Dads get hands-on with Manger Build

Published 3:16 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

Before every Christmas, Suffolk native Mike Young would build a manger in the family garage with his kids.

The annual tradition was important for Young because he wanted to make sure that his family’s focus on the holiday stayed true.

“We would build a manger to put in front of the Christmas tree to keep focused on Christ in the Christmas season,” he said Wednesday.


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After years of doing this with his family, Young wondered if others in his community would be interested in doing the same. In 2004, he sent out an e-mail to some friends inviting them to join in the manger making.

More than 20 men and their children came out for the event – so many that Young had to hold it at his church in Richmond.

By the next year, five more locations were up and running, building mangers.

The following year, it was up to seven different locations.

“I had no idea (it would get this big),” Young said. “I believe God has his hand on this, and it’s just one of those interesting things that seems to resonate with guys.”

In 2005, Young began Noble Warriors Ministries, an interdenominational, Christian ministry aimed at helping men become better husbands and fathers. He says the Manger Build is designed to do just that.

“The whole crux of this is we want to see men out there with their children doing this,” Young said. “We really want to engage men in being the spiritual leaders in the household – that’s the driving force behind this.”

With donations from a lumberyard, Young supplied his local build sites with supplies for a $10 charge. For the locations that were farther away, Young sent out letters from the ministry to be used to ask for similar donations from lumberyards closer to those churches.

This year, the Manger Build was at its biggest.

In 13 separate locations across the country, fathers and grandfathers helped their children and grandchildren make more than 300 mangers.

One of those locations was right here in Suffolk, with Young’s father, Thomas Young, orchestrating a build at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

“My hope was other churches would see the advantages of it, and promote it next year,” Thomas Young said. “This takes the commercialism out of Christmas. This is to say this is the Christ child and the beginning of our chance to have everlasting life.”

Thomas Young said that last Saturday about 50 people came out to the church to build the mangers.

“It was fun to be in that church,” he said. “I walked around, and just to listened to the hammers and all, and watched the people. It was just something.”

Mike Young said he gets similar reactions from all participating churches.

“We’ve got photos from most locations, and you see men laughing and kids having a great time, and when that happens, Dad is a winner with everybody,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting, and I’m already getting e-mails…from many other churches who say ‘Hey, we’d like to do this — can we get on your list for next year?

And when Christmas Day comes to an end, Young says the family does not have to throw away the manger right away.

Included this year with the supplies and materials were directions on turning the manger into a cross for the Easter season.

“That gives men another opportunity to have a hands-on experience with their kids and a tool to talk to them about the fundamentals of our faith,” he said.

For more information on the Manger Build or Noble Warriors ministries, visit or