Outside ministry makes use of the ability of testimony to assist fathers and kids deepen relationships


Helping fathers connect with their sons and how those connections can foster deep relationships was the subject of a recent interview with recreation expert Jon Hagedorn on The Storied Outdoors podcast.

Jon Hagedorn

The Stories Outdoors podcast is hosted by Bryan Gill, Director of University Assessment and Accreditation at Samford University in Birmingham, and Brad Hill, Worship and Missionary Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Mobile.

During the interview with Hagedorn, the hosts asked about his outdoor ministry, Family Lines, and his father, who tries to faithfully raise teenage sons.

Hagedorn, who has an outdoor recreation and leadership degree from Western Washington University at Bellingham and has traveled thousands of miles on rivers throughout the Northwest as a whitewater and fishing guide and instructor, said while spending time with boys on the river he focused on asking about her “defining moments.”

“I started working with a wilderness service in the early 2000s,” he recalls. “We mostly focused on the river but did backpacking and rock climbing. I had a lot of time with a lot of children at the river and heard a lot of stories.

“So much of it was about family, especially the father,” he said. “And fathers are not perfect. My dad didn’t do it perfectly, but he was there and loved me unconditionally. I just grew up knowing that I wouldn’t or wouldn’t do anything that would change my father’s love for me.”

Hagedorn said he believes a father’s role is to represent Heavenly Father’s love for their children.

He joked that one of his greatest privileges was being a bumbling questioner on behalf of fathers, bringing them together with their children and promoting healing in their families.

When asked by the podcast hosts how Family Lines came to be, Hagedorn said fishing played a big part.

“Fishing is a great way to bring together multigenerational interactions. Grandpa can go with dad and grandchild. It’s quiet enough to invite conversation, but you’re doing something too. It’s a shoulder-to-shoulder interaction.”

connect experiences

Established in 2010, Family Lines, which provides experiences and resources for fathers and their children to connect on a deeper level, includes expeditions, hands-on workshops, field classes and filmmaking.

“We have the greatest reach through our documentary work,” explains Hagedorn. “That’s one of the biggest ways we’re engaging people right now… It is the power of testimony.”

He noted how the ministry helped him get through the death of his first wife, Erin.

“I said, ‘How are you going to take me through this season?’ I spoke to my Heavenly Father and I wanted to know,” Hagedorn said.

God guided him through this difficult time when he suddenly found himself raising two boys as a single father.

“I assumed that we would do it a certain way, then it turns around,” explains Hagedorn. “The other side of the camera was a dramatic change. I would hear that story from other people and suddenly the camera flips to me and I don’t know what to say.”

He noted that he didn’t want Satan to steal what he still had.

“I don’t know much right now other than I don’t want the enemy to steal what has been a source of joy, service and life and keep me from taking out dads,” he recalled.

Family Lines helped Hagedorn stay connected and focused.

“When you start something and you have no idea and you’re like, ‘Okay, Lord. Here we go.’ Then you see him take it to places you couldn’t have imagined,” he said. “The grace of God becomes very real.

relationship building

“We need conversations that build relationships, and we encourage fathers to share their experiences and help their children learn and feel loved,” Hagedorn added.

Each generation can influence the next, he said, like a child standing on a father’s shoulders to see further.

Hagedorn concluded by emphasizing the importance of entering God’s creation where there are no distractions and consciously creating relationships.

“Getting people out of their routines can bring unpredictability, but it can also build memories and stories,” he said.

For more information on Family Lines and Jon Hagedorn, visit familylines.org.

For more information on The Storied Outdoors podcast, visit thestoryoutdoors.com.