POINT LOOKOUT – Shortly after becoming an MBCollegiate Campus Missionary at College of the Ozarks in 2012, Kyle Rapinchuk became convicted of the need for young men to understand what the Bible says about being men. “They were very confused,” he says of the men in his ministry.
“Much of their perspective was shaped by television,” he continues, “which showed men as one of two extremes: either a serial womanizer who treated women as something for his own amusement or one who rebelled against that by becoming more like a woman himself. As I looked around our campus, I saw this dichotomy lived out pretty alarmingly.”
Rapinchuk wrote the basic outline of a curriculum to use with their leadership team that fall, while his wife, Kristin, led a study for the ladies on womanhood. They repeated the study once and held a one-day conference in the fall of 2015 on the topic.
In the fall of 2019, while participating in a Gospel of John Bible study at the College of the Ozarks BSU, a young man expressed interest in studying biblical manhood. Rapinchuk was more than happy to oblige. He asked two of his colaborers, Landon Young, Assistant Director of the BSU and Kenneth (Keno) Ayebazibwe, husband of a campus Resident Director, to resurrect the curriculum he’d written and lead a study.
Young and Ayebazibwe crafted a discussion-based study organized into seven topics: Defining Biblical Manhood, Masculinity and Femininity, Headship & Leadership, Strength, Sex & Sexuality, Work, Wisdom & Principles. They intentionally set up a format that fosters learning, discussion, and action.
“We didn’t want to just create a platform where men talk and never engage. We are asking them to apply and engage in these manly skills,” says Ayebazibwe. Each week’s session is built on a framework highlighting a characteristic of God that pertains to the topic, a Bible character who serves as an example, Scripture references, teaching content, discussion questions, and what they call a “word action”, or an application challenge.
The duo launched the study at the start of the spring semester with twelve college men, but it was cut short due to COVID-19. In June, they re-launched a condensed five-week study. With eight participants, they offered both in-person and online options.
A study like this is crucial for college-aged men, Azebazibwe believes. “The young men that we’re dealing with at this age group are formulating their worldview. They are combatting a lot of information on a daily basis, but most of it is not biblical. It’s coming from culture, from tradition. There is a lot of confusion.”
Young agrees. “Young men are expressing a hunger for guidance when it comes to being a man,” he says. “We want to give them that guidance from God’s Word. Our world needs loving fathers, faithful husbands, righteous citizens, and courageous leaders, but many young men don’t know how to get there. By providing this study, we provide men who are hungry for guidance with the empowering truth, vision, and principles of God’s Word, as well as a support system as we aim to share openly and walk in biblical manhood together.”
The impact on the men has been tangible. “I’ve seen an eagerness to be challenged and to wrestle with hard questions,” says Young. “We get to see glimpses here and there of moments where the content within the study seems to broaden their understanding of God’s design for a man.”
One participant, Zac Forester, says, “I enjoyed the conversations that we had over strength and work ethic, as I believe those are important qualities in a growing faith. It was amazing how Keno and Landon stepped up to give our group a place where we could to continue to grow with other believers during this crisis.”
The study has provided a context for these young men to wrestle through difficult topics and questions that often go undiscussed. “Guys are struggling and they’re not talking,” says Azebazibwe. “This platform does that. It’s a place where they can open up and grow with one another. We’ve heard testimonies from young men saying they didn’t have a place where they could share what they’re struggling with and get encouraged and held accountable. It helps them know that their struggles aren’t extremely strange.”
Understanding God’s design for sex and sexuality has been a revolutionary discussion for the men, says Azebazibwe. “There’s a lot of talk on this in the church in relation to sexual immorality, do not do xyz. No one talks about what God actually says about sex and sexuality. We asked the young men ‘Have you ever thought of the truth that God’s plan for you is to have sex, but in the right context?’ It was mind blowing for them. We’re giving them a positive foundation of God’s plan for sex instead of just don’t do’s.”
For Jackson Jorasz, the study was “iron sharpening iron. For anyone who wants to learn how to be a godly man, and what that means, whether you want to know what it means to be a man, what the purpose of sex is in a relationship, or what life is really about, the Men of God Bible study is for you. Men of God is a great platform with men of God who will mentor you and grow you.”
With the close of the 5-week study, Young and Azebazibwe are far from done developing these men as men of God. When the COVID-19 season closes, they plan to launch things that will engage them while teaching practical skills, such as roasting meat, cooking, and building things. They also aim to see multiplication of the biblical manhood study, both within the BSU and beyond. “We are looking forward to taking this study farther into the community,” says Azebazibwe.
“Our hope is that the young men attending the study will be faithful hearers who will be able to teach others also,” adds Young. “We want to help cultivate a generation of godly men who will be influential for the kingdom of God both at College of the Ozarks and wherever the Lord takes them after.”
In the words of Rapinchuk, the BSU is on a mission to raise up biblical men “so that they can accomplish their unique vocation and mission to be gospel-proclaimers and disciple-makers, husbands and fathers, providers and protectors, and so much more.”