Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


It took me 8 years in ministry to figure out that we needed to get just our men and women away, by themselves, as a gender group… to talk about life and faith and what it means to be God-fearing men and women. I think, “I’m a slow learner.” Truth is, most youth ministries don’t do this trip at all or see the value in it. When I left powerhouse, it was one of the first things the next leader let go. I’ve said it before, but after almost 15+ years of youth ministry, I’m still convinced it’s the one retreat I think I’ll never let go. As long as God has me in youth ministry, I’ll be doing this trip or something like it.
From the “man” perspective (since I’ve never been to “our” women’s retreat for obvious reasons), I don’t care where we go or what we do, just so long as we get to help young men find godly mentors, father figures, and a chance to officially leave boyhood behind and make a step towards manhood. It is good for their hearts and souls. It is good for mine.
I’ve done this trip in the sierras in a cabin with snow, on a a houseboat on a winter lake, and now a grip of times in the desert. (like here and here) This last weekend was trip #5 here in San Diego.
  • 10 seasoned adult men. 31 teenage young men/dudes.
  • 30 lbs of steak. 40 lbs of potatoes. 120 tortillas. 240 eggs. 8 gallons of OJ. 125 gallons of water. etc…
  • A homemade spud launcher. Tons of sling shots for sling shot paint ball. A 300 foot zip line. 10 model rockets and engines.
  • 2000 rounds of ammo. 7 -12 guage shot guns. 3 hand guns. 4- .22’s. A grip of clay targets and stuff to knock over with the .22’s and such. (If you’re a mom, and your heart just stopped… relax. No, we don’t let them shoot without adult supervision. Think safety controlled shooting range on Sat. afternoon, not like wild west chaotic showdown.)
  • A truck bed of fire wood and some random stuff that makes the fire more fun 🙂
  • An assortment of rope, tarps, duct tape, safety equipment and such.
  • 2 guitars, 45 pens, 41 ammo cans, notebooks, and memory tools (I’ll break that down in the next post).
  • A HUGE army tent.
  • 7 off road vehicles.


The first nights sunset was AMAZING!

One of our photographers snapped this pic of a cloud. Think it’s a sign the spirit of God descended on us as we prayed. Super cool looking cloud either way.

Here’s the campsite we set up- complete with HUGE 50 man tent thing- mid right of the photo… looks small in comparison to the massive rocks we camp near.

I love watching young men have genuine fun. At one point, a random circle showed up and one student had brought two pairs of boxing gloves and a body shot only duel session busted out. You just can’t do that in your living room. Paintball with sling shots, teaching them to shoot a gun properly (I even shot a pistol for the first time), rockets… man this trip is good dude time.

Every year, before free time, we do some old school team building. This year, it was three- 30 minute rotations. One was this thing where you have to pick up a 20 foot 4×4 using only ropes and holding it vertically and move it around a pre-set course. Another was a rocket building station. The last one was a zip-line that one of our leaders dreamed up and tested last weekend for us. Super fun.

And of course, we spent some time bonding by the fire as friends, brothers, and children of God. Here’s a final couple of pics and then the next post I’ll outline what we talked about… cuz I tried something I’ve never done before in that setting and i turned out sweet.


  1. Every Jan/Feb our church has a “Men’s Retreat” and Dad’s come out of the woodwork with their sons + single men as well and head off to the wilderness and get

    f i l t h y d i r t y.

    they don’t brush their teeth.

    they stay up all night.

    they hang out around the fire.

    they shoot guns like AR-17s or 15s or whatever they’re called.

    sleep in tents.

    make eggs in a stock pot.

    eat enough brisket for a small country.

    and come home fully refreshed and detoxed from the harried life of living in the world.

    it’s awesome.

    (there’a also a father/daughter retreat in the summer.)

    glad to hear y’all do this too.

  2. God used this trip to change my life – have to pinch myself daily to make sure I’m really living the life I am! God’s really been encouraging and disciplining me today, and being reminded of “Skibrudden” was a blessing. Looking forward to the day when I can pull this off in my own ministry – love you, bro.

  3. Kevin Brangwynne says:

    Thanks Brian for the leadership and all your hard work putting this trip together…my son I had an awesome time! Thanks again to your family also, for the sacrifices they make to allow you to invest yourself fully in this trip and in your ministry. Personally, I can’t wait for your son’s to be old enough to join us! Anyway, you’re very much appreciated…keep up the great work!

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