Our Strategy for helping fatherless males involves 4 components:
Next Step is the result of Benjamin Watt's passion for changing the destiny of fatherless young men. Benjamin, who is the founder and director of Next Step, served as a youth pastor from 2001-2011 in Peoria, Illinois. In 2008 he began pursuing what he believed to be God's call on his life to make a difference in the lives of fatherless young men, especially from the African-American community. In
August of 2011 he resigned his position as youth pastor to begin full time ministry to guys whose dads are absent, incarcerated, or deceased.
As an 8 year old boy, Benjamin began volunteering on a church bus route. This meant visiting families in the inner-city on Saturdays and then riding a bus to pick those families up for church on Sundays. His role was to "pass out the candy" to kids on Saturdays and "knock on the doors" when the bus arrived on Sunday mornings. Until he left home for college, Benjamin continued to volunteer on this bus route each week and developed relationships with many "fatherless" kids, first as a peer and then as a leader.
While youth pastor, Benjamin began interacting with more and more fatherless young men. He began a basketball program for young men in grades 7-12 which quickly became dominated by black young men from the neighborhood surrounding the church. Each week the guys played ball for about 2 hours and also heard a brief message about a particular character trait or important aspect of being a good man.
"Bro. Benjamin," as most of the guys called him, began asking "How many of you have ever lived in the same house as a married person?" Only about half of the guys had ever lived with any married person whether a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Benjamin felt like he was trying to teach these guys to be good husbands and fathers, but they had no reference point - good or bad. It was like trying to teach somone to be a diesel mechanic without ever opening the hood of a truck!
Benjamin and his family decided to take the next step toward making a difference in fatherless young men's lives by resigning his position as youth pastor (also outreach and children's ministry director) so that he could focus on ministering to fatherless young men. Shortly after resigning, he took another "next step" by attending a men's retreat in November where he experienced personal revival. On the flight home from that retreat, God seemed to open a floodgate of ideas. "Next Step" was born on 6 pages of notes written during the flight home from Texas.
The name "Next Step" is related to how God led Benjamin and his wife Kristina to begin this ministry. It also speaks to how young men become good Christians, husbands, fathers, and citizens - just one step at a time.