(Editor's note: The following story is published with permission from the Akron Area Eutopia Report.)
Jonathan Greer is a man on a mission. A father of two sons, Jonathan has a passion for encouraging men to be present and active in the lives of their children. Rarely will you see him without his 3-year-old son, Jonathan Jr., by his side.
Whether at an event, meeting, prayer time or work…his son spends most of his time with him – watching what his dad does and how he lives his life. "My oldest is with me all the time, he helps me set up (for events) and hangs with me," Greer said.
It was having a consistent father figure in his life that molded Jonathan into the man that he is today.
"I always had a father growing up – a biological father always involved in my life. I am who I am today because I had him in my life. Many of these kids don't have that- so we have to represent that," he added.
The Man-Up Movement is a challenge to men, to rise up higher and be the men that God has called them to be, which will in turn have a ripple effect on generations to come. "It's a ministry of the family. Our design is to help build men up to 'man-up' to what they were designed to be and what they were destined to do," said Greer.
Friday Freeze neighborhood outreach
This is the ministry's second year of putting on the Friday Freeze, a neighborhood outreach, every Friday during the summer. Each week a different church sponsors "the freeze."
"They bring the fun, we provide the popsicles, people, space, and just have fun with them," he said, comparing it to a "local missions trip." Neighborhood children are drawn in by the music, crowd, games and popsicles.
"Jon told us about this idea, and we thought it would be awesome to come reach out to the kids in the community. It's awesome. I watch it grow every week. It's twice the size it was last week. It's fun to interact," Colin Lee, 23, and a member of New Perspectives at Grace Church, said.
Family is very important to Jonathan and his wife Jessica, who started the Man-Up Movement, and view it as a crucial foundation in the healthy development in children.
"We think about today, most of our society … 22 million kids today go home to a single parent home. Eighty-three percent of those are just to mom. So if we start working with kids at a young age and men that have and don't have children, then we can help them to be the better man, which makes the better father. That's the whole picture of what we want -- to build good fathers to help with good children, raising good families," Greer said.
What better place to go than the center of a neighborhood filled with children, many who do not have fathers in their lives. "We decided to come in the area and just be like missionaries to the families: warriors to their loved ones, citizens of the community and show love to the world. That's what it's all about -- build men up," added Greer.
Bringing smiles to children's faces and having a good time while building relationships doesn't hurt either. "We have great fun and engage in activities and just do some great things for the kids in the community. We invite everyone, whether they are children, fathers, mothers or grandparents, to hang out and have fun and show them some love, give them a message about Jesus, some popsicles and send them home," Greer said.
The children have even started going to Greer and his wife Jessica's home throughout the week. "If they ever need something, they know the Man-Up Movement is there for them," he said.
And the events have attracted more than just children. Chris Cone said, "I stay on Whittier and have been in this community for 40 years. Anything that's positive, I love. It's enjoyable -- something for the kids to do cause kids ain't got nothing to do in our neighborhood," he said while laughing and having a good time throwing around the football.
A fatherless generation
The beauty of this movement is that they stand in the gap for fatherless children. They provide role models where there aren't any.
"I think the Man-Up Movement is really important because it helps bring the father and a man where they're supposed to be and where God has placed them," Jessica Greer said.
"A lot of the kids around here don't have their father. And if they do (it's not) a godly man speaking into their lives to give them purpose and tell them who they are in God," she said. "I think it's really important for someone to stand before a child so a child can see that example. See, 'Why am I here?' 'What is my purpose?' she continued, while rocking her little baby in her arms.
"And when you know your purpose, I believe it will bring down suicide and a whole lot of stuff that it just seems is out of control. But really, it's out of control because the father is not in his place," she said.