitchell, director of church culture for the American Pastors Network, your host today. With me is Pastor Steve Harrelson of Virginia. Today, we want to consider an issue that is eating way at the fabric of the family, the church, and the soul of our nation. Over the last few years, the issues regarding gender identity and the confusion it is causing among young people has been shocking.
Kids have enough on their plate to contend with concerning learning and peer pressure, heightened competition in the world, the digital age and family stressors. Now, we throw at them the issue of figuring out if they’re a boy or a girl. There has been an all out assault on God’s design for gender and young people are the target, their innocence and curiosity, and to be honest, their parents’ ignorance at times has left them easy prey for those wanting to twist their minds and turn their hearts.
One of the primary causes of this raging battle is the squelching of cultivating healthy masculinity in young boys who will become young men. It is now considered evil and abnormal if you want to see boys learn to become courageous and daring, strong, adventurous, rugged. Encouraging young men to be chivalrous and protecting and providing is clearly viewed as demeaning and dangerous. It’s not just a cultural mores that’s causing this. Statistics are not in the favor of our boys growing up to be godly, healthy masculine personas.
80% of single parent homes are headed by single moms leaving a void of a male model in the home. One out of four children are living without a significant male father figure. The Justice Department tells us that the most violent crimes occur from those fatherless upbringings and that it is the major indicator of a person, especially a boy, will enter a life of crime. 82% of school shooters either grew up with no male influence or an unstable home.
We have all heard statistics concerning the rise of young people committing suicide who are troubled by gender confusion. We cannot fix all of society’s ills, but we can start to make a difference in one aspect of it. Intentionally trying to reach, develop and grow up young men with a biblical masculine identity is certainly a noble and necessary cause.
Our guest today thoroughly believes that and is doing all he can along with his ministry to help shape the lives of boys and young men. Mark Hancock is the CEO of Trail Life USA. Trail Life’s mission is to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others and experience outdoor adventure. He hosts the daily program Raising Godly Boys and he is here with us today to discuss what I’ve entitled is Recapturing Masculinity in Young men. Mark, we welcome you to Stand In the Gap Today.
Mark Hancock: Jamie, I so appreciate you in that introduction. Really, really very great picture where we are as a society. I appreciate your perspective on that.
Jamie Mitchell: Well, Mark, you heard my opening. Am I being dramatic? Am I just off the edge alarmist? Or is there really a problem today in regards to gender confusion and especially among boys and young men?
Mark Hancock: I think as a culture we’ve kind of got our heads buried in the sand over this issue and it doesn’t take a lot of digging to find the statistics and the effects on boys today. So no, you’re not being an alarmist. You’re not crazy. You’re identifying something that any engaged parent or any engaged teacher or pastors who are paying attention know and that’s that boys are in trouble in our society today.
Steve Harrelson: This is Pastor Steve here. Good afternoon. How much does today’s gender blurring play a role in this crisis that we’re addressing? Actually, how much is the church itself at fault for not speaking to this issue with absolute clarity?
Mark Hancock: See, that’s a great question. The gender blurring, there’s so many things that are coming at boys and one of their questions is what does it mean to be a man, and the gender blurring, that’s just reinforcing that thing where we’re not providing for boys a clear idea what it is to be a man. I would say that the churches participate in that somewhat in that our churches for the most part are ministering to women. Most pastors will say that the folks who are engaged, the folks who are sitting in the seats are women because that environment is really created for kind of a sit still be quiet, pay attention.
Although I love the work of the church, I think it’s plan A for God for the world, it seems like it’s appealing more to women. Men who by their nature and boys who by their nature are designed by God to be active and involved and engaged and protective and courageous and all those things, our churches don’t commonly offer that kind of experience. So to some degree, I think that as churches, as pastors, we can do a better job of engaging boys and men in the bold type of ministry that God has called them to.
Jamie Mitchell: Well, Mark, it seems to me that the last couple of years, or maybe even more, maybe the last decade, as Christians, we’ve been back on our heels because of the loud megaphones of the media and everywhere else who have told us that being a man’s man is wrong. As you have looked at this issue, how much does the media play in twisting our ideas on masculinity?
Mark Hancock: Well, it’s made it unpopular to say things like boys and girls are different or men and women are different. I mean, you’ll be shouted down in a lot of places for saying that, but that’s the truth. So when we go along with that society call that says that everyone is the same and that there’s no difference between boys and girls, we’re kind of playing into that thing and we’re discounting the strength of men and boys and instead painting with this broad brush of toxic masculinity. Of course, we’re not out after building a generation of toxic men and there are some toxic men out there, but not all men are toxic and not all boys are toxic.
