This article was written by Dr. Brent Sykes, Academic Dean at Randall University.
As part of the new Community Engagement Initiative at Randall University, a small group of three Randall students and I recently volunteered at a “Guys Only” (middle school-aged boys) event with our community partner Loveworks Leadership. Loveworks recruited several community organizations to recognize and celebrate the transition from boyhood to manhood.
Activities included knocker ball, flag football, karate board breaking, a virtual reality experience, learning to tie a tie, and even a dark room dance party. Speakers discussed the importance of rites of passage, accountability, and following your passions. Serving shoulder to shoulder with other community volunteers was a great experience for the four of us. While this activity was certainly not about me, God revealed two lessons to me through this experience:
As the leader of our Randall group, this experience served as a reminder for me that, as men, it is critically important that we model godly attributes and self-acceptance in our own lives to young men. Regarding the latter, I had to consciously get over my own inadequacies by hitting the dance floor. In the process, I realized that dancing with no one, especially of the opposite sex, judging me is fun and good cardio. Our Randall students experienced this too. After volunteering to hold boards for breaking, a karate instructor asked our students if they would like to attempt to break boards (see pictures below).
By modeling positive (and fun) manly behavior, we increase the likelihood of fostering a positive view of self in adolescence, despite all the shortcomings and blemishes that seem to manifest in middle school and further take root in high school. As men, it is our biblically-ordained responsibility to train up not only our children but others (Deuteronomy 6:2-3). Doing so will likely pay dividends later in life, as young men may grow in the Lord and love their own wife being sacrificial to her (Ephesians 5:25).
After our service experience ended the van ride back to campus proved to be an excellent opportunity to process our experiences at the event. Students noted they wish they would have had a community organization like Loveworks to provide enriching opportunities. Our service event brought down walls and I was better able to understand their backgrounds. Thus, the second lesson for me was a reminder that serving together is a unique and profound way to see how Christ moves in others lives.