ManMaker 2021

It’s been a year of poor substitutes. Drive-by graduation is a poor substitute for traditional commencement activities. A vacation to “Europe in our Backyard” is a poor substitute for actually traveling to Europe. And while a “Driveway Christmas” may be memorable, it’s not nearly as cozy as gathering around a table for a holiday feast. So it felt refreshing this weekend to discover a COVID-caused adaptation of a familiar event that actually worked out to be a better substitute for the traditional experience! The way we did ManMaker 2021 was not only a workable alternative to the way we did ManMaker 2020. I’d say it was an innovation. An improvement upon the original.

COVID made us keep things smaller. It didn’t seem wise to organize an overnight, in-person, winter event with 350 men from our whole network. So instead, we did a day-trip in the spring with just 50 guys from H2O Kent. We kept everything outdoors, and even at that we spent less than half of our time together in large-group activities. Our workshops took place around a fire pit or on a hike. We set aside two significant chunks of time for men to seek God in silence and solitude. It was all very different from the typical ManMaker experience, but…

It was such a wonderful way to do ManMaker!

My favorite part of the weekend was the “mobile workshop” that I led on “How to Start a Fire, Drink a Beer, and Please a Woman in Bed.” (It’s a provocative title, I know; it was really just about teaching young men how to grow into mature men through practicing forethought, temperance, and selflessness). We did the workshop while hiking to three waterfalls, skipping stones, and scrounging for materials to start a fire. Our time together included elements of instruction, interaction, illustration, and individual reflection. And I think (or at least hope) that it was a really powerful learning environment.

There was unstructured time for hammocking, hiking, playing games, and enjoying meals. All of which was helped by beautiful blue skies and mild temperatures topping out around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The fun stuff felt surprisingly meaningful, too. It didn’t feel like there was a wasted minute. Our Staff guys worked hard to make this year’s ManMaker go smoothly, even when we invited some chaos with our “Manliest Man” competition.

This “Manliest Man” competition included some stereotypical stuff like a relay race and a hammer toss.

But it also included testing men’s gentleness with an egg toss challenge and racing through a broccoli eating contest (one of the contestants described his role in this challenge as being “one of the hardest things” he’d ever done in his life!).

As silly as it may seem, there really is a method to the madness. Guys connect with other guys through team competition. The physical release allows for sharper mental acuity over the rest of the day. And the ludicrous challenges somehow create a safer space for vulnerability and engagement with the Holy Spirit.

The end of ManMaker 2021 looked a lot like the beginning of ManMaker 2021. Huddling for warmth around a fire… Worshipping God through music… and having our hearts stirred by truth from the Bible… Emptying the parking lot in reverse order of how it was filled. In between those bookends, though, so much happened. I’ll be curious to hear more of the stories that come out of individual follow-up in the coming days and weeks. In any event, I pray that lives were transformed. I pray that men were made.

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