Jan. 31, 2023

GOAT #50: Helping Boys Become Godly Men with Mark Hancock of Trail Life USA

GOAT #50: Helping Boys Become Godly Men with Mark Hancock of Trail Life USA

Why can't the educational, social or emotional needs of our boys be met in traditional schools? How can we help our sons to love learning, feel valued and still have that drive and enthusiasm that will spur them on to pursue their interests and reach their goals as men?  What can we teach them now to grow and encourage their faith throughout their teens and into their adulthood?

Today, listen as Erin and Amanda speak with Mark Hancock for real solutions, the author, award-winning writer, and conference speaker who also serves as Chief Executive Officer of Trail Life USA.   They discuss how we can raise boys to become Godly men, and the indispensable role fathers play in making that happen, especially with discipleship ministries like Trail Life USA.  Mark is the author of the book “Why Are We Sitting Here Until We Die?” as well as the two booklets “Let Boys Be Boys: 3 Winning Strategies for Leaders of Boys” and “5 Critical Needs of Boys.”

Resources & Links
You can reach Mark Hancock online at:
Trail Life USA on Twitter
Trail Life USA on Instagram
Trail Life on Facebook
To see if there's a Trail Life USA troop near you, or download "Raising Godly Boys," visit the website: www.traillifeusa.com
Listen to Mark's podcast, "Raising Godly Boys Minute,"  available here or wherever you listen to podcasts!

"Boys Will Be Boys: Celebrating the Adventurous Spirit in Every Little Boy" by Jim Daly, on Amazon

Be sure to subscribe to GOAT Homeschooling with Erin and Amanda wherever you listen to podcasts, and join us in continuing the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, or via email.

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[0:00] Hello and welcome back to Goat Homeschooling with Erin and Amanda. Today we have a guest with us. His name is Mark Hancock and he is the CEO of Trail Life. Welcome to Goat Homeschooling with,  Erin and Amanda. I'm Erin. And I'm Amanda. This is the podcast to encourage moms that have been at
 [0:18] This homeschooling gig longer than five years and plan on sticking with it through the high school years. The long haulers as we like to say. We want to help you have the greatest of all time homeschool that meets the needs of your family by encouraging you with real conversations on the issues that,
 pop up as you've been in this homeschool lifestyle for years. So it'll be fun to try and see if there's.
 People out there that need the encouragement and if there's anything that we can do to help others as they get started on their journey, that'd be awesome. That's what we're here for.
 [0:50] Welcome, Mark. Thanks, Erin and Amanda. It's great to be here. Yeah, well, we're happy to have this interview with you. I know my boys have had experience with Trail Life and it's an organization that I absolutely love and love supporting. So.
 Would you mind just introducing us to yourself and how you got involved with Trail Life and what is Trail Life?
 Sure. Well, it's kind of a crazy story. My wife and her homeschooling parents, two boys that we've raised, one has graduated from Liberty University two years ago now he teaches at a Christian classical academy in Atlanta and the other one is a junior at Liberty University.   Love the homeschool experience. Both my boys are classically educated and we were part of a boy scout troop that was primarily homeschool families. And in 2013, the boy scouts kind of started,
 headed down a path.   Where we saw that a lot of churches weren't going to be able to stay associated with Boy Scouts. They're abandoning some of the traditional values that they'd held for years.
 [1:48] And I personally, as a father of two boys, wasn't just concerned, only concerned, I wasn't only concerned about the moral direction, but about how they stopped paying attention to the needs of boys.
 [2:00] And ultimately, their decisions led to where now girls are also in Boy Scouts, which we love girls and the girls are amazing, but we think that boys and girls are different. So about 300 of us  from across the country began to talk about the idea of a Christ-centered organization that was centered similar to Boy Scouts that gave all the character, leadership, and adventure opportunities.
 [2:23] Of Boy Scouts, but was specifically an unapologetic Christian and also boy focused.
 [2:29] Then that's where the idea of Trail Life came together. And after about six months of talking, we launched on January 1st, 2014. And now we have about 50,000 members and all 50 states and about  1000 churches participating in Trail Life. Wow, that's really, really fast growth for an organization. Obviously, that means that that message and that need was there and you're helping address that. So can you tell us a little bit more about the program of Trail Life as it is, you know, badges, those kinds of things.
Sure. Yeah, it's what you would expect from an outdoor adventure organization, badges and uniforms and handbooks and awards and activities and patrols and troops and all that stuff.   But we are at our core, a Christian ministry. We're not an outdoor ministry that's having a Christian experience. We are a Christian ministry that's using the outdoors to grow boys into godly men. So when people say, what's the difference between you and Boy Scouts?