Sometimes that courage, that being drawn to risk and competition, that is a positive thing. You look at what has built this country and amazing accomplishments like going to the moon or crossing an ocean or doing something difficult, the storming beaches, it takes courage and it takes a certain draw to risk and competition in order for us to be successful as a society. We’re discounting those today, like those innate functions and strengths of men and boys to be drawn to risk and competition is a bad thing, that makes some toxic. It isn’t. When we look at our advances in society, we can look at those sorts of things, their benefits and their features to a society that has moved forward because we’ve been willing to engage difficult things.
Jamie Mitchell: I’ve read studies on what makes really successful people, and successful people overall, they have had great heroes in their lives. I speak to a lot of parents and a lot of pastors and they’re both scared and not sure what to do because this idea of having a hero has been blown out of the water. But that’s why we’re addressing this issue today. Now when we come back, our next segment, we want to dive into the challenges facing young men and manhood and what the Bible has to say about this and how to turn some things around. Join us back as we’re here today on Stand in the Gap.
Jamie Mitchell: Well, welcome back to Stand in the Gap. Our guest today is Mark Hancock, the CEO of Trail Life USA, and someone who understands the issues of reclaiming masculinity in young men, and especially in a highly charged culture attempting to strip men of this unique God-given role, responsibility, persona. Mark, as we’ve been unpacking the reality of the problem, I want to go a little further in our understanding of the problem. A little while ago when you and I were on the phone talking about this future program, you shared with me four core problems facing manhood today. Would you unpack that and explain that a little bit for our listening audience?
Mark Hancock: Yeah, sure will. For a long time we looked at the issues with boys and we wanted to really tone them down. What are the real critical things that are facing boys today? Of course, all of statistics point to challenges that boys are having today, it’s like boyhood is some kind of social disease that needs to be eradicated. It’s like boys are some sort of defective girls in our culture today. So we looked at what’s causing all this stuff and we came down to four main things and we’ve called them our proven process for turning boys into godly men. Because if we can address these four things, we are turning boys into godly men.
So those four things, we say that boys are unguided today, one in four boys is now raised in a home without a father present. 76% of teachers are female. So boys are not exposed to many male leadership models. Girls have these great examples. Even single mom homes, girls have these wonderful examples of women who are leading that household through difficult things and girls have these great examples. They go to school and they see the teacher there as a woman and she’s someone to look up to. Then they go to Sunday school and they see there’s a woman who’s teaching at Sunday school, someone to look up to. Girls have these great models for leadership, and boys don’t.
So they don’t have them in the household. They don’t have them at school. They don’t have them in Sunday school. Even the ones in sports are kind of questionable as far as models or role models. So boys have to ask the question, what does it mean to be a man? Because they lack this male leadership. So on Trail Life USA, we provide male leadership for these boys.
The second thing we talk about is boys being ungrounded. Because we’ve taken away some of the moral fabric and some of the moral foundations of society. 58% of Americans no longer believe that God and the Bible are the source of moral truth. Now, that’s just shocking. That’s 58% of Americans. The majority don’t think that God and the Bible are the basis for absolute truth. So where is absolute truth? What is the truth? How can we teach boys even concepts about good and bad if you don’t have a foundation for what’s good and bad? Boys answer can logically be, “Well, that’s good for me. So it’s good. I don’t care if it’s good for somebody else.” Because they lack that moral foundation. They’re grounded on something. So on Trail Life, we’re unapologetic Christian. We give the foundation for truth.
The third thing we talk about, and we know some boys, is that they’re largely unappreciated. Because we’re living in a society that thinks that boys and girls are the same. We don’t recognize that boys have strengths that are different than what girls have. They don’t do well in a sit still, be quiet, pay attention atmosphere. So in school they’re automatically behind because those environments are created for sit still, be quiet, pay attention. Boys just aren’t wired for that. Physiologically, psychologically, developmentally, boys are different than girls. That’s what the science says. Their brains are different, their eyes are different, their ears are different.
They’re just made different. Because we don’t appreciate their differences, we’re trying to raise them in a one size fits all kind of atmosphere. But they’re falling behind. They’re behind in every single academic category. So now more girls are going to college, getting master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, bachelor’s degrees than boys. They’ve fallen behind in every category, Jamie. It’s just sad because we’re not appreciating the differences in boys.
