There used to be a place called Circle C Ranch up in the North Cascades. And every year I would go with my dad for the annual Men’s Retreat. I was always the only kid there. And there was never any kid program lined up to keep me occupied. It wasn’t a kid camp. There was no kid curriculum. And no kid songs. But those weekends with my dad and his church friends were some of the most formative experiences of my life.
As the title of the retreat implies, it was never intended to be a kid focused weekend. The schedule was never geared around kid activities. Imagine this: young, wide-eyed me, following my dad and his friends around, watching what they did and how they interacted. They talked. Sometimes they talked about God. Sometimes it was sports. Or work. Books. Life. Jokes. Computers. They laughed a lot. They sang hymns. They played Risk. And they showed me what it means to live a Christian life of integrity, authenticity, and humanity. I learned more from those weekends than I ever could from one of my dad’s lectures, or an object lesson at church, or the latest Christian video. What could have been more valuable to the young me than spending one weekend each year watching those men and learning how to live the Christian life? Learning how to care for your friends. Learning how to live out God’s love. Where do kids today get to see that lived out? What kind of pathetic role models do they see on TV? Movies. Or YouTube. Even though the Men’s Retreat was just one weekend each year, it taught me more than all the other junk I watched the rest of the year.
Now I’m a dad. And there’s nothing I want more than to teach my kids how to live out God’s love. So I bring my boys to the Men’s Retreat. These days, there are a few more kids there. But there’s still no kid program. Isaak and Jacob follow me around Cascades and watch me spend a couple of days with my Christian brothers from other churches around Washington, Oregon, and Canada. We talk about life. And the boys hear every word. We still sing hymns. And the boys hear every word. The men eat man food. The boys eat man food. The men still play Risk, or poker. The boys learn how to bet, or how to invade France. Now the men play paintball, Highland Games, and conquer the Rubicon. And they boys join in. And they love every minute of it.
What if you don’t have boys of your own? Help me raise mine. I need your help. Come and hang out at the Men’s Retreat.