 [3:31] Yes, we say we're Christ-centered and we're boy-focused. And Boy Scouts is no longer either one of those things. So if those things are important to you, there's a huge difference.  If they're not important to you, well, they're kind of the same. So everything that you would expect from the outdoor program, the camping and the hiking and the adventures and all that,  but we do emphasize the Christian leadership. All of our adult leaders are.
 [3:57] Child and safety, youth protection trained, criminally background checked. They sign a statement of faith, a statement of values that talks about things like the definition of marriage.
 [4:07] And stewardship and purity and those sorts of things. So all of our adults are Christians.
 [4:14] But boys of any faith or no faith at all are welcome to rejoin Trail Life because we like the idea of them being in an environment where they can be influenced by Christian men. So it's what,  what you'd expect. Once a week, a troop will meet usually at a church and then usually once a month to do some sort of outdoor activity, camping, hiking or some sort of community activity.
 [4:41] And then usually during the summer, they'll do what we call a summer adventure, which is a longer trip away doing something intense, some whitewater rafting or some sort of a larger kind of.
 [4:51] Activity. We have a robust awards program, but we're more character focused than we are awards focused. We don't do participation trophies. We don't think that's good for boys. They earn the awards that they're doing. You start in kindergarten and go all the way up through 18 years of age. Our Highest award is called the Freedom Award, which if you're familiar with the Eagle Scout, it's similar to that, but it's
 more difficult to achieve. We do have a lot of boys who come over from Boy Scouts, and they can use some of those achievements over there. Some skills are the same whether they're Christian or non-Christian, hiking or starting a fire or camping, those sorts of things. So, they get credit for things that they've completed Boy Scouts, but they have to go further and do things like some of the faith elements and some of the values-based badges are very different than Boy Scouts.
 [5:42] So, like my son was an Eagle Scout and he transferred over into Trail Life and it took him about a year and a half to turn his Eagle Scout into a Freedom Range man. So, these Freedom  range are pretty pretty exceptional young men around the country. There's about 400 of them now. So that's the height of our program is going through a program that's up. They start as foxes and their hawks and mountain lions and their navigators and adventurers and the highest reward is the freedom of war.
 Excellent. I love what you shared about the program because I agree completely that boys are sometimes getting left behind now because our culture is being so feminist or female-oriented  and even feminizing our boys. And so that's another reason that, you know, my husband was interested in joining Trail Life with our boys is just having those outdoor experiences, but not just, you know, girls can have the same outdoor experiences as far as camping and learning how to build a fire and all of those things, but keeping them separate, I think is super important as well. Can you talk to us a little bit about the things that you're seeing in the boys and how they're coming alive through these experiences that are male-centered.
 [6:55] Sure, I love talking about that. In fact, if you go to our website right now, trail.us.com, you can download Raising Godly Boys, which talks about the proven process for turning boys into godly men. And in that, it talks about some of the challenges that boys face in our world today.  You know, the twice as likely to be in special education, three times more likely to have ADHD. They have fallen behind girls in every single academic category. It used to be that boys led  in places like science and math, but girls lead in every category because we've restructured our educational system to the personalities of girls, sit still, be quiet, pay attention,
 something that comes more difficultly to boys than it does to girls.
 [7:36] So we've built a system for they show up on the first day already behind. Developmentally, boys aren't ready for the same sort of intellectual assignments that girls get.  So boys start out their educational experience already feeling like they don't fit in, already feeling like I can't do this stuff. And that sticks with them, which is why we have.
 [7:57] Now it's flipped since over the last 40 years. There's now more girls going to college and boys, more girls getting bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, doctoral degrees,  and then boys and young men because they've grown up in a system that really catered to system be quiet, pay attention, which is, like I said, something that comes more difficult to boys,  Boys tend to thrive on risking competition, that they don't engage as quick to engage in something unless there's something at risk. They like reward, they like score being kept, they like challenges, they like risk. And we're there in a culture where no one's keeping score,  no one's taking risk. You know, we're protecting them from anything that can be hurtful.  In California, they've taken tag out of the public schools because they're afraid it's it's gonna hurt the emotional development of kids. It's like, oh my gosh.
