For about five years now, I’ve been gathering with two friends from my college days for a father/son camping trip. Though we attended the same college, pursued the same degree, even shared 90 percent of our classes together, our friendship was cemented when we began gathering for a Bible study during our masters program. From there we began to grow closer and challenge one another to pursue Christ, which led to life-long friendships. Since college ended we’ve continued to keep in touch. What began as the occasional couples’ gathering (before kids) transformed into men-only camping trips, and as the boys grew older, became a father/son camping trip.
And though we no longer share occupations or state residency, we value the time together because of the ability to go deep quickly. The years of abuse and heckling we’ve given one another act as a base of shared experiences that, even though we only occasionally talk during the year, enable us to catch up quickly and press into each other’s life from the first moments together.
This is the first year we’ve really tried to be intentional with our sons in terms of casting a vision for manhood. We’ve found that three nights is essential to really connect with one another and our kids. We spent the first night (Friday) getting set up, and then started with a talk on manhood in general Saturday morning, breaking down I Corinthians 16:13-14.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
That verse served as the basis for our other talks on courage and what it means to be a man. We also talked Sunday morning about what it means to “stand firm in the faith.” Throughout the fire-side chats, the boys were surprisingly attentive (ranging in age from 12 down to 4).
We spent the mornings and evenings around the campsite, and each afternoon on some kind of adventure activity. The first day we hiked up to Natural Bridge, which is an arch in a geological area in eastern Kentucky spanning over 100 feet. It is an amazing site and is surrounded by many other natural wonders.
But as important as the time is with our sons, the most valuable part of the weekend by far in my mind is the time around the campfire with just the men. That’s where we talk about the issues and struggles we’re facing and start to go deeper. And it really takes a few nights to get there, which is another reason for having three nights around the campfire.
No doubt it is REALLY hard to find other men you trust, have deep connections with, and can share very personal things with on a regular basis. If you don’t have any guys like this in your life, or if there are some guys you’d like to go deeper with, having a father/son camping trip is a great way to open the door to this type of friendship.
David English, the guru of all things manhood and life-stage growth, says that men should find a couple of guys in their life stage and commit to gathering a couple of times a year to “process life together.” He’s written a number of studies that walk through the stages of a man’s life in great detail. Very helpful. I’d recommend grabbing some of his content and working through it with a group of guys, or maybe gathering a larger group of men at your church and talking through one of his books.
Check them out here: http://www.gravitationstudios.com/phases/books.html
After the trip we have already begun to plan ahead to next year — just talking about big picture items like where we might want to go and some of the things we might want to do. We also decided to read through a book together and discuss it some, over the coming year. Great friendships really only grow stronger through time together, and camping with your boys is a great excuse to carve out the time even during a really busy stage of life. Get out there — and let us and others know of any great camping spots in the comments.