Finally, we talk about how boys are uninspired because we’ve taken risk and competition out of society. Boys don’t have the opportunity to do difficult things. We’ve kind of shielded them from difficult things and risk and competition because we’re afraid of hurting their feelings. What boys need to know is that they can do hard things and achieve. So we’ve taken that risk and competition out and they don’t get a chance to succeed. They don’t get a chance to fail. It’s kind of everybody gets a trophy. Let’s not keep score because we might hurt somebody’s feelings.
That’s a horrible environment for boys. Boys need to know that there’s something at stake. When they know there’s something at stake, they’re willing to really engage themselves. Otherwise, it looks like they’re apathetic or rebellious because they’re just not interested in participating in something when there isn’t anything at stake. So these four things, the fact that they’re unguided, ungrounded, unappreciated, uninspired really affect boys today. But we can fix those things if we pay attention.
Steve Harrelson: Hey, Mark. Pastor Steve here. Just so that we need to be clear. I pastor a local church, and as we try and instill biblical manhood into our young guys, we always have to kind of preface this. Being focused on developing biblical manhood, cultivating masculinity in young men, it’s not in any way saying or suggesting that young men are somehow superior to the young ladies. We’re also not looking down upon females. But why should women want men to grow up and really start acting like men?
Mark Hancock: I’m glad that you asked that because I get a chance to clarify. We’re not making value statements about boys and girls. We’re not saying that one is better than the other. We’re saying that they’re different and that doesn’t declare one is better than the other. We just say that, “Hey, some environments are better suited for girls and they’re built for girls. Other environments are built for boys.” If we can make sure that we have environments that function for both boys and girls.
That’s always shocking to me when Boy Scouts of America opened up their program to girls, here’s this program that for over a hundred years had given wonderful opportunities for boys in a male-centric environment. They had the magic sauce and they just decided boys and girls are the same. We’re going to let girls into the same program. It’s just tragic because boys and girls both deserve programs that are aimed at their specific strength. Our sister program is American Heritage Girls and it’s built for girls. Trail Life USA, it’s built for boys. That’s really to the mutual benefit of both of them.
Any parent today would want for their daughter that they’re going to be strong, courageous, focused, winning men for their daughters, and any man, any parents are going to want for their son good, smart, godly girls for their sons. So programs that are designed specifically the raise up godly boys and godly girls benefit everybody. So it’s not to the detriment of anybody to focus on boys and girls who need to focus on boys and girls.
Jamie Mitchell: Hey Mark, ever since we had the original conversation and you shared with me that the idea of being unguided, ungrounded, unappreciated, uninspired, I’ve shared that with different people and they have lit up as much as to say, “That’s it.” I want to talk about one or maybe two of those things with the time we have left. I want to talk about the whole idea of being unguided because within that is the necessity to have male models, to have some men step up. I mean, what you’re really saying is almost breaking a cycle that has taken place, let’s say in the Church, of men standing up and being great models of manhood for our younger person. Is that what you’re saying?
Mark Hancock: Absolutely. Because we’ve gone through a generation where we have discounted men, they’ve seen men through all of our sitcoms, through the challenges of toxic masculinity, which is a real thing, but it just doesn’t apply to all men. Through those challenges with these things, men’s have been discounted. So they have a tendency to think they don’t have anything to offer. So in a male-centric environment like Trail Life USA, boys get to see godly men, men who are interested in seeing the next generation grow into something.
They’re able to see winning and focused men, and they get a vision for themselves. Whether they have a dad in their house or not, they can see what a winning and focused man looks like, a godly man, what he looks like. Single moms love Trail Life USA. They’ve been crying out to God, “Can He give me some men to help my son develop into a man?” So Trail Life USA offers that environment and we’re reversing this tide.
Not only are we attempting to just raise boys who can survive in this rising tide, we want boys who can turn back the tide itself, who they can look at this and they say, “Listen, I know what a godly man looks like because I’ve met some, I’ve spent time with them, they’ve poured into my life, they’ve spoken. I’ve seen how they’ve handled difficult situations, and I know that I can be like that. I now know what it looks like.” We really believe that that generation that we’re raising through Trail Life USA is going to have the opportunity to stand up in a way that they would not have stood up because they’ve had the example of godly men.
