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Recruiting men to disciple

                             My L squad guys – I love these guys. They're setting the captives free in the Philippines this month. A friend who m…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

                             My L squad guys – I love these guys. They're setting the captives free in the Philippines this month.

A friend who ministers to Millenials in Pennsylvania wrote with this question:

"Have you ever advertised that you were "recruiting" or "inviting" a group of young men to disciple?  I have a few guys who are asking me to disciple them. What questions do you ask?  Do you have a criteria for a selection process?"

Here's my answer: As a matter of fact, I'm in the process of doing that very thing. I've noticed that about 70% of the people going on mission trips are women. For years I've wrestled with the subject of how to recruit men. And I've seen that almost every serious mobilizer wrestles with this issue.

Inviting them to what?
I'm guessing that a lot of church pastors don't really wrestle with this issue because they don't believe in the kind of intensive, experience-focused, life-on-life model that Jesus gave us.

If they do disciple, their efforts tend to be focused around Bible studies in living rooms, or meetings in coffee shops. While both of these venues may be useful places to start a relationship, if they are the primary venues for discipleship, the process will bare little resemblance to Jesus's model.

Jesus called his disciples away from home, out into the discomfort of life on a journey, a journey focused around stretching their faith and exposing them to risk in a hundred different ways.

The paradox is, most of us guys are actually looking for more of that in our lives. We're looking for something to get the adrenaline pumping. Jesus offered it and 12 guys followed him. Along the way, they got thrown into all kinds of dicey situations that tested their faith.

The question is, can we replicate that in our modern, sedentary, risk-averse society? And the answer I'm finding is, YES. Guys have a deep hunger to connect with a wild God, a God who takes them on adventures and invests them with authority.

I've recently begun to recruit a team of 14 high-capacity, high-commitment guys who will go out on an epic journey for half a year. We'll start in Peru and travel to Guatemala, India, Nepal, and South Korea.

I'm promising them that I and a group of the most successful men I know will mentor them. I'm promising them that I'll give them opportunities to make a difference and to engage with significant issues of justice and hopelessness. They'll have a chance to bond deeply with one another.

It's not for most guys. But Jesus turned away most guys. Just by word of mouth, we've got seven amazing guys signed up. They are hungry for this kind of high challenge, high mentorship adventure.*

All kinds of problems make this thing look impossible. Guys face a number of issues. Here are five:

1. Debt. Going to college costs more money than most people have. Guys have to borrow a lot. Their debt-loads leave them feeling irresponsible if they do anything other than getting a job that pays well.

2. Parents' expectations. Parents want their sons to be "successful." That equates to getting hired and getting a paycheck.

3. Own expectations. Guys internalize the expectations of others and feel like they need to follow a career track. They can daydream about adventures, but don't see this as an investment in their future.

4. Few models. Going out on and adventure and doing what Jesus did may seem interesting, but highly impractical. Nobody does this stuff anymore.

5. No disciplers. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Because so few of us who follow Jesus have been discipled this way, we settle for conversation over action, coffee shops over journeys. Maybe we would try to do what Jesus did if we didn't have a mortgage.

Start with myself. If we aspire to disciple guys as Jesus discipled them, we have to begin with ourselves. We've got to break free of some of the shackles limiting us. I don't know what that means for you. For me, that meant raising support and starting a ministry that gave me the flexibility to look for guys that are willing to do risky stuff.

Investing time. Next, we've got to be willing to actually invest time in them. Guys need to know they are a priority. They've got issues to work through. Most 20-something guys struggle with pornography and have stumbled sexually. They need help breaking free. They have father wounds that need to be addressed. It takes time.

Risk. The guys I'm going to invest in will get a chance to see what's inside themselves. They will be thrown into challenging situations every day. Along the way, they'll have dozens of adventures and go deep with God, giving him the chance to prove himself powerful in their lives.

Bonding. Guys hunger for community. The band of brothers idea resonates profoundly with us. We want to connect at a heart level with guys who are as committed as we are.