 [8:46] Boys thrive on that kind of stuff. So you put them out on a field and say we're not keeping score.  It's like, well, why even try? And so we created this thing for boys, the sense of why even try, which is why we have, well, we've labeled the failure to launch syndrome. Boys get out in the real world for the first time and they try something and they fail and they don't know, they haven't had a chance to fail in the past. And they're not afraid of failure. they just been shielded from it. And so they haven't experienced it. So they go, they move out of the house for the first time, they fail at something and they run back home again because no one ever taught them how to fail. Give them the experience of having a difficult time with something and then overcome it. So in Trail Up USA, boys encounter those sorts of difficult opportunities camp out where it rains the whole time. And they're, you know, they brought one pair of socks. Well, what a great learning experience. You know, your socks were wet, you should have brought two. That's, it's not going to kill them, but it's a great experience and responsibility. Instead of mom flying in and dropping dry socks from a helicopter, he's going to walk in those wet socks for a while and he's in a male-centric environment where he's going to be told, hey.
 [9:55] Second, we're going to go on a hike and that's good for boys and that puts risk and competition, puts a thoughtfulness, that puts a, hey, I better pay attention. That's how boys develop  in that kind of environment. And so, the only place that they can find this sort of environment anymore is in video games, where they keep score, there's levels, there's challenges,  they can lose a life and fail and get back up and try again harder. And they can work at it, work at it, work at it, and they come in the kitchen and tell mom, hey, I'm at level 47.
 And mom's like, I don't even know what that is. But to him, it's a big deal because he fought his way to get there. And so, he finds that world of risk and competition and challenge and victory,  points and scoring and doing better than somebody else and all those things in the video game world.
 And then we criticize them for playing so many video games. So, boys really can't win no matter of where it is that they go. So that's just part of what it is that they're facing, say,  in a challenging environment. And of course, toxic masculinity, you know, in today's culture, when a boy is going after something hard or is aggressive about something, but that's  exactly the kind of aggressiveness that did things like goddess to the moon or across oceans or dumped on a beach in Normandy or any of those things that nature that's built into boys and men to do difficult things and to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
 [11:23] And we had this generations of men like the greatest generation World War II, my gosh, what those guys encountered and what they did for the sake of our freedom fighting for us.
 And they did it gladly because there was purpose in that and it was hard and there was meaning to it. And then they came back and instead of giving their lives in battle, they're now giving their  lives at work, you know, through stress and all those sorts of things. Through stress and all those things, they're giving their lives again. Well, we've taken that opportunity of boys to really give themselves something bigger than they are.
 So as you're speaking, I'm kind of thinking about not just the boys that are involved in this program right now, but their dads. Have you seen a marked difference from dads who maybe have started out with their boys in Trail Life USA and just kind of seen a transformation in them?
 Because I feel like, you know, my dad's generation, the generations before, there was not this idea of toxic masculinity. There wasn't this whole fight against, quote.
 [12:21] Patriarchy and things like that. Are you seeing the trickle down from just where the dads maybe think that this is a great thing that I want my boys to be a part of, but then seeing them come alive through Trail Life? Yeah, absolutely. And fathers and men without sons in the program are finding their band of brothers in Trail. They're finding guys that they connect with around purpose.
 Like I said, they like the purpose of going and saving us from Nazism or whatever, but they find purpose in building the next generation according to their lives. And they do that side by side.  Men connect a lot better side by side than they do face to face. And so.
 [12:59] You know, it's when you tell a guy to go have coffee with another man and share his deepest fears, you know, shoot me now. I mean, you don't want to, but walking along the trail, turning a wrench together, working side by side, that's where we open up or sitting around a fire and the beds,  the boys have bedded down already. And the dads and the men that are without sons are sitting.
 Around the fire. And that's where they're talking about the challenges that they're having at work or their family or things like that. That's where they're saying things to each other, like, Hey, hey, I saw the way that you interact with your son.
 How did you get that kind of relationship? I'd like to have that kind of relationship with my son.
 So men are learning from each other in an environment that is not threatening to them, as opposed to going and signing up for a Sunday school class that says, I'm a horrible father, how can I be better?
 You know, they're going out into the outdoors and they're seeing other men and how they're interacting with their sons and say, yeah, that's what I, that's their school. That's their laboratory. That's their learning space for being a better dad, better husband, a better citizen.
 Yeah, it's really a discipleship program, essentially, is what you're describing. It is.
 [14:08] Yeah, that's good. I have three brothers. I'm the youngest of four of three brothers. And I have three boys myself.
 And I can attest to a lot of what you're saying. Of course, we have not been involved in Trail Life, but now I wish that we had been.
