This month’s speaker is Patrick Tyndall, founder of Ironman Outdoors, in which men bond with each other over both hunting and discussion sessions that give them a chance to open up about their deepest fears and insecurities. Particularly for men who are disinclined to attend church regularly in the first place, traditional church environments can be a difficult place to be honest and reveal their true selves—to “drop their camo,” as Tyndall describes it. But an IO hunting trip, he says, provides an engaging way for men to relax and bond with one another, even if they’re complete strangers. “If you put him in a hunting cabin or a lake house with 12 other men and they’re willing to take their camo off and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m dealing with,’ then they’ll be more likely to take their camo off too.”
Good evening, my name is Paul Amos and I’m the founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed is a community of men who come together of all backgrounds to discuss the difficulties that they face in life, as well as the triumphs over those difficulties. Today, we’re very blessed to have the opportunity to have a special speaker here at our Pursuing Restoration webinar, Patrick Tyndall, who is here and the founder of Ironman Outdoors.
Paul: We appreciate you taking time away from your very busy schedule and being willing to come here, especially as you go into your busiest time of year. know we’ll get into that in just a few minutes. I would like to start today by asking you a question that we ask all of our guests. What does redemption mean to you?
Patrick: I think of the old hymn Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. I think I’m a sinner, at times I’m Chief of among sinners, and I can’t redeem myself, but Christ has redeemed me through His grace and His mercy, and what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. And for that, I’m redeemed.
Paul: That’s wonderful. Well, thank you for sharing that. Maybe if we could persuade Patrick to maybe tell us a little bit about your story and a little bit about what brought you to the place to even begin a new ministry like Ironman Outdoors.
Patrick: Yeah, so I’m an average guy. Okay, just like all the average guys that are watching this webinar. There is nothing special about Patrick. In 2002, I was teaching a Sunday school class and a Baptist church in Columbia, South Carolina. And we had this little problem, we had a lot of women in our class, but we didn’t have a whole lot of men, and the man that were there were kind of asleep.
I thought, ‘well, maybe it’s my Sunday school teaching, maybe I’m the reason that they don’t want to come. I began to read some books and do some research, and I began to find out that there’s a problem in our churches today. It’s the lack of men.
Some statistics will show you that when looking at adults in American churches it’s 60-69% female. Which tells me we have a huge gap and we’ve got to do some work to reach our men.
Me and a small group of guys in my Sunday school class began to come up with a strategy. How can we reach so-and so’s husband? How can we reach that guy? I asked a women in my class, ‘Where is your husband?’ And she would say, ‘Oh well, it’s the rut and he loves to hunt.’ Then it come spring time, and well… it’s turkey season, and he’s got to get his gobblers or you know the bass are spawning, he’s fishing today.
So we kind of had this moment of divine inspiration. I truly, truly believe it was divine inspiration. We said, Okay, let’s have a weekend that we plan for men, and let’s do it not at the church, not in the Sunday school class. Let’s do it at the lake. So we went to Santee Cooper, a world famous lake system in South Carolina.
We had several guys in our class that owned a boat. I had one guy who loves to cook, and I said, Man, you bring your grill and I want you to cook. We had about 12 guys that first weekend, and after dinner, I wanted us to do something more spiritual than just saying the blessing. I didn’t want to do a worship service, I didn’t want anybody to have to sing, but I wanted us to have a manhood discussion.
I wanted to really talk about what it means to be a godly husband. What does that look like? How am I supposed to treat my wife. And so many of our guys grew up in homes that were broken, so they don’t have a good picture of what a Godly marriage looks like. And so they need to rub shoulders with other men.
As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another. I think that means you’ve got to rub up against some other guys, because all of the man’s ways seem innocent to him, it tells us in the Bible. So men can justify ‘Well, as long as we’re not fighting and arguing, I guess we’ve got a great marriage.’
Well, not necessarily.
How do I become a godly father? What’s that look like? What am I supposed to do? I mean, I take my kids to church. Am I supposed to be leading a family Bible study? What does all that look like? So we unpacked that on the weekend, and guys began to open up and they began to really share things that they would have never talked about at the church or in the Sunday School classroom, and we began to find out that atmosphere is key to getting men to open up.