Jamie Mitchell: I’m not saying that the tide may turn here in the culture, but I was just looking at the news today for a few minutes. Again, this whole issue of boys competing in women athletics is raising concerns. So having a line of demarcation between genders, even the world is starting to see this, Mark. Do you see that at all?
Mark Hancock: Yeah, there’s signs of it, as even people who may struggle with conservative values or biblical values can look at a sports competition and say, “Wait a minute, that seems unfair.” So even in that they can say, “Wow, there is a difference between males and females.” To they take that a step farther, I wonder what can be done about that difference, recognizing this strength that’s there in masculinity, recognizing the care and the intuitive processes and the compassion that’s innate in women? What if we concentrate on those strengths instead of trying to call everybody the same thing, instead of telling boys that they’re broken because they don’t have what girls have?
And instead of making girls feel like they’re weak because they don’t have the muscle structure, the physical structure the boys has? What if we just call attention to those strengths and celebrate them rather than discount both boys and girls, both men and women because they don’t have something that the other gender has? I just think it makes such sense and that I’m hopeful that something will turn around in society, but I think that we have to count on raising godly boys in order to see the example of godly men so they can make the changes.
Jamie Mitchell: Amen. Well, when we come back our next segment, we want to consider what God says about this and how to turn the tide and help boys become men. Join us back here at Stand In the Gap.
Jamie Mitchell: Well, welcome back. Our guest is Mark Hancock, the CEO of Trail Life USA, a power church ministry that functions in many ways like the Boy Scouts, but without any limitations from lifting high the name of Jesus and developing Christ-like qualities in every young man involved. Mark, we’ll spend the last segment maybe discussing exactly how Trail Life functions and how people can get involved, but I do want you to mention your contact information and maybe something that may be a help to our listening audience, especially in light of some of the things we said at the last segment.
Mark Hancock: Yeah, I’d love to. In fact, Jamie, this topic we just talked about, the four proven processes is available for download for free right now at our website, traillifeusa.com. Traillifeusa.com has two Ls in middle, traillifeusa.com. You can download for free Raising Godly Boys, and there’s a whole webpage dedicated to that. You can actually print out that. It’s just a one sheet as well as the ebook on Raising Godly Boys and talks about that proven process. I encourage your listeners to go there.
Jamie Mitchell: That’s great. We’ve been discussing masculinity. Mark, I want you to share from your perspective, and obviously Trail’s Life’s philosophy. When you say that one of the ways to grow godly young men is that they need to be grounded, to get the right biblical teaching into their hearts. What are we talking about and isn’t the Church teaching on these things and what is lacking?
Mark Hancock: Yeah, well, that’s a great question because that steers so much to where we’re going as a Christian culture. We have to stay grounded on the truths. We can’t get distracted by a culture that is really kind of confused about where they are and where they’re going. The truths are the biblical truths that we know and we can dig deep and we can stand on that foundation and we can talk about the things that we know. I think that the challenging thing today is that there’s so much noise out there and so many things, particularly coming at kids. Jaime, you got to remember that we’ve been through a couple generations where we’ve made some huge decisions as adults and we didn’t pay attention to what that’s doing to kids.
So when we did things like approve abortion and allow all these abortions to take place, we did it as adults thinking, “Hey, we want to give this choice to women.” But we didn’t recognize what it was going to do to kids. Then decisions about what the definition of marriage is. We weren’t thinking about what the effect on kids would be. We just wanted more freedom for ourselves as adults. As a result, the kids are being raised in this culture where just things are just really out of sorts. We can still reach back to a time where we knew what marriage was and we knew what human sexuality was and we were sure about differences between men and women and we understood the strengths between men and women.
We saw generations that went to war and gave their lives to protect the truth and the freedoms that we have in this country. But were distant from those things now, and the kids have not been grown up in a culture that understands those things and we kind of take them for granted. But we’ve skipped a whole generation of sharing that with kids. So that’s why it’s important to have this male-centric environment where boys can see men who embrace these values and these men can reach back to those values that they still have in their memory and show them to boys to make some kind of sense of the madness that these boys must be raised in.
You got to remember, a lot of these boys, they were raised in a culture now where they didn’t know it wasn’t such that it was men and women that was a male and female, a marriage. They’re raised in a culture where anybody can, and in fact, your gender is fluid, whatever you choose it to be and there’s multiple genders. They’re raised in that environment, they’re breathing that air. So we need a male-centric environment that restores the truths and the foundational truths that there’s not so much unsurety for boys.