 My husband was a Navy man and he said that he was not interested in going camping anymore because he did enough of that when he was in the military. So our boys have kind of missed out on that. But I love everything that you're saying and this is fantastic. Yeah.
 We had a gentleman, you know, our campus this year, we have a 127-acre campus here in South Carolina and we had some troops camping here.
 This gentleman who had done I think three or four tours in Afghanistan. And my boys were part of the program then and they kept coming home saying, oh, Mr. JP did this and he taught us this.
 [14:58] I'm like, I want to meet this guy. And so the next day I saw them out and I said, hey, I just want to thank you. My sons have done nothing to talk about what it is that you've taught them here.
 And he said, I need to thank you. He said, I went to Afghanistan on four tours and I had my brotherhood there. And I came back here and I hid away in my apartment because I never thought I would ever again find a brotherhood like that.
 Says, but that trail of truth discovered that I had some skills. So those men reached out to me and started inviting me to the meetings.
 He says, I found my brothers again. And so it was other men in trailing. He doesn't have assigned the program.
 He has a place where he is. He's found that brotherhood of other men who are interested in doing something vital and important and purposeful.
 And he's found his brotherhood again. That's just a beautiful, beautiful picture of a man finding his place. That's awesome.
 Amanda and I are in the homeschool community and I think a lot of the things that we hear other women talk about is how their husbands don't have friends or don't have the time.
 [15:56] Or whatever it may be that their husbands aren't feeling connected. So could you maybe speak to some dads that might be listening to encourage them or encourage the wives to encourage their husbands to get involved in something like this?  Well, it's a struggle. I mean, for men to connect, I've watched two women in a restaurant and it's just amazing. Talking at the same time and hands going and everything going and the guys are sitting there, you know, just drinking their coffee.
 It's just something in us that we desire that connection, but it's like you're not allowed to ask for it in that direct way, and that's a cultural kind of thing.
 But it's vital for men to have that brotherhood, that sense of connection with other men.
 [16:38] But where do you go for that? You're in church on Sunday morning, you're kind of spying out, is there a guy here I can hang out with or whatever, but you just have that just brief connection.
 Pass them in the hall or in the lobby or something like that, or maybe you work together in Sunday school or something. But in Trail Live, you're out in the elements, the outdoors, battling things, focused on another purpose, but side by side. And that's where you find your brotherhood.
 So you find these men, like I said, who are in the program, don't even have sons in the program. Their sons long ago have graduated from the program, but they stay because that's their brotherhood. And it's that sense of I'm doing something bigger than me. Because it's real difficult for us to say, I'm just going to go have coffee with a friend because I need to be with my buddy. We don't do that. But to say, hey, I'm going this weekend to take 14 boys, hike a mountain and,  ford six rivers and climb this and that. It's like, yeah, let's go get it. But you're getting that same satisfaction working side by side with men, getting to know guys in a way that there. Really isn't any other way to get connected.  Other than something like the military is like a...
 [17:49] Yeah. Well, and I just feel like it's so important to a lot of times, like you said, it's easier for women to get connected with other women, but for our husbands to find that connection, having something like trail life. So what about maybe a dad who is hearing you talk and thinking, oh, you know, that sounds great. What would be your sales pitch to that guy who's maybe hesitant or feels like there's a time crunch on their own schedule because they are or maybe, you know, with a homeschooling world, a lot of times the dad is the sole provider for the family and has a lot of pressure.
 So how would you talk to him?
 Yeah, I would say that, you know, for the mental health of you and your family, your marriage, you've got to make time for this sort of thing.
 And so if I had a troop to get involved with, if you've got a son, my gosh, what a great way to connect with your son, because you can't keep up with them on video games. You know, he had your son has unlimited. So you can't i tried competing with my son's are getting into a sale i'll play when you really gives me too many buttons you give me the phone. So i was not able to do that but in the outdoors with them is kind of a level playing field so you and your son are out there together learning things together experiencing things together.
 [19:02] They're saying this is the first generation being raised by Google, where boys who have questions about anything can just ask Siri. So it's making dads pretty much unnecessary where they used to carry those sorts of conversations.
 [19:17] So you can Google how to light a fire with wet leaves, but until you've seen a guy do it or work for somebody or had the experience of doing and celebrating that, hey, we're, going to be warm now because we're able to do this, it's just really something that you don't get the experience. So let's say as a dad, if you're looking to connect with your son, find a trail of USA troop or start one. And if you're looking for a place to connect with other men, which is vital for your mental health, you've got to be around other men.
