No one will mistake me for the classic manly man — I currently have no beard, I’ve never really hunted or killed anything (on purpose at least), and I’m only a fan in theory of camping.
When I was a single guy, I knew that one day I’d need some “manly” skills — and not necessarily the gun-toting, camo-wearing kind. More like the “I-just-need-this-in-life” kind.
It started with a group of young guys I went to college with. We identified a man we respected and asked him to “teach us his ways.” We all realized that there were so many basic masculine skills we were missing from our “toolbox.”
Then and there we started our weekly gathering called the “Band of Brothers.” Over the course of a few months, we learned how to be men. Here’s what we learned and how you can recreate the same thing (including but not limited to how to roof a house, fire a gun, sharpen a knife, change a tire, change the oil, dress like a man, cook meat, and use tools).
Little did I know how formative this time in my life would be.
Before we began the process, a syllabus was created by our fearless leader to guide us. It opened with this course description:
It has been rightly said that higher education grooms the mind, but neglects the body. It could be added that the social construct of men is designed to be developed outside of the classroom by accomplishing difficult tasks amidst hard work. Many times this takes the form of sports. However, we need to equip men in their masculinity who will in turn lead other men and develop a culture of expressed masculinity. This is an essential component of theological education and equipping for ministry – regardless of what that ministry might look like.
The syllabus continued and emphasized the danger in having only mental knowledge with no knowledge of several basic masculine skills:
Many men leave college uniquely equipped to handle and apply the specific knowledge needing in their respective fields. However, the student’s ability to impact culture can sometimes be undermined by a lack of knowledge about more masculine areas of interest. In their churches and workplaces they will gain credibility, broaden their impact, and increase their leadership profile if they properly learn several basic masculine skills.
The syllabus also included a brief schedule, some recommended reading, and contact information.
What We Learned
I can’t emphasize enough how formative and helpful this was to me and the other men who took time each Tuesday to learn a new skill.
Every week for a semester we would gather together to learn a new skill, often times being taught by a subject-matter expert — a police officer, a Navy SEAL, or a school president for example. These lessons included (but we not limited to):
- Roofing a house
- Firing, disassembling, and cleaning guns
- Building fires without matches
- Learning the basic components of an engine
- Changing tires, oil, and spark plugs in a car
- Learning and using basic tools
- Sharpening and using knives
- Backing up a trailer
- Driving a tractor
- Stringing a barbed wire fence
- Dressing for corporate functions (a.k.a, “dressing to kill”)
- Administering battlefield first aid
- Camping without a tent
In each and every category we learned as much as possible and did as much hands-on training and learning that time would allow. On some occasions, one of those in the group would be tasked with researching and teaching the next week. It gave us an opportunity to both learn something new and to learn how to teach and lead other men.
Perhaps most exciting and helpful was how close the group grew together over the course of those weeks and months we worked side-by-side. It’s not every day that you see young men growing deep relationships with one another, but this group did that. We were able to take what we learned and apply it, but more than that we had deep, gospel-centered relationships that still continue to this day.
This is by no means an exhaustive description of how to do this. We met once a week. You could gather a group of young guys together once a month to learn a new skill. The bottom line is this: I think this type of “class” is needed. I can’t emphasize enough how formative and helpful this was to me and the other men who took time each Tuesday to learn a new skill.
In summary, here’s what you need to do:
- Ensure the group is committed — the key to this group is establishing a core of men who are motivated and willing to “sit at the feet” of someone older and wiser than them
- Identify a man who “knows” it all and ask him to teach you or a group of men and sit at his feet
- Put together a plan (syllabus if you need to) and write the plan down
- Meet no matter what
- Use subject matter experts where you’re lacking
Looking forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you may have.
I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank John Powell, the man who I and many other young men have to thank for his input into our lives. Today I realize what an incredible sacrifice is was to spend time with a group of raw young men who knew so little. We are so thankful — you’ll probably never know the full extent of your influence, but God did great things and is continuing to do great things.