Listen, there’s enough craziness in the world today and there are enough things that are to be unsure about, to not doubt and question these very basic things about who we are as people. So we want to restore those truths, those biblical truths through Christian men, Christian vetted men in Trail Life USA. We think that that’s making a difference. It takes godly men to raise godly boys. They’re not just going to come out of the woods somewhere. They have to be in the presence of godly men and that’s what we’re creating in Trail Life USA.
Steve Harrelson: In theory, it’s one thing to state that this is what a godly man is supposed to look like. As a pastor, I’m always interested in the how. How do we cultivate masculinity whenever we encounter so many fatherless, male-absent homes? I mean, even myself, my father died when I was one and I was raised by a single mom. So a lot of the stuff that I had to learn about being a biblical man, I had to learn kind of the hard way. Can you speak to the importance of male mentors, something that I really wish that I would’ve had more of? How do we grow them?
Mark Hancock: Yeah, absolutely. One, they’ve got to be in an environment where that’s a male-centric environment, which is rare in our culture today. Those men are feeding off of each other. So not only are they sure of who they are as a man, maybe not so sure, but they have examples in one another. They have a brotherhood of men who are pursuing Christ likeness and that absolutely is the best picture of men. So if we can get men in an environment, in a brotherhood where you’re pursuing Christ likeness, all of the men are getting better. They’re getting closer to that goal and they’re showing what it is to be a godly man.
You’ve got to provide some sort of vision for men to be godly men. They’ve got to see the elements of a godly man, maybe not all in a single man, but in a brotherhood. They can say, “Wow, I see how he is like Christ because of his giving attitude. I see how he is like Christ because of his courage. I see how he is like Christ because of the way that he cares for his wife and the way that he cares for the Church.” So from this grouping, men can learn how to be godly men because they have examples all around them. Then you throw boys into that environment where they’re looking up to these godly men, seeing them growing and pursuing these Christ-like values.
Then you’ve got something where you’re building a whole new generation of godly men. We have so many boys in our program that don’t have dads. Like I said, the moms have just been crying out for godly man to enter that boy’s life. So boys that didn’t have examples of godly men are finding them in Trail Life USA. We call them dad-likes. They may not have a dad in the program, but they have dad-like. We have a lot of men in our program who don’t have a son in the program. They’re there because they want to be a dad-like or because they care about the next generation and they want to be part of setting an example of what it means to be a godly man.
Jamie Mitchell: I’ll tell you, Mark. I had a wonderful dad. He loved the Lord. He was a man’s man. But God also brought along into my life a series of men and they filled the gap. As I became a father, I watched some men discipline their kids. I watched how they had a fight with their wife. So we need that. I just want to hit on one other issue here. Many would resist the idea of males doing activities designed for their agenda, and vice versa with ladies. I see this even in the Church. There’s a kind of bristling up against this. Mark, why is there a need for let’s call them boy or male-specific activities in our culture?
Mark Hancock: Well, I don’t know that the activities have to be that way. But it does have to be in a company of men or in a company of women in order for that magic sauce to be there. So you may say hiking, is that just a male activity? No. Plenty of women who enjoy hiking also. But if you put men out on the trail, men on the trail are going to behave differently when there are no women on the trail. It’s a powerful thing in Trail Life. People don’t understand that our ministry is also a ministry to men.
Because when the boys bed down at night, the dads and the dad-likes sit around those fires while the boys are now in their tent sleeping, and they’ll talk with each other about the way that they saw them treat their son and say, “Hey, I saw the way that you talked to your son. How did you build that relationship? How can I get a relationship with my son like that?” Or, “I’m really struggling with something at home. I’m struggling with something at work.” Men will sit around a fire and talk about those kind of things that they won’t talk about in a cup of coffee in a well-lit restaurant. We went through that time where we encouraged men to go find another man to be accountable to. It was difficult for us. We don’t do well face to face.
As men, we do much better side by side, walking down a trail or sharing something or turning a wrench or doing something. That’s when we open up because it’s a little bit threatening for us in terms of vulnerability to be face to face. So we create these opportunities primarily in the outdoors through Trail Life USA for men to connect one each other, to watch each other in difficult circumstances to see how they behave and see how it is that they respond. It becomes a laboratory or a school for many men to see how to handle their lives, their private lives, because they see how the men are behaving there.
So I don’t know that we’re defining events as male or female, but I know that it’s powerful when you take those activities or the events and you make them specifically male or female. What happens in that space is a lot more powerful than when we have both men and women present.