 You have to be in a space where people understand that you're different from your wife. Boys have to be in a place where they understand they're not defective girls. They're actually  just boys, they're their own thing. It's vital for you and your son to find that space. If you go find it somewhere else, that's great. But in Trail of FUSA, we're going after the four things that most affect boys. One, they're unguided. They don't have as so many boys without fathers. They're,  ungrounded because the Word of God has been taken out of so many places. They're unappreciated because we think they're just broken girls. And they're uninspired because we've taken risks and
 competition out of their lives. So we restore all those things in Trail of FUSA. And so you and and your son together can encounter these things together and rediscover what it means to be a biblically masculine man, in today's world.
 [20:35] Well, I love that message. I'm a huge fan of Trail Life USA and anybody that I ever see on Facebook or social media asking how can I get my son connected with other boys, I'm always, you know, hey, Trail Life's great.
 We have several troops in our area, so that's been fantastic.
 Now, one thing I wanted to ask you about, because I know a lot of our listeners have children with special needs, have boys that have maybe autism on the spectrum or something.  How is Trail Life a good resource for families that are in that situation?
 Yeah, I love that question, Erin, because we do care about that. We really believe, you know, our troops are chartered by a local church, and that church owns that troop.
 It's not just a group that meets in their basement. It's an outreach of that local church.
 So any way that the local church can be involved in those sorts of issues, especially needs for kids, is beautiful.  And the Trail Life Troop is a great place to do that.
 [21:33] So what we do is we have a national committee, a special needs committee of parents who pretty much have their own issues with their own kids who have special needs. And so they understand  these needs. But then on a troop by troop basis, we give the troops the freedom to work with the parents and with the specialists when people are close to that boy and help them be successful in  the program. We don't want to under-challenge them because if we fail boys today, it's because we we have under challenged them, but we don't want to over challenge them. We want to give them the sorts of things that he's capable of doing that he can feel good about himself by doing it. So, we walk that line by putting the solutions to the special needs boy as,
 close to that boy as we can. So, the parents working with those troop leaders are finding a way for their son to be part of that troop and the troop is finding a way to serve that boy. And so where a lot of other environments are structured and you just don't fit in, we hope, we encourage our troops, you know, as part of their local church to adopt the Christ-like approach to say, we've got to make room for everybody here. And so we have a lot of success stories of especially boys on the spectrum who were able to make it in in true life, but other places they just.
 [22:52] The guidelines have been so strict. They haven't been able to fit in there, but troops are making room for those boys and it's just beautiful. That's excellent. I think that's a lot of what we hear from moms and dads is that they're so discouraged because while they would love for their.
 [23:07] Son to be included in something like Trail Life or other things that are, you know, co-ops even in the homeschool community, they find that a struggle. So hearing that you have a whole team of people and really putting that on the local level for those people to be outreaching within their local troop. That's excellent. And I think that that's a really valuable piece of what Trail Life is doing for the discipleship of the boys in these generations coming up. Well, about 60% of our members are homeschooling. And so we run into a lot of.
 [23:41] Educational allowances, you know, the homeschool families, they're homeschooling because because their son and daughter just wasn't making it in the system.
 So we really do try to accommodate, and that's what we should do as a Christian ministry.
 And not only does it perfectly, but we do everything we can to set those troops up to be successful with boys who have special needs.
 Yeah, that's excellent. So as we're talking, I'm thinking you've said your boys are now grown. What benefits or what career options have they taken and you've really seen how Trail Life has benefited where they're at today?
 [24:21] Wow. Well, my older son who like I said was both an Eagle Scout and a Freedom Rangeman and he's teaching at a classical economy in Atlanta. He actually, one of his roles in the school is to take the kids out camping and hiking.
 And so they were thrilled to have him because that was one of the things on his resume was that he was an Eagle Scout and a Freedom Range movement. I said, wow, we would love to be able to offer that to our students, the opportunity to go in the outdoors. that same sort of.
 [24:51] Enhancement to the classical academy is offered to every homeschool parent, every homeschool community. You may, as a homeschool mom, have a difficult time finding these sorts of opportunities for boys, but in true life, it's built in. Creative homeschool moms will find out how to make a badge part of your curriculum that it should be. So we have a lot of opportunities there. So, he took all of that experience and being a leader in his troop and leading small groups and leading patrols into his educational experience. At Liberty, he led small groups and was a resident shepherd because he's used to leading men. In our world today, boys don't get a lot of chance to lead other boys. And so, he took all those leadership skills that he got through Trail Life, converted them into opportunities in college, leading men. And now he's leading these groups of kids in school. My younger son is a junior. He did the same thing. He got a lot of leadership skills in Trail Life. And now he's an RA at Liberty University. He's leading a hall full of boys. And his internship this summer, it's something that.