So that lake house was the right atmosphere. A hunting cabin was the right atmosphere. When you go to a Bass Pro Shop, you get out of the truck and follow turkey tracks written on the pavements to the store. The store looks like this giant log cabin. You walk in that big log cabin and over on this side, there’s thousands of rod tips, fishing rods over here on this wall over here, there’s hundreds of gun barrels, and you as a man say, ‘I am home!’
I can spend two hours in Bass Pro Shop and not get tired, but you take me to Khols or to Old Navy or some of these stores with my wife and I mean 10 minutes and my feet are starting to hurt, I’m looking for a place to sit down. Bass Pro Shop sells atmosphere, just as much as they sell product.
We discovered that we need to put men in the right atmosphere to talk to them about Christ.
So that’s where the retreat idea came from. 2007, a guy came on the retreat and looked at me and said, Patrick, this could be bigger than just your Sunday school class. I pulled together the group of guys from my class and we formed a board of directors, we ran with it. We established a 501c3 non-profit. None of us had a clue what or we were doing, but we were being obedient in what God was calling us to do, and the retreats just got more adventurous and further out geographically.
And now, fast forward, 14 years later, and God has blessed it, and through the generous support of some donors, this is what I do full-time, and I’m just thankful that God let me be a part of it.
Paul: Well, that is exciting. What a wonderful adventure, and I agree with you. Atmosphere is something that sold in so many different places. You mentioned a statistic that I had not heard before with 69% of people in church being women. I’m curious what atmosphere is being built within the church to draw 69% women and only 31% men?
Patrick: I think you’re starting to see a lot of the newer multi-site campuses, the larger churches, become very intentional about their architecture and the type of building materials that they’re using inside their worship centers. You’re starting to see more corrugated steel and tin, that type of thing, used as trim, even in the men’s restroom. You start to deer heads hanging in churches. I think these are churches that are very intentionally designing it that way so that men feel comfortable there, and I think they’re having a lot of success, and we need more of that.
Paul: Obviously, there’s a step in integration there that you’re able to bring together with new forms of architecture, but how do we bring together men and women in an atmosphere that is not just inviting for both of them, but is inviting for them collectively?
Patrick: Well, if you get the Man, you’re going to get the women, you’re going to get the family. We’ve all heard the statistic, if you reach a man for Christ, it’s like 90% of the time the whole family comes to know the Lord, and so I think if we’re intentional about reaching men, I think the wives are going to respond to that because they want their husband there. They want him plugged into a men’s bible study. They want him to be connected.
A lot of wives have been waiting for men to step up and lead in the home, and so I think if we are intentional about reaching men it’s going to benefit the whole family. I don’t think you’re going to have a problem getting the ladies and the children there as well because when dad is there, they want to be there too!
Paul: Well, knowing how important leadership is from a male perspective, tell me a little bit about what type of men show up to your retreats and what type of mindset they’re in from a leadership perspective when they arrive.
Patrick: Well, I can tell you some of them can’t shoot a rifle very good, because we have a lot of big bucks that are missed, but… I won’t go there! I’m just kinda joking. The typical guy who comes on one of our retreats, we’ve had guys as young as 21, 22, all the way up to early 70s, but by in large it’s guys in their 30s, 40s, 50s who have a little bit of disposable income to be able to afford to go on an out-of-state hunt.
Our retreats are very affordable, we are not outfitters. We don’t have a whole lot of overhead. We’re just looking to pay for the cost of the leases and the food plots that we put in, and the Millennium tree stands that you sit in. So our hunts are very affordable.
But these guys, just like all of us… they wear a really good camo. I’m not talking about Sitka, they wear really good camo over areas of their life. When I say that, here’s what I mean. I know how to act in front of my mother-in-law and so do you. I know how to act in front of the boss at the staff meeting on Mondays. I know how to act in front of the guys at the hunting club on Saturday. I know how to act in front of the pastor at church on Sunday.
