Nothing. That’s what we had when we naively started a men’s ministry. No curriculum. No resources. No videos. No money in the bank. No space in the building. Not even internet service. There wasn’t a pregnancy center in Dayton, Cincinnati, southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, or southeast Indiana with a men’s ministry that I could find. But, God had given me a burden and pipe dream, so I begged the board to try it anyway.
How It Started
I had been working with men in our church for several years, so when I was invited to become a board member at our center in 1999, I already knew the need. There were young men coming in the doors with their partners. These were men who sat in the waiting room looking scared, alone, and very out of place. They broke my heart.
Many of my fellow board members thought I was crazy. “We’re here for young women. Men are welcome here, but the girls are our mission,” they basically said.
But the guys coming in didn’t feel welcome. The few who had cell phones back then tried to hide behind them in the waiting room with little success. They were surrounded by girls, babies, and pamphlets about breastfeeding, so they just stared at the floor. They were begging God for a negative test result from behind that door to the great unknown. They saw the building, and the ministry overall, as “pink,” a place where female medicine took place. They heard whispers coming from behind the sliding glass window…“Who’s the guy in the waiting room?”
I began tossing junk from the center’s attic to free up space just for guys. I was just hoping to get guys to come upstairs to talk, much less get them to come back again. Things started slow, but the board began to see the true need for our efforts in 2001 after our county’s juvenile court judge sent us a couple of troubled young men to talk to. Some of the female staff remained unconvinced, however, and their questions got louder when the Lord opened a door for me to become a full-time volunteer in 2003.
The question, “Who’s the guy in the waiting room?” became, “What’s going on in the attic?” I began to ponder that question too at times as I found myself sitting alone in a cold/hot attic, waiting for a client to talk to.
The attic seemed to come alive after people began to give us free stuff. A furniture store owner who was a big fan of what we were trying to do gave us a couple of nice, new chairs. He later gave us new La-Z-Boy recliners. Oh, how I loved that man!
Somebody gave us some shelves and a small table. I gathered up any “manly” posters and items I could find to hang on the walls or put on the shelves. The guys loved it because it was their room. I thought we had hit the motherload when a local gynecologist donated a used 25-inch TV and VCR. I could finally buy those VHS tapes about men and pregnancy that I had found on eBay.
As the guys began to come in little by little, with lots of no-shows along the way, I began to create and write lessons based on the topics they wanted to talk about and the questions they had. What else could I do? There were no resources on pregnancy out there for men, even if we could’ve afforded them. Seven years later these lessons became Preparing for Dadhood, a sort of “earn while you learn” mentoring curriculum for guys.
God Brings Tremendous Growth
Being in the center almost every day over the next seven years, I saw God move. We got a couple of local grants, a wonderful NFI grant in 2006, media attention, church and donor support, and acceptance from the female client advocates when they realized we were on the same side.
The 30 or so client visits in the first year grew to hundreds annually. God allowed me to mentor young men who today have teenagers, even twenty-somethings. I changed some men’s minds about abortion along the way, and sadly, lost some too. Best of all, God allowed a sinner like me to lead young men to Christ who were open to hearing the Gospel in a pink building.
Time of Transition
In 2010, I stepped back from the daily ministry, the attic, a satellite center, and other board responsibilities. I had built three guys-only spaces, had written dozens of lessons, had begged for money, had trained two other male coaches only to see them quickly lose interest, had spoken at churches and other places, and had helped a couple of centers in our region start men’s ministries as best I could.
I was burnt out, and I was feeling God’s tugging on my heart to cast a wider net. I wanted to help more centers. That’s when I started something called Dadhood. I took a deep breath, worked on curriculum, wrote other resources, continued to work with men at my church, and prayed while waiting upon the Lord. I wanted Him to open the doors, not me. He did.
In 2014, I led a breakout session at the Care Net Conference in Dallas titled, “Who’s the guy in the waiting room?” and set up a booth to share about Dadhood. The vast majority of the attendees were female, and I think many of them passed by the booth just to see if the rumors they had heard were true. I heard whispers like, “Wow, there is a booth here for guys. What is this world coming to, Mary?” But I kept going to conferences anyway.
Since then, as the number of centers interested in reaching out to men has grown, God has allowed me to do and see things and go places that I never would have imagined. He has blessed me with friends, contacts, co-laborers, and even trainees in forty-nine states (where are you, New Hampshire?) and in several other countries.
I am blessed to have brothers in Christ of like mind that I love and respect, can fellowship with, talk to, and Zoom with. I’ve worked with Heartbeat International on several projects, but it was beyond exciting to see Care Net start hiring full-time fatherhood staff a few years ago.
This Great Work Continues
It's incredible to see new ministries popping up everywhere after all these years. I look around now in 2024 and see men stepping up, and thankfully they have other men in other places supporting them as they do. They now have more resources to equip their ministries with, many of them internet-based. Glory to God, there is now a landscape of men’s ministries in pregnancy centers across America.
Let us never, as we were sometimes guilty of in the past, be like the pro-choice movement, telling men that they have no voice and no place in their pregnancy – or in a pregnancy center. Let’s keep reaching out to men, saving babies, making real dads out of fathers, and sharing the Gospel. Let us shout from the rooftops of our pink buildings that men are truly welcome here.
Nothing. Nothing should discourage us. We have the resources. We have the support. We have the God-given passion. Nothing can stop us now because we, my friends, are finally on a roll.
Tony Trammell is the founder of Dadhood and has been involved in the pro-life cause since the early 1990s. He started working with young men in his church in 1997, and in 1999 was invited to become a member of the board of trustees at his local pregnancy center. Soon after, he began to feel a burden for the young men coming into the center and started looking for ways to reach them. He met with his first male clients in 2001. In a way that only He can, God opened a door in 2003 for Tony to become a full-time volunteer and start a men’s ministry from scratch. In 2010, he stepped aside from that center to try to help other centers start men’s ministries by offering written resources and training around the country. Since then, he has partnered in various ways with centers in 49 states and 12 other countries. Dadhood is now a family ministry for Tony and his wife, Amy, along with their 3 adult children, Scott, Joe, and Tara.