 [26:06] Because he developed so much independence in Trail Life. I love sharing this because homeschool moms are like, I love it. We would have a dry race board, which every homeschool family has. It comes with it. Yeah. Everybody, it's required when you sign up. Yeah. Yeah. So our car is up at a little two by two foot squares and each boy had his own, you know, that could be carried around and everything. But we would start out the day.
 [26:29] You know, where they're right at what it is that they had to do. And if we're going on a on a trail of camp out, they would need to think through and they would write on the list, you know, two pairs of socks, a shirt, da da da. And they would make the list of what it is that that they needed to bring. And then they would show me the list and I would say, Oh, you forgot this. Eventually, I didn't have to speak to it at all. So that skill of packing their own stuff and go and going away and taking, making sure mom didn't have to do any of it. They would do the shopping for the troop, all the food and everything that they needed for that weekend. Those sorts of skills, particularly in a homeschool environment, sometimes boys don't get to experience that  independence of going out and being responsible for their own stuff because mom is there all the time.
 [27:11] And so this experience of the boys being away from mom and having to fend for themselves has helped them and their success both in college and in their careers.
 My wife loved it because, you know, if for the weekends we were off somewhere.
 But one of the most powerful things she ever said, she shares a story, is when we came home, first of all, we weren't allowed to come to the house. We had to strip on the porch and hose down out there. She would say she says you know when my boys come home they're smelly and dirty.
 [27:43] But they're taller. I thought, wow, she just really understood that posture. There's something about being away for that weekend with the guys that made them taller. And maybe it wasn't physically, but the way they carried themselves, they were in an environment that people understood them and having fun and pushing the limits a little bit without mom there the entire time. And so, they came home taller and I just think that's a beautiful picture of the opportunities that my son's had over and over again. And now that they go out, like I said, he's doing an internship this summer, which we've had very little to do with. He went out and he found it, interviewed for it. He's got a place to live. A lot of that is the skills that he developed by by moving independently in Trail Life activities.
 [28:35] That's awesome. That actually is a really great transition into the next question I was going to ask. It's how has your involvement with your boys in Trail Life and your role as CEO, how has that impacted your family life? And how has your wife been able to support you? Because as moms, I mean, if we're gonna be real, sometimes it's easy to be like, yeah, I support you doing this. I really want this for you and the boys. But when the reality hits the road and it's been a very stressful day, and the wife is tired at the end of the day, and maybe there's some, it's easy to be resentful sometimes if husband's gone doing something else.  How can a wife support a husband who's made the decision to invest this time in their family through discipling the boys?
 [29:19] Yeah, well, I'm a horrible example of that. Right? You know, I shouldn't have to meet up. Plus, my experience is a little bit different than a member of a troop or a leader of a troop. But I was primary in homeschooling for my boys.
 My wife was running a crisis pregnancy center. So she was saving babies' lives while I was homeschooling my boys and starting trail life with one of them on my left hand, one on the right hand.
 [29:42] When they were, I guess, 11 and 13, they got to see trail life started in front of them. So that was part of their educational experience. But I'm so glad that I had had years and years before that of being close with them and investing in their lives because during that period of time starting trailer it was sport. The amount of time that I was away, the amount of energy that I was sapping from my family, we moved up to, you know, we were gifted. We're four months old.
 [30:11] And we set foot on this 127-acre property in South Carolina. So our whole family was uprooted to come move up here and secure this as our whole office headquarters. So she had to lay down the crisis pregnancy center and pick the boys, you know, midstream and schooling and everything and bring them up here. God was definitely a part of it and he made way in so many ways but I would not put that on anyone else. You know, what I put my wife through for those years of neglect and not being with her there in the way that I really should have been there for her and but she was all on board. I mean, I remember the day she said, hey, when it dawned on her, it was in Nashville at our inaugural convention. It was three months before we launched.  I didn't know I was going to CEO. I helped put the convention together and I flew her up there at the last minute to be a part of it and she saw the vision of it and she's like, honey, as far as this thing goes, I'm with you. And I think if we had both known what it was going to put her through.