And what I’m really doing is I’m putting on different patterns of camo to blend into my surroundings. When we see guys that show up on our retreats, sometimes they look like they just stepped off the page of Cabela’s catalogue. They’ve got the finest camouflage, they’re wearing the Sika, they got the $2500 custom rifle. Or if it’s a hog hunt, they got an AR with Thermo and all this stuff on them. They’ve spent a lot of money, they’re driving an F250, the $70,0000 King Ranch.
Even though they’re wearing good camo, on the inside, they’re just like all of us, they’re struggling. They may have a marriage that’s struggling. They may have just gone through a divorce. They may have just lost their job, and we know a man’s career is such a big part of his identity. They may be going through some sort of career crisis. They’ve got kids that did not turn out the way that they had hoped, or maybe some kids that have made some bad decisions. We’re just broken. All of us as men are a fragile, fragile bunch, and we need God’s grace, we need to rub shoulders with other men, we need accountability.
It’s no accident that they came on these retreats, because usually they’ve come that weekend to hear a word, not from Patrick or Ironman Outdoors, they’ve come to hear a word from the Lord. Maybe there’s a manhood discussion that we have on marriage. I had a guy texted me one time, that came on a retreat, and him and his wife were having struggles. He told me, after the fact, that he wasn’t planning on going home to his wife, he had planned after the hunt to go to his brother’s house. He texted me on Monday and he said, I just want you to know, because of that discussion we had on marriage, I went home after this weekend, and me and my wife started a conversation and we’re working through some of our issues. He needed to be there that weekend, and it might have just saved his marriage.
Paul: That is truly exciting. What an impact you’re obviously having! When I think about the atmosphere that you’re creating at these weekends, most of these guys show up and they probably don’t know that they have camouflage on. When I think about my personal history and my story, one of my spiritual mentors used a different term other than camouflage, he talked about ‘The Paul Suit’, the facade that I was putting all on the outside. I had to learn to step out of that ‘Paul Suit’ and continue to be real and to be open and to be the real me, as opposed to putting on a show for everybody else out there. I was expending so much energy putting on that show that I never really developed the character and the interpersonal things that I needed to be the spiritual man I should have been, the father, the husband, that would lead to that.
I can imagine that you get a lot of people who come in that have never really heard this concept. How do you begin to break them down and talk about what their camouflage is and what they can do to take it off?
Patrick: The whole weekend is what I like to call a weekend long manhood discussion. We build up to that. We don’t start by saying, “Take your came off and tell me all your deepest, darkest sins.
We start with our Pro-Staffers (our volunteers) having key questions that we throw out. One of those key questions is, tell me about your father, tell me something that you learn from your dad that was really good. Tell me something you learned from your dad that wasn’t so good. And we’ll go around the room that first night and everybody can pretty much answer that question, even if they didn’t have a dad, maybe they had a grandfather and an uncle who was sort of their dad, and they answer that question.
Then the next night we’re going a little bit deeper. I throw a lot of key questions like: On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your marriage? Most guys, I can almost predict, they’ll say, ‘Oh, 7or 8.’ Then I say, Well, what if I asked your wife what was she rated your marriage? What if I asked your kids, when they see mom and dad, what do they think mom and dad’s marriage is? And then it gets very real very quick. Some guys actually text their wives and say, Hey, how would you rate our marriage, and typically the number, a couple points lower than what he thought. So that causes a lot of good conversation that needs to take place in a marriage.
Then the last night is when we really open up. To get other guys to take off their camo, I have to be willing to take off my camo. Our Ironman pro-staffers, they need to be willing to take off their camo. You got to be willing to hear your story, and it’s not a story of your success, it’s the story of your failure. God uses our brokenness. He uses our weaknesses. We’ve got to be willing to show areas of our lives where we struggle and we’re weak. Then that spins into a conversation where a man feels very comfortable opening up in that atmosphere.
Again, this isn’t Sunday morning at the worship service, this is a Saturday night in a hunting cabin with a group of 8-12 strangers that you didn’t know before the weekend began. That’s where a guy can really open up and share some things about where he wears camo.
