The sweat on their faces was like a magnet to the dirt outside. The long hot days just didn’t seem so bad with a group of other guys and lots of cool things to do. First, it was archery. Then it was shooting sports. Part of the time required clearing a few trees and repairing a flat tire on the four-wheeler. Saturdays for so many kids are late mornings, late nights playing video games or watching television.
It is amazing how little time kids spend outdoors today. The average is 40 minutes a week outside, 70 hours a week in front of a screen. Not a screen door or a window screen but a phone or computer screen. Kids today are not choosing to go outdoors at an alarming rate. Richard Louve, author of Last Child in the Woods calls it, “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Back in the day the father and grandfather took the boy to the fields or barn and taught them the way of the farm. They learned about tools and animals. They learned how to use a knife and a gun for all the right reasons. Up early and working hard all day they harvested farm animals and wild game for food. They learned to do hard things and stick to it until it got done. Today, half the boys are without a father in the home, in some communities it is at epidemic proportions of 70% or more. There is no one there to teach the boy to be a man. They do not know the craft of a hammer, an axe or how to change a flat tire.
Kids Without Dads
Many men today grew up in similar situations. For me, my dad drank his way out the door. I remember the day he chose alcohol over his family. That was the day our family broke apart. I lived for years with the wounds, hurts and questions a boy has when the father is not there. I was 13 when he left.
Being a man is something a boy is trained to be. He must be ushered into and confirmed as a man. Only a man can train a boy and without his father a male mentor is critical. There are great mentoring programs around the country but few are as effective as KOZ.
No Kid Left Inside
KOZ is a hunting, fishing and outdoor adventure ministry for boys. Men from the local church take one-half Saturday a month and plan an outdoor activity for the fatherless boys and father/sons in their church and community. The ministry provides all the curriculum and training for the men.
“I was always busy at church. I helped in every area, parking cars, passing the plate, Sunday school, and men’s bible study. But I never really felt God’s calling,” explains Jerraed Peoples, a KOZ leader. “When I started doing KOZ I could feel the heart of Jesus at work in me and the boys. I love our Saturdays and can’t imagine not doing it. The boys are so important to me and my wife says the program changed me.”
For KOZ men it’s not about their biggest deer or fish. Some men come into KOZ with no outdoor skills and learn as the boys do. Many are excellent outdoorsmen but never thought they had a place in God’s kingdom. The boys need something exciting but deep inside it’s just the companionship they desperately seek and yes just one Saturday a month will change them.
Making An Impact
One mom wrote on her social media page recently about KOZ: “I’m not sure how to put into words my gratitude for the hearts of the team of KOZ! Without getting too deep, you give Caden time in all the things he loves and misses about his dad. He comes home filled with a renewed love for Jesus and inspiration in what lies ahead! THANK YOU! from the bottom of my heart, for not just being talkers, but doers of what God has called you to! #KOZstrong#kidsoutdoorzone
KOZ is all about the God-given wildness of a boy’s heart. The men who mentored them confirmed their importance, their worth, value and how much they are loved. The boys are in their true element with all the bumps and scratches, dirt and stink from a good Saturday. The boys coming to life, feeling alive. The laughter, the high fives, the commitments to Jesus. So good. KOZ Strong.
TJ Greaney is the Founder of Kids Outdoor Zone. To support KOZ and the rescue of the boys you can donate online at KidsOutdoorZone.com or donate land for the boys to use email TJ@KidsOutdorZone.com.