 [31:19] Probably would not have done it because she's just amazing. She's an amazing woman. But what I put her through in that was really, I'm a horrible example of a husband who kept his eye on the, I'm always really important. But it's hard because you're looking at a mission like this that's going to make difference for generations. And she understood that and I understood that, but the price that she paid was really a great one. We're married 34 years, we're in a wonderful relationship, wonderful marriage now.
 [31:51] Empty nesters, trail life is manageable. not raise the world anymore. Because we started from nothing. We had nothing, no lane, no nothing in the launch of this organization. So it was, but I would say, let me change now to a father of boys involved in the program.
 [32:09] Because I had two boys, she kind of welcomed those weekends alone in the quiet. But that's why she was willing to sacrifice because she got the weekends alone.
 Yeah, she got the weekends alone. That wasn't near payoff for what she did.
 [32:28] And she loved seeing the relationship between me and my boys develop all the week. Like I said, we've always been close. I was primary in homeschooling, so we've never had an issue with me being connected with my boys. But she loved the different sort of interaction that we had, with the outdoors. We were a camping family. She and I camped before we had boys. We were married for 10 years before we had boys, before we had kids. And so we camped. But when the kids came along, we stopped camping because there's just so much stuff you have to bring then.
 It was just wasn't fun anymore. But we got back into it, me and me and the boys, when we got involved, you know, with scouting. So, I think she liked that, she likes that the boys had that exposure to the outdoors, that sort of things that we probably would not have done as a family.  You know, we prefer Hilton's too, sleeping on the ground. So, that kind of forced that outdoor sort of thing that the boys never would have had any other way. So, I know she's thankful for it.
 [33:27] But also, she paid an amazing and incredible price for the work that we've done here.  Generations should be thanking her.  I know. Now I feel like we need to have her on to see who's taking all of this. She sounds amazing. She is one of the most amazing people I know.
 [33:48] Wow. Amanda, do you have any other questions? No, I'm good. I'm really enjoying this though. And I'm going to make this the most magnificent of this episode.
 I had one more question. As we're talking, you know, I just, I'm so thankful that you had this vision that you and all those men stepped up to say, hey, we're not liking the direction things are going. We really see the value in focusing on our boys and discipling them and bringing all these skills underneath the Word.  And what God has to say about who they are. Do you want to just share with us a little bit, maybe, about the future of trail life, the vision that you have going forward from all of that exciting background? Where's the future of trail life going?
 [34:30] Sure. Wow, great question. I just spent half day yesterday and half day today in strategic planning with the leadership team talking about these kinds of things. And we know that we've got  something, we got a hold of something that God is doing and we're hanging on for dear life. But it's really striking a chord with so many parents. Parents and teachers know  that boys and girls are different. Any engaged parent or any engaged teacher knows that they're different and they understand the pressures that boys are facing today. If they don't, they can read the book, you can get it on the library and not let boys be boys free read about it. And so, they're responding to this message. And where it feels like we're one of the most politically incorrect organizations out there right now, you can get canceled for saying things like boys and girls are different. It's just the truth. And biology, psychology, every science points to that as being true. Developmentally, there's so many differences between boys and girls. And we are pretending like there aren't. And I think that that has positioned us for a society to think if Jesus' theories will begin to wake up to the damage that we've done to both boys and girls.
 [35:47] By putting on them these expectations and this lie that they're living.
 You know, we made a lot of decisions as adults not thinking about the effects on children, whether it's decisions about abortion or decisions about the definition of marriage, I'm going to stop to think that how confusing is that going to be for the kids who are raised in generation or the decisions and the posture that we're holding on gender blurring. Imagine being raised, born today, under these messages where you've never known an America that didn't have Thank you. What does it mean?
 [36:25] So many questions about what gender you are i mean that i used to be pretty given that's not something you had to worry about. So it's a tough it's a tough place and so but we believe that we are position with the answer the proven process that turns boys and godly men and that we are holding that space.
 We don't know of any other organizations that are holding that space it says.
 Boys and girls need programs that are aimed at their strengths because they're different. And we believe that on the other side of it, we're going to produce this beautiful, wonderful generation of masculine men who are going to be the models for the restoration of our culture when we figure out just how crazy we've been the last 20 years. I love that. I had a question.  So do you have any statistics on the retention rate of the face of the boys that go through trail life?  We don't. We don't yet. But we do know this. We know that we do what we call a thriving troop survey where we, in fact, we're in the process of it right now.  And we ask questions like that, you know, because that's what we're judging ourselves by.  Are we turning boys into godly men?