A final word about guys and faith: Sunday morning is not only the most segregated time of the week, it is also a highly feminized experience. We men were made for something more than what we get at a lot of churches. We want to know our Creator and join with him in his plan to bring freedom to this dark world. We see Brave Heart and we wonder if that could be us in some way.

Jesus promised his disciples hardship and they didn't shrink from it. They resonated with the journey he called them to. We men looking for the same kind of promise and challenge today.

*If you're interested in finding out more about this journey, please contact me.

Comments (16)

  • Hugh (Hugh’s Dad)

    Glad that you are doing this. I know that God is going to honor this time in your life very much. So excited that my Son is going to be a part of this. Discipleship is so important and the most neglected part of American Christianity. When I was saved the pastor at our church was and is still very big on discipleship. His name is Waylon Moore.

  • Seth,

    My family offers endless thanks for your actions and convictions to disciple these men. As the aunt of current L squad racer Brittany Cantrell, I had the quick blessing of being in Los Angeles on business and seeing her while on her layover going to the Philippines. Of the 120 minutes we shared in dropping off a dead computer and other trinkets, Brittany absolutely glowed as she spoke of the world race experience and also of the men on her team and squad. Men who by example awakened each day at least an hour before the team for their quiet times, including days when having to leave at 3:30am. Men who serve, lead and protect the gals on their teams. Men who pour into the lives of the poor and destitute in the locations they serve. Men who sing, play and get goofy with kids and are vulnerable, transparent and authentic with one another. May God strengthen you and multiply your efforts Seth Barnes! It is inspirational and honoring to pray for you and those you shepherd. Blessing upon blessing.


    Great opportunities for life changing adventures abound in South Sudan now. Come and see how you’d change from inside out and then be used to change others the same way. Yes guys, ask Seth!!!

  • Brandi Wilcox (G-squad 2nd gen)

    I have personally been wondering about why men are not going to the mission field. Your post just opened up my eyes to why. Thank you Seth!

  • Wow! Seth, how awesome for the young guys you are calling who will go with you. My prayer is for someone to be raised up to call the retired guys to the same kind of journey.These men, if their hearts can be captured by Jesus, would make their last years the most powerful for God.

  • Valerie, if you know any retired men who would travel with me to mentor these guys for a week, please let me know. I have that same dream, but I have a hard time getting the retired guys away from the golf course…

  • Christina Dombrowsky

    Seth! You are so on-point. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes (how very feminine! haha). But I agree that the whole North American church experience generally caters to us women: more women’s conferences than men’s wilderness retreats, women’s brunches than men’s happy hours, more hugs than high-fives, more biscuits than burgers! I’d like to see some more testosterone-infused, man-church activities! I’m sharing this post with the men in my life. My prayers are with you as you challenging the men of my generation & invite them into something more!

  • Thanks, Christina. I’m going to use that:

    more women’s conferences than men’s wilderness retreats, women’s brunches than men’s happy hours,
    more hugs than high-fives,
    more biscuits than burgers!

    as you say, we need more testosterone-infused, man-church activities.

  • Yesterday our son became an alumni of the World Race, one of 6 guys and 29 women. This was an interesting experience for him as in a lifetime of ministy it was the first time he had been in a women heavy ministry experience. Our lives have been shaped by the ministry of his father. At 27 a saved alcoholic, addicted gambler, abuse survivor who became Gods greatest miracle, to take an unholy man in an unholy world, create him new and keep him holy in an unholy world. He was reached by a man, not afraid to speak out his faith. He in turn has dedicated his life to leading young people, especially guys to a new, recreated life in Jesus. We always had a guy heavy ministry, always could do the heavy lifting, tough challanges and late nights in the inner city, in the hard places. Men need to reach men, to be warriors, Bravehearts that God has called them to be. The men trained on the mission field, esp The World Race will go on to be those strong, lion heart warriors this world needs, the sons of thunder of the future.

  • This is such a good word… I have been wrestling with this because it is my heart to be discipled and help disciple men. There is such a need for this but very few willing to answer the call of leading men into the wilderness. So often we can see in scripture that Jesus would leave the religious people or the church services to go to “desolate places” to be with the Father. Thank you for answering the call and helping lead men into desolation and healing.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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