CABOT, Ark. – Fifteen years ago, Steve DeBusk, one of the high school senior boys Lifegroup teachers and a member of First Baptist Church in Cabot, embarked on a journey to help raise up and encourage young men going into manhood.
DeBusk said the journey began after his son was born in 2002. He had read “Raising A Modern Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and was convicted by God to do something for boys graduating from high school and going off to college, essentially going from childhood to manhood. DeBusk created the “Walk of Manhood” in 2005 with help and support from longtime FBC members Jeff Hagar and Dan Stalnaker.
The Walk of Manhood is an annual weekend event that begins on a Saturday morning and continues until Sunday. The event is held on property owned by DeBusk. There they participate in various activities such as shooting clay targets and team-building. They hear from college students, who went through the same weekend, to talk about the transition from high school to college. “Every year we have guys come back. It’s neat to see them come back because they recognize the significance of [the weekend],” Hagar said.
On Saturday afternoon, DeBusk asks men from various walks of life to come and talk to the boys about different topics ranging from relationships to finances to simply reading your Bible. “If Mr. Wagnon says something to them that impacts their life for Christ, great! If any of these other men – if they tell them one item and they apply it to their lives and five years from now they look back and say, ‘you know what, man, that meant something to me.’ It’s all worth it,” DeBusk said.
On Saturday night, fathers or a significant father figure in the boy’s life, are invited to eat dinner with them. They participate in a trust fall and conclude the evening with a blessing from the father to the son.
“We only get one shot at this with every group that comes through,” Stalnaker said. “And if you miss it, you miss it. You receive a huge blessing standing on the sidelines and watching dads give blessings to their sons. Jeff was the first one from our group that had to go through and watching him go through that made me realize how difficult it is, but it also made me look forward to the time where I can talk to my son one-on-one and tell him how I feel about him and challenge him to step up to the plate.”
The boys camp out that night and have their own Sunday morning service. At the end of it all, Steve presents them with the challenge of leaving childish things behind and stepping into manhood. If they accept this challenge, he presents them with a t-shirt that says, ‘Gibbor’ which is Hebrew for ‘a warrior.’
“It’s been more successful than I ever thought was possible,” DeBusk said. “Our entire goal is to give them a godly perspective of what a man is supposed to be. The world’s going to tell them something totally different than what God’s going to tell them. So, we try to talk to them about things that are relative to their walk with Christ.”
DeBusk admits that planning the event is a lot of work and sometimes stressful but the affirmation from the boys who participate and the volunteers who help always reaffirms the reason they are doing what they’re doing.
“A month before this event happens, it’s a lot of work and you’re thinking, ‘Why in the world would I do that much work?’ But after the weekend? Wow. The older men that are at the stations, they come in and they affirm me. The young men come back and go, ‘Wow. That was an incredible weekend. Thanks for doing it,’ DeBusk said. “It’s kind of like a family reunion. It’s a lot of trouble to go to, but at the end of it, you’re just so glad that you did it. You get a blessing from that, that you just can’t get anywhere else.”
DeBusk and his co-teacher, Hagar, have been teaching the high school senior boys’ class for 14 years. Hagar has already had two of three sons go through the Walk of Manhood weekend and DeBusk has his own son going through this time around.
“After I started this for my son, it’s taught me that delayed gratification is worth every bit of it. God put something on my heart. I was faithful. And now 15 years later that comes to pass,” DeBusk said. “I didn’t know that I would sustain it for 15 years, but when God lays it on your heart to do something, He’s faithful to complete it.”
Hagar has seen the significance of this weekend through his own sons. “They both live out of town. They don’t live locally anymore,” Hagar said. “One of them just happens to be in town this weekend. And he told me, ‘I’m going to have to figure out some way to tell my wife that I got to get out there for a minute just to come out and see what’s going on.’ It’s neat for them to just recognize the significance of it. I think it takes some time, a couple of years, for these guys to realize just how significant it is.”
Stalnaker’s son will be the last of the three men to go through in about two years. “That’s one of the things that I hope that he takes away from this, is that opportunity to look for men who are willing to walk through life with you,” Stalnaker said. “It’s something that you can’t replace. It’s so important. I don’t think you realize how important it is until you don’t have it.”
All three of the men would affirm that reading Robert Lewis’s book would be one of the best foundations for learning how to raise a young man up in a biblical way. But starting a manhood weekend is just another foundation that can be used.
“If somebody wants to do it, man, they should give us a call. We’d be glad to help them start that, but you have to have a passion for it. God called me to do this event. It’s really not just been me. It’s blessed because God told me to do it and I was just obedient. And that’s why 15 years later we’re still out here having a great time,” DeBusk said. “I think it’s important for every church, but as a calling for somebody in that church that sees the need for them to step up and reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously and expect God’s greater reward.”