 [37:34] And we see that consistently. That's what parents are saying. It's hard to measure that because we have so many denominations that are involved and they may measure different ways.  People want to say, baptism, somebody this, somebody that. So, we're trans denominational, so it's hard to measure it, but we can ask certain questions that let us know that we're being successful. Do you see a greater appreciation for the things of God in your son since you started in trailer? So, we're seeing those sorts of responses saying yes. And we're also seeing that from the dads too. They're embracing their faith more because they're around faith-filled men who also can hike and get dirty and do stuff like that rather than their kind of.
 [38:14] Church friends. So, we're seeing evidence of it. Evidence is strong enough that we actually have part of our proven process is a guarantee. We tell our churches, if you start a Trail Life USA Troop and the boys in that troop are not becoming godly men, you get your money back. You don't have to pay for the program because that's what we're doing. If we're not doing that, we're not doing our thing right. So I was a youth pastor for 15 years.   If I had had a mom come to me and say, hey, can you guarantee my son will become a godly man? It'd be like, hey, you know what, Mrs. Smith, maybe, maybe not. I'll let someone do something on the note. And Trail of the USA, we were so confident of our proven process that we are guaranteeing that those boys will become godly men. That's how strong I feel.  If I could be doing something else that made that definite difference in the life of a I would be doing that because like I said, I wasn't raised. I'm not an outdoorsman, but this is the way we turn boys into godly men. If there was another way to do it, I would be doing that. So this is powerful stuff and we're seeing evidence every day that it's working.
 [39:21] Yeah, I love that response. I'm just thinking as you're talking that raising godly boys is actually raising a godly nation because when our men are strong and leaders, by default, that's going to benefit any woman in our society and vice versa. If we're raising women to be strong women, then that's going to impact and improve anything that we do in our own.
 [39:42] Nation. So, thank you so much, Mark, for coming on the show and we really appreciate you.
 So where's the best website to send our listeners to get more information on either starting or joining a Trail Life Troop? It's Trail Life USA, Trail Life USA, two L's in the middle, and traillifeusa.com.  If you go there, I think the tab is called Get Connected, and you can go to find a troop and it shows you a map of the United States where all the troops are.
 You can put in your zip code, and it'll show you within how many miles you can designate, you can find a troop, and then you can click on contact that troop and get more information from that troop and where they meet. There's not a troop near you. There's also a tab that says, start a troop. And that walks you through how you can get a troop up and running in your church. Excellent. And where can they find more information on you and what you're doing? I know you've got different things that you've got your hands in with Focus on the Family and do podcasts
 as well. And just can you give us some more information on you? Yeah, we do. We have our our daily radio minute. We're in about a thousand radio stations with Raising Godly Boys. And that's also a podcast. So just a real quick one minute. And so wives, if you want your husband to, listen to just a one minute thing on his way to work, it's called Raising Godly Boys. And of course, at the website, Trail of USA, you'll find out all that. We also have the website, RaisingGodlyBoys.com, where there are specific, you'll find all the radio programs there, but you'll also find other resources on how to help raise godly boys.
 [41:09] Excellent. Well, thank you so much. You can find us at our website, goathomeschoolingpodcast.com. Thanks for listening. Thanks for listening today. We hope you'll subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you'd like to suggest topics for us to discuss or if you have any questions, find us at Goat Homeschooling on Facebook, on Instagram at Goathomeschool, and email us at Goathomeschoolingpodcast.
 At gmail.com.
 Have a great day!
 [41:40] Music.

Mark HancockProfile Photo

Mark Hancock

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Trail Life USA. Author of the book “Why Are We Sitting Here Until W

Mark T. Hancock began his career founding an advertising agency that grew to national prominence over fifteen years. His conversion to Christ led him into ministry as a Youth and College Pastor, Associate Pastor, Homeless Ministry Director, and Global Event Director for an international ministry, organizing events on five continents.

He holds two Masters Degrees in the Mental Health Counseling field, has spent a number of years in private practice, and has taught at secular and Christian colleges. Mark is the author of the book “Why Are We Sitting Here Until We Die?” as well as two booklets “Let Boys Be Boys: 3 Winning Strategies for Leaders of Boys” and “5 Critical Needs of Boys.” Mark has been a guest on numerous radio and television programs including: Fox Nation’s Starnes Country, Family Life Radio, and James Dobson’s Family Talk Program. In 2017, Mark was named to the American Family Association’s ‘40 Faithful’.

An author, award-winning writer, and conference speaker, he serves as Chief Executive Officer of Trail Life USA and lives near Greenville, SC with his wife of over 30 years. They have two sons.