Jamie Mitchell: Mark, I’m reminded what the apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 16, be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like, men be strong. But then he made sure he had a qualifier here. He said, “Let all that you do be done in love.” It’s that balance of being strong, watchful, diligent, courageous, fearless men. To put that model before a young man so he catches it, he sees it. He’s, like you say, he’s inspired by it. What I hear you saying is that God in his design of mankind created male and female, and within each of those wonderful genders, there are differences to be developed and to be used as an example. Pointing boys to become men and expressing masculinity in this divine order.
When we get back, we’re going to wrap up today’s program on restoring biblical masculinity. Come back and join with us here at Stand In the Gap. Well, welcome back to this last segment.
Jamie Mitchell: We’ve been discussing the issue of reclaiming masculinity in young men’s lives with our guest, Mark Hancock, the CEO of Trail Life USA. Mark, Trail Life was started with the goal of impacting young men’s lives. Can you share a brief history of your ministry?
Mark Hancock: Started around 2013, it was clear that the Boy Scouts was going to be abandoning some of its values that it held for over a hundred years. We knew that churches were going to have to distance themselves from the direction the Boy Scouts was taking. So about 300 volunteers across the country began talking about the idea of what it would look like to have a Christ-centered, boy-focused organization that sort of function like Boy Scouts. But two huge differences of those two. We are Christ-centered and we are boy-focused. So we started in 2014, and now we have about 50,000 trail men in about a thousand troops in churches in all 50 states.
Jamie Mitchell: Wow. Wow. Many of our listeners, Mark, might still be involved or a part of the Boy Scouts, or they grew up in the Boy Scouts and some may have a Boy Scout troop in their Church. What has actually happened to that organization and why, let’s be honest, might believers choose Trail Life over the Boy Scouts?
Mark Hancock: Yeah. Well, that’s a great question. Boy Scouts has been around for a long time, an amazing organization that gave us presidents and senators and astronauts and generals and civic leaders for years, a male-focused organization that’s built character and leadership qualities in boys. But it’s clear that they’ve decided that those values aren’t the ones that they want to continue to espouse. Now, individual troops, you can still have some strong things going on. You can still have men who are leading boys. In fact, some churches with Christian men involved in scouting, they can say that in their troop, they’re still doing that.
But there are many, many troops in churches that said, “No, we can’t continue to support that organization that has beliefs that are so different than ours.” So a lot of them who moved over to Trail Life USA. So had a parent asked me not too long ago, they said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a Boy Scout troop that’s five minutes away and a Trail Life troop that’s 45 minutes away. Give me a reason to change.” This happened to be a homeschool mom.
I said, “Well, listen, you’re already doing the difficult thing. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier just to drop your kid at the bus stop and send them to school, or have them walk out the door with their lunch and they’re gone? That’s the easy thing. But you’re a mom who wants your child homeschooling. For some reason, you’re doing the hard thing. You’re working every day to help educate your child. So you already make hard decisions. So driving 35 minutes instead of five minutes, that may be a hard decision. But if you’re interested in a Christ-centered program and a boy-focused program, then there is no decision.”
Boy Scouts does not offer that, but Trail Life does. If you’re not interested in those things, then go with a convenient route. But we encourage parents and churches, I think what churches are going to discover, Alliance of Defending Freedom has told us that they’ll start to see law lawsuits because Boy Scouts holds different values than their church does. So that actually puts their 501(c)(3) status at risk because they’re not consistently living out the principles or their convictions.
So a couple coming in the front door saying, “We want to be married and we’re the same gender,” and that church could say, “Well, we don’t believe that.” They can say, “Well, you kind of do because you have a formal relationship, contractual relationship with this organization that supports that.” So that can put churches a risk, and that’s what a lot of the churches are moving over because of that.
Steve Harrelson: Hey, Mark, I actually am interested in starting a Trail Life ministry here in the local church I pastor. So whether it’s me or really any group of believers that would like to start a Trail Life ministry, what do I need to do? I mean, what all’s involved here?
Mark Hancock: You go to traillifeusa.com and go to get connected. There’s a find a troop tab, which shows you map in the United States. You can put in your ZIP code and see some troops that are nearby. Maybe pastor, you can drop in on those troops and see how they function. Or you can also see start a troop, if there’s not a troop nearby and you want to start one. It takes you through the process of starting a troop. It takes five adults. A lot of people say, “Well, how many boys do you have to have?” Don’t worry about the boys. The boys will show up. But if you have to have those five adults who are aligned with the Church, and of course it’s a Church.