Paul: You’re getting down and dirty with your story, you’re telling them about all of the things that happened to you. How do you see transformation happen in the room as you all begin to share your most intimate details?
Patrick: The devil wants you to think that you’re the only one who struggles. He wants you to believe that your marriage, number one is bullet proof, that an affair could never happen to you, a divorce could never happen to you. But when it comes to your struggles, your sins.
I’ve done hundreds of retreats, and I’m telling you, here’s the main sins that guys struggle with, lust, pride, alcohol, anger, tongue, maybe gambling. It’s just a handful of things that really trip up men in their lives, and what we like to say is, we all struggle with the same things and pretend that we don’t.
When we open up and start sharing with those guys where we struggle, you know what they say? I’m not alone. Gosh, you struggle with that too?! And this guy, he’s a deacon in your church, he’s a pastor, he struggles with that too?!
Then it opens up and the things that you keep in a secret actually have more power over you, but some shits the best disinfect. So when we get it out in the open, you say, ‘Hey guys, let me tell you, this is something I’m not proud of. Here’s where I struggle, here’s where I fumbled in the past. But here is how Jesus Christ, not only did do forgive me of that sin, He died to give me victory over that sin, and you do not have to be a slave to that sin in Christ.
Paul: Wow, well, that is powerful for a transformation perspective! You get these guys on these weekends, and obviously it’s a single weekend, a single even. I can think about things like sales conferences that I used to attend, where you can really get people pumped up and you can get them the rara, but the sustainability of it sometimes is difficult. What you do to help these men after they come out of an important and life-changing event like this? What can they do to continue to create continuity? Who are you sending them toward? What type of leadership do you help provide for them as an ongoing part of their new life?
Patrick: Yeah, excellent question. I have a thumb drive that I keep up with my computer, and on that thumb drive or pictures of guys that have been baptized. The first guy that ever did it… I still have that picture.
This was a year after we get a saltwater fishing retreat off Morehead City, North Carolina. We caught some nice fish that weekend, it was a little bit rough, we didn’t go out as far as we wanted to go out to try to get dolphin and tuna, stuff like that, but we did catch some fish. Nothing super spiritual seemed to have happened that weekend, and I kind of went away thinking, Oh, well, maybe next time we’ll have something more spiritual happen. About a year after that retreat, I get an email out of the blue from one of the guys who had been on that retreat that weekend, and it’s a picture of him being baptized in these Ironman Outdoors t-shirt. This was just very fascinating to me.
His name was Brian. I said, Brian, you know why did you get baptized in your Ironman Outdoors T-shirt? He said, because I’ve been on a journey seeking the Lord for the past year, and he said it all started that weekend that we went on that trip.
Through the years, we’ve had a lot of guys that have been baptized in their Ironman Outdoors t-shirts. To God the glory, not Ironman. These guys look back on that weekend and they say that it all started there.
Now we do some follow-up. Obviously, we have text groups where we’re texting during the retreat, and I’m actually texting these guys while they’re in the tree stand. Hey, on a scale of one to 10, what do you think your marriage is? Think about it, and we’ll talk about it tonight. And he’s got three hours or four hours to mull over that question while he’s in the tree stand. So we have these text groups that sometimes live on for four and five years past the retreat, this year we’ve written a follow-up Bible study, a seven-day follow-up it, a study that guys are going to get automatically the day they get home from the retreat.
They’ll get a Bible study devotion of four or five minutes delivered to their inbox every day for seven days. Sometimes we have followed up with guys who’ve made decisions of faith, we’ve helped locate them a church.
We had one guy from Long Island who came to South Carolina on a hog hunt and he made a decision for Christ, and he kind of jokingly told us the next week that on his way home after he was driving back up north, he stayed in the hotel on the way home, and he stole a Gideon Bible out of the hotel room and he asked us if we thought that was ok. They want that Bible to be used. And I said, And oh, by the way, we’re going to send you a nice camouflage Bible. So we do some follow-up in ways like that too, but ministry is about relationships, and we’re building relationships with men. A lot of these guys come on multiple retreats, they’ll go back home, and they’ll tell their wife and kids about it, and they’ll tell their buddies at church or wherever they’re at, and you’ll see them back next year with two or three guys with him. So we continued the relationship that way as well.
