By Marcia Krahn
“What are You doing here, God?” asked a stunned Hal and Melanie Young when the advance copies of their newly written book, Raising Real Men, sold out in 15 minutes. That was in July 2009. In December they had their answer.
That month, Hal was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hal’s work as an independent engineering contractor ended when his clients “dropped him like a rock.” By then, however, the Lord had provided nationally recognized endorsements, with writing and speaking engagements full time throughout the country.
“It amazed us,” Melanie says. “This was very much the Lord’s hand in our lives.”
Hal and Melanie first recognized the Lord’s leading to speak on parenting sons when local homeschool groups kept requesting them to talk. Since Hal and Melanie were blessed with six boys in a row, followed by two daughters, they had already wrestled through many matters in parenting by Biblical principles. They soon realized that parents often do not see God at work in their sons, because they do not “understand boys Biblically.” The Youngs then wrote Raising Real Men, in their own open and witty way, to more tangibly share the wisdom they had garnered in how to raise men of God.
In Raising Real Men, the Youngs explain that Scripture champions traits such as self-sacrifice and self-denial, which are often devalued by our culture’s quest for self-fulfillment. Hal warns that “we need to not only give our sons answers to what it means to be Biblically masculine, but also to prepare them for a society that is rapidly saying to the Church, ‘We are tired of your message. We don’t care about your morality. We don’t want to make allowance for your God-talk.’” With society’s increasing contempt for Biblical values, “we need to be prepared to stand on the truth of the Scripture, even when the whole world is disdaining It.”
As the initial tumor spread to several organs, the Youngs were thankful they had already written Raising Real Men. Hal knew if God called him Home, Melanie could point to the book and say to their boys, “This is what your dad thought. This is what we are trying to accomplish.”
“When doctors tell you that you have a 50-50 chance of living, it makes you think,” Hal says. “It’s wonderfully clarifying to the mind,” Melanie adds. Hal and Melanie began considering what they wanted their sons to understand about life, and what advice to “leave as a legacy” if Hal were to die in the coming year or two. They realized that Raising Real Men took their sons through the teen years, but didn’t address how to choose a wife or lay the foundation for a strong marriage.
Their second book, My Beloved and My Friend, provides that legacy. Hal and Melanie believe a vibrant marriage begins by acknowledging God’s statement in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Their message to their sons and other believers is simple: “God created marriage for the companionship we so desperately need in this fallen world.” My Beloved and My Friend teaches couples to be and stay best friends. They emphasize that “when couples are best friends, romance comes naturally,” and that couples who focus exclusively on romance are being “consumed with the fruit without tending the tree.”
Throughout the writing of My Beloved and My Friend, the Youngs continued to travel. Because of Hal’s susceptibility during his cancer treatment, he was allowed to speak publicly, but not to interact with attendees. His teenage sons stepped up. “Don’t worry, Dad. We’ll take care of the books.” Their help managing the exhibit space at events enabled Hal and Melanie to keep their speaking engagements during Hal’s treatments. God blessed the aggressive approach the doctors used, as well as their sons’ faithfulness. Hal has been cancer-free for six years, and their ministry has kept going.
The Youngs chose “Making Biblical family life practical” as the theme to define their growing ministry, which they named The Great Waters Company. The name alludes to a passage in Psalm 107, and reminds Hal and Melanie that as they do business for the Lord, they may feel tossed on great waters, facing storms and shipwreck, yet the Lord will help them, and they will see His works.
The Great Waters Company decides on projects by considering issues families face, researching what the Bible says, and then asking how that Scripture applies to 21st century Western culture. “We don’t live in ancient Israel. We don’t live in the Roman Empire,” Hal says. “But the Bible is timeless, so how does doctrine work out in daily living?”
“Our goal is to communicate Biblical principles, then suggest different ways—not the way—to live that out in family life,” Melanie says. “We don’t give specific steps. No checklists. Instead, we say ‘Here’s another idea you can try.’” They want parents to see God behind all the talk and to know He will lead them to apply Scripture in a way that is right for their family, even though that may be a bit different from any other family.
Their award-winning publishing company, Great Waters Press, publishes a few new books from various authors each year. In 2011, Raising Real Men won the Small Publishers Book of the Year award. My Beloved and My Friend: How to be Married to Your Best Friend without Changing Spouses received the same award in 2015. Great Waters Press welcomes email inquiries about possible projects at email@example.com.
Their latest book, Love, Honor, and Virtue: Gaining or Regaining a Biblical Attitude toward Sexuality, is aimed at young men in their teens to early 20s. Hal and Melanie realized that in the years since writing Raising Real Men, the temptations of the internet have overrun most young men. Since parents often struggle in addressing sexuality, the Youngs provide a guide and conversation starter from a Biblical context. Their book prepares young men to fight these battles and is a toolkit for how to repent and be restored if they fall.
Hal and Melanie are currently working on a book for raising preteens, since many problems in the teen years are rooted in the preteen years. Preteens start questioning, and parents start throwing up their hands, not understanding how to safely transition them into teens.
When asked about a book for girls, Hal and Melanie quip, “We had to do 19 years of research before we wrote the first one. Since our oldest daughter is only 11, we have a lot more to learn.”
In addition to their books, the Youngs have a popular weekly podcast, “Making Biblical Family Life Practical,” that goes out through the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network and is available through iTunes.
Great Waters Company features several online classes. One of the most popular is “Bootcamp,” for parents of boys ages 9 to 12, usually broadcast from their living room. The Youngs chat with parents, giving them suggestions to try out in their family. The next week, parents come back with questions. People can sign up to watch recordings even when a live class isn’t being offered. Another class is “Preflight,” named for the preflight inspection before the takeoff of an airplane. Parents and teens watch “Preflight” together to check on their preparation in crucial areas of life.
The Youngs’ line of “Gear and Gifts” includes classic hobby items like a chain mail kit, rock collections, rubberband guns, and training swords. Great Waters carries audiobooks in addition to books on business and entrepreneurship, historical adventures, creation science, and holidays.
“We want to be where people are looking,” Melanie says. “People need practical help in following Christ, and we want to be wherever they are to bring that help.” To that end, they speak at conferences and family camps, preach in churches, teach online classes, do TV interviews, run a publishing company, write magazine articles and books, send out a monthly email newsletter, and keep up a blog as well as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. In the fall, Hal and Melanie are available for weekend events and seminars that churches can use as an outreach to the community.
Wherever the Youngs go, it’s a family event, covering thousands of miles each year. The children have continued to manage the exhibit space as their part in the ministry. Homeschooling allows the four youngest children to travel with them, turning all their travels into extended field trips.
The oldest sons travel with them when they are on college breaks or can get time off work. Every day they find content for social media, provide technical assistance on their web presence, typeset books, help with graphic design, and sometimes process and ship orders, simply pitching in where they can. They join in the family’s ongoing Skype conversation about upcoming tasks, whether brainstorming new topics or deciding cover designs for the next book.
Reflecting on their family and the ministry God has given them, Hal says they want to be remembered as “parents of awesome servants of God who far exceed whatever we do for the Kingdom.” Until that time, those glimpses of God impacting lives keeps them sharing how to order families according to God’s Word and live to glorify Him each and every day.
A friend once told them “When I die, I want to leave the biggest, broadest set of footprints leading directly to where I have gone.” For Hal and Melanie Young that means making Biblical truth practical for as many families as they can in as many ways as they can. “People ask us all the time how to start doing ministry,” Melanie says. “We have no idea. God did this.”