Libby Bandelin — Staff Writer
Nathan Yockey came to Dordt University searching for a deeper faith in Christ. He attended a public school where God and matters of faith were never really talked about. Curious about his faith and how it related to issues in culture, Yockey asked his pastor questions that were not usually answered.
“Since coming to Dordt I have found that God is present and he is always with us. There are ways to fight the problems we face in culture and in our day-to-day lives,” Yockey said.
One avenue that helped answer Yockey’s questions is the Dangerous Men small group here on campus. Held every semester for the past five years, Dangerous Men is a discipleship study that confronts issues of lust and pornography. The study equips young men to fight for freedom from these problems in their lives and to be dangerous for the kingdom of God.
After going through Dangerous Men as freshmen, Yockey, Josiah Merkle, and other members of the small group wanted a way to stay in community with one another.
“Usually with small groups you come and meet with people, but when you’re done with small group, than you’re done seeing those people,” Yockey said. “There’s something about staying with a group of guys, talking with them, having a good time and building that sense of community.”
That turned into the Freedom Club.
The club aims to provide a place where men can grow in their faith by experiencing Christ’s freedom and encouraging His work in their lives through community with one another.
Originally, it started as a private group under the name, “Dangerous Men Club”.
Over the past three years, the club has gone through different strains of leadership. Now as a junior and president of the club, it is Yockey’s turn at the helm.
Alongside club vice president James Van Den Berg, Yockey wants to expand the club from to include other studies, more activities, and make it public across campus. They also wanted to expand to other topics and discuss how God is working in their lives and growing their faith.
To do this, they had to change the club’s name.
“We ended up changing the name to ‘Freedom Club’ to avoid confusion between the study and the club,” Josiah Merkle said.
Merkle is not only an OG member of the club, but has transitioned into a senior leadership role within the Dangerous Men small group and now heads up the study as older leaders graduate.
He estimates that about 60-80 percent of Freedom Club members come from the small group.
While Yockey and Merkle see the Freedom Club as a separate entity from Dangerous Men, they want the two to work together harmoniously and hope to work together with other small groups around campus as well.
Club membership has consisted mostly of STEM majors, but Yockey hopes to bleed into other areas and start an outreach across campus.
The Freedom Club meets on Wednesday nights, usually from 9-10 p.m. in SB 1641. The meetings alternate every week between a study and discussion session, and a group activity.
The club has met around a bonfire, gone sledding in Sioux City, held a pickleball tournament, and watched and had discussions on video series like “Radical” by David Platt, and “10 Rules to Spiritual Warriors” by Lowell Seashore.
Future activities include but are not limited to a swimming event, bowling, movie night, gaming events, and a spike ball tournament.
Depending on the activity, club meetings vary. The best way to know when the club meets or to get on the email list is by contacting Yockey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While meetings largely revolve around community and having a good time, everything is centered around faith. The purpose of the meetings is for members to get into deep topics and talk about things people in the club are curious about.
“It’s about going beyond the classic midwestern, ‘I’m good’ and getting down into how people are really doing.” Merkle said.
“A lot of today’s society Christians are not speaking out about faith or standing up for what they believe in” Yockey said. “As men we want to work towards being strong faith-built Christians and fighting for what we believe in.”
Club members come from a scattering of denominations. Yockey is Lutheran. There are also Reformed, Baptist and Catholic men. The club focuses on having good discussions— not debates— and using differences to build and learn from one another.
“You ask people questions on what they believe and from their answers I come to a deeper sense of who I am and what I believe as a Christian” Yockey said.
The Freedom Club also helps fill the absence of a men’s ministry on campus.
Campus Pastor Sam Ashmore has been helping the club by offering support, advice, and a listening ear. His main role is as a resource for both leaders and members.
“I’m thankful for the option that the Freedom Club is” Ashmore said. “That it is a place for men to be vulnerable and real and to have fun, and to seek healing and wholeness together.”
Ashmore said the absence of a Dordt men’s ministry is not for lack of trying, or for lack of leadership or desire among young men around campus.
“I would love to have a men’s ministry, and be a resource for a men’s ministry, but it’s about finding and connecting a group of passionate men willing to help and carry it forward,” said Ashmore.
Connecting individuals together who could take the program, run with it, and make it soar is something the Freedom Club could accomplish down the road.
Looking towards the future, Yockey hopes to build the club up so he can leave it to continue and expand at Dordt when he graduates.
“Dangerous Men taught me to be more vulnerable in my faith. It brought me to a place of leadership and to this club” Yockey said.
He hopes the club will be an encouragement to get men on campus growing in fellowship together and in the knowledge and freedom of Christ.