Paul: You’ve mentioned South Carolina today, and I think you mentioned Alabama, or maybe that was our conversation before, but you all have a really big footprint. Maybe you can talk a little bit about how far and wide you go, so people that are interested from hearing today, if they want to try to connect with you, can understand how broad sweeping your hunting and fishing opportunities are.
Patrick: We have about 100 volunteers that we call field staffers and pro-Staffers, and those guys are in 14 different states, all the way from Texas, all the way up to Pennsylvania and in the South. We do retreats. We have about 30 deer hunting retreats coming up here in just the next few months, it all gets started in Cambridge, Ohio. We do retreats in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, I mentioned, and then North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas.
We don’t have a deer hunt in Texas this year, but we do hog hunting stuff in Texas, Louisiana. We do salt water fishing in Florida. We have a good group down in Jacksonville, Florida, they’re big into salt water fishing, and so they help us put on several redfish and speckled trout type retreats every year.
Whatever men want to do, we want to do it with them so that we can connect them to Christ in the outdoors, and that’s our mission statement.
If you want to learn more about it, go to ironmanoutdoors.org, or check us out on Facebook and Instagram. Social media really is how we help spread the word about our retreats, we’ll post the trail camera picture on there, and we’ll say, Hey, we got three open spots on this retreat coming up in such and such state, and a lot of guys, sometimes on one retreat, we’ll have guys from five or six different states on one retreat.
We got a father and son retreat coming up. We do some father and son hunts. This is a hog hunting retreat in Brantley, Alabama, and it’s coming up in October, and we were just looking at the spreadsheet last night, we were on a zoom call, and we got guys from six different states come into that father and son retreat. So that’s really cool.
Paul: And you mentioned earlier that you had some gentleman that came on the trip that didn’t necessarily have the most hunting experience, I assume that you all are open to people of all types, and this isn’t just for the truly experienced hunter and a fisherman.
Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re not, if you didn’t grow up hunting, that’s okay, come with us, we’re going to put you in a nice comfortable stand, we’ll help you get your gun site in. I’ve had more than one person show up who just came from Walmart and bought their gun. And I said, do you need to shoot it? Oh no, no. It’s bore sighted, I should be good. I’m like in… No, no, no, no, let’s go put that thing on the range and let’s put it on the paper, and they were way off, and so I’m glad that we got them sighted in.
But we’ll help you through all of that, if you don’t know how to skin a deer or don’t know how to skin a hog, well, we’ll take care of that and help you. We are not outfitters. I think we’re better than outfitters because the quality of the pro-staffers that we have are cream of the crop men who are just like you and I, who love Lord and they love the outdoors, they want to use their Polaris ranger, or they want to use their passion for the outdoors for the kingdom.
And so when you come on our retreats manage, if you forget your binoculars, one of our guys is probably going to give you his. We’ve had guys that showed up and something was wrong with their bow, and one of our volunteers says here, let’s go ahead and you shoot my bow and let’s get it set up for your height and let’s go in 20-30 minutes, we got that guy shoot and good, and he’s now hunting with the other guys bow. Just really cool things, and I don’t think you’d see that if you went with an outfitter.
Paul: Well, Patrick, it sounds like you’re making a true impact for the kingdom, and I just congratulate you and thank you for all you’re doing as an avid hunter and fisherman, I admire the path you’re going and how you go about it, but as a follower of Christ, I’m more than anything, a admire how you’re helping lead men back into being the right type of individuals, the right type of husbands, the right type of fathers. So thank you so much, this has been a great opportunity to hear your story and to hear a little bit about Ironman Outdoors.
I’d just like to say thank you to our audience for their time today, thank you for listening in. We encourage you to turn back here to The Redeemed, we’ll have another interesting podcast coming up next month, please follow us on social media and always look out for us on the Third Thursday.