Have you ever taken the time to observe the erratic behavior of a squirrel? I mean really taken the time to witness the insanity of these creatures? Have you ever wondered, “What in the world is going through this creature's mind?” or “Does it even have a brain?”
I had the misfortune of observing the behavior of squirrels for a period of three months in the fall of 2015—no, I’m not yet talking about young men. At that time, I had moved into my urban duplex in Richmond, Virginia. My new home was a beautiful restored home from the mid 1900s, with a covered front porch, back courtyard area, and two delightful housemates.
This new residence of mine had everything to offer and was ideal in countless ways, with the exception of one thing: it soon became a hotbed for squirrel activity in the middle of the night. The attic upstairs developed into the equivalent of Spring Break in Las Vegas for all rodents in a 25 mile radius! For three months, squirrels would enter through a tiny hole in the roof in the middle of the night...every...night. FOR THREE MONTHS!
Needless to say, I became used to the constant scratching of squirrel claws in the attic, right above my bedroom. I became used to waking up in the middle of the night again and again. I became used to wondering when these spawns of Satan himself would act like the civilized animals that I expected them to be.
When the infestation initially began, we notified the landlord and he quickly sent animal control over to the house. Living in progressive Richmond, Virginia, and being respectful of all walks of life, it turned out our animal control specialist was vegan—no offense, I have vegan friends—and ended up being a greater ally to the squirrels than to us. He didn’t want to simply seal the hole in the roof during the day due to the risk of trapping any remaining squirrels from the all-night raging parties. No, he instead left the hole unsealed and set traps with peanut butter on the roof.
Every day, for months, we checked the traps—except for those days that we, uhhhh, forgot, and squirrels died due to the inclement weather—and called our animal lover, who came by and took the squirrels away (probably to keep as pets). As you can imagine, we were constantly frustrated with the squirrels. They could have, at least, paid some form of rent.
Over time, rocks were thrown, traps went unchecked, and war was waged. We tried everything to end the madness; but eventually, the hole in the roof was patched, the squirrel infestation was no more, and the humans won (dominion over creation right?).
So you may be thinking, “What in the world does this story have to do with the upcoming 2017 Pure Desire Men’s Conference and the session that I’ll be teaching?” Well, after working with the campus ministry of an organization called Cru for the past six years and helping many young men find freedom from pornography and unwanted sexual behavior, I can’t think of any clearer analogy than trying to herd squirrels: creatures more erratic and unpredictable than cattle. If you’ve ministered to young men, you have experienced the challenges of trying to corral, shepherd, and care for individuals who can behave erratically at times, just like squirrels.
Young adult men compose a very unique demographic. Specific understanding and contextualized approaches are necessary to effectively minister to these men battling sexual sin. To do so, we must understand this demographic well, invest intentionally, and empower well, while consistently pointing these men to Jesus’ love and His desires for their lives.
We must understand that many are struggling with their singleness, understanding of Jesus, motivations to get healthy, direction in life, and may still be learning what “adulting” is.
In addition to these challenges, many have been battling sexual sin for years and face two significant hindrances—deep addictive patterns and a mind that doesn’t fully develop until their mid to late twenties. How can we help these men who often do not see the devastating impact their sexual struggle is having on their relationship with God and others? How can we help them understand the way this struggle will impact their future marriage, future family, and success in life?
Understanding this demographic well allows us to utilize strategies that support and empower these young men through ministry.
We need to be wise about who we choose to invest in; not every young guy is ready to get serious about his sexual struggles and pursue health and healing with the same ferocity that he pursed his addiction. Not every guy is faithful, available, teachable, and willing to teach others what he learns from us. Investing well in this demographic requires extra patience, emotional investment, vision casting, and effort.
This should lead us to invest intentionally in those who embody a certain level of commitment and certain characteristics.
As a leader and brother, those we invest in are not followers; they are leaders that we empower. We have the opportunity to empower them to own their healing and understand Jesus’ vision for their lives. We hold the unique position to develop them to lead for Christ and to empower many others for the rest of their lives. We’re in a unique place to help them experience the abundant life that Jesus offers and understand the current and future consequences of their sexual choices. Many of these young men are the future CEO’s, business leaders, faith leaders, and political leaders of the world and we have the opportunity to empower them.
As we grow in understanding this unique demographic, investing intentionally, and empowering well, we will see Jesus radically transform their lives.
Whether you’re a young guy, a father, or a group leader of young men, I’d like to invite you to hear more about these strategies and concepts. Please join me at the Pure Desire Men’s Conference for Like Herding Squirrels: Ministering to Young Adult Men, where you will learn many practical steps for ministering to young adult men from the perspective of a young adult single guy, and former squirrel.
Ben has worked with the Campus Ministry of Cru since 2011. As the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for Cru’s sexual addiction recovery groups, he has worked with men and women who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction find lasting hope and freedom. Ben co-authored Living Free: a Pure Desire recovery resource specifically designed for college-aged men.