Our churches just don’t provide a basement for the group to meet in. We consider Trail Life to be an active outreach of that local church, a ministry of that local church. So if you’re interested in a ministry that helps men become more godly men and raise up godly boys and churches, you can go to traillifeusa.com to get connected and find out how to start a troop.
Jamie Mitchell: Mark, a couple of things. What does a troop meeting look like? Does it take place every week? What kinds of things will you do at those meetings? Then could you just share a little bit of the fruit that you’ve seen in this ministry in what I would say is a relative short time?
Mark Hancock: I’d love to you. Well, you could expect a Trail Life to be very similar to Boy Scouts when you look at it. Handbooks, uniforms, robust awards program, all those sorts of things, camping, hiking, all that. Generally they’re going to meet on a weekly basis and once a month they’re going to do some sort of camping or outdoor activity. Then usually during the summer, we have what’s called a summer adventure. That is a difference between us and Boy Scouts. Those aren’t badge earning adventures. Those are actual enjoying the outdoors adventures.
So a troop meeting will typically begin with oath and pledges and announcements and things like that and then the boys will break up into their separate groups to do their patrol work, whether they’re working on badges or a skill, or they’re learning something, or maybe they have a service project. So that’s generally how that goes. I can just tell you, Jamie, I wish we had longer, I can just tell you story after story of boys’ lives that have been changed, or fathers and sons that have been reunited because they’ve figured out how to do something together.
You got to remember that this is the first generation that they’re saying is being raised by Google. We found a place, the outdoors is a beautiful level playing field for fathers and sons to get out there and discover things together. You could probably Google how to start a fire with wet leaves, but until you see a guy do it, you really haven’t seen anything. So those are the kind of opportunities that fathers, sons experience together. A lot of dads are having trouble finding ways to connect with their sons. Through Trail Life USA, it’s giving them a way to connect.
Of course a lot of boys without dads are hungry for a dad-like and they’re finding their dad-likes there. Boys are hungry for challenges and adventure and male-centric environments where boys can be boys and be respected and valued for their differences. Trail Life provides that environment. I’ll give you, gosh, dozens of individual stories, but that’s my overview of the types of things that we’re hearing from the field.
Jamie Mitchell: Mark, we have a little bit of time. Tell me one that really spoke to your heart about why Trail Life has made such a difference.
Mark Hancock: Let me tell you about the one. I was out in Texas not too long ago, and there’s a troop master there, and it was a gathering of a number of troops that were together, and we were standing with him off to the side. He pointed out to one boy, he said, “You see that boy over there?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Well, he doesn’t have a dad.” I said, “Ah, I’m sorry to hear that.” He says, “Yeah, but I’ve connected him with that man over there.” I said, “That’s wonderful. He makes sure that he has his handbook, that he has his badges, so call him the night before and he’ll talk him through, make sure you have everything for the camping trip. Make sure he has a ride. Make sure he has everything that he needs, everything that a dad would normally do for a son.” “That’s beautiful.”
Then he pointed to another boy. He said, “See that boy?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well, I’ve connected him with that man.” “Oh wow.” Then he said, “See that boy?” I said, “Yeah.” He’s like [inaudible 00:38:36]. He just went on and on. I said, “Who are you?” He said, “Well, when I was nine years old, my father passed away and my mom put me in a boys’ organization and I was surrounded by godly men.” He said, “I promised myself that when I grew up, I was going to do the same thing for boys without dads.”
Jamie Mitchell: Wow. Wow.
Mark Hancock: So he created that environment, and that was his promise that he had made. Now of course, he was seeing it in front of his eyes as these boys were finding your godly men to help give them what they’re missing from their own natural father. So that’s one story. I could tell you dozens.
Jamie Mitchell: Amen. Amen. Look, for a long time, the Church has not given the time and attention needed to assure the next generation of godly men to lead homes, the church, workplace, and to positively affect society. You’ve heard about an organization who’s doing it and we hope today has stirred your thinking. Look, that cute little phrase, boys will be boys, but they will also be men someday. We hope that this has provided you needed encouragement and insight. So until tomorrow for the APN team, Pastor Steve Harrelson, myself and Mark Hancock from Trail Life USA. Thank you for joining us today. Have a great day.