September 2010 Winter Park, Colorado
Men in the Arena Vice-President Gary McCusker led founder Jim Ramos to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in August 1984 in Los Osos, California. In September 2011 Gary was pastoring at Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church and invited Jim to be their keynote Men’s Getaway speaker.
God used that weekend mightily, not only for the men of PEPC but for Jim's life as well. For the first time Jim began to reconsider the call God had put on his 19-year-old life to, “Make a difference in the lives of teens.” For the first time, Jim began to seek God’s guidance in ministry to men.
November 2011 Sisters Coffee Company, Sisters, Oregon
The idea for the organization was conceived when Men in the Arena founder Jim Ramos wondered why his life felt unfulfilled and empty after faithfully serving in youth ministry for 25 years. Staring at a coffee cup in a coffee shop in Sisters, Oregon, he noticed a quote that profoundly changed his life. Written by a second-century church leader, St. Irenaeus, it said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Meditating on this quote, Jim realized he wasn’t fully alive because his heart had changed from serving teenagers to helping men get it—inspiring them to become their best version in Christ.
It was the defining moment that compelled the launch of The Great Hunt for God, now Men in the Arena. Jim quickly concluded that God had called him out of youth ministry and into full-time men’s ministry. The problem was that he was a vocational Associate pastor over youth at a large church.
January 2011 The Original 15, McMinnville, Oregon
To test this apparent new calling Jim went back his employer, Church on the Hill, recruited fifteen men ranging in age from 19-74 years old and started meeting for Bible study every Tuesday at 6:00 am at the Laughing Bean Bistro local coffee shop but soon moved to Union Block Coffee where they continued to meet.
Though simple, each Bible study was wildly popular with the men, affirming God’s new call on his life. It was there that Jim wrote weekly Bible studies that eventually became Playbook Volumes 1 and 2, which eventually morphed into the five-book Man Card Series.
November 2011 Ramos Home, McMinnville, Oregon
The Ramos family had a deep tradition of eating breakfast together every morning as a family. On this particular morning, Jim shared his vision for men, his pending resignation from Church on the Hill, and his desire for affirmation from his family.
The family unanimously agreed to step out on faith and the youngest son, twelve-year-old Colton said, “Dad I can get a paper route to help make our house payment.”
Shanna became Jim’s hero that day when she said, “I have trusted you for twenty years and you have never let me down. I will keep trusting you.”
Thus, it was agreed that Jim would leave the safety of his job and the church and launch a new ministry.
December 2011 Mount Hood Meadow, Oregon
Still oscillating between different ministry options for men, the Ramos family went snowboarding at Mount Hood Meadows, Oregon, where Shanna and oldest son James sold tickets in order to receive family lift passes.
While waiting for them to get off work, the other boys where bored while Jim worked in a small covered area prepping for a marriage he was performing that weekend. A thirty-something “hippie” woman sat at the window next to him and stared outside all day without a word.
Hours later as the Ramos family was packing up to leave the woman finally turned around, and with the most piercing blue eyes ever, stared and Jim Ramos and said, “I have a message for you. God wants you to GO FOR IT!”
Tears broke out instantly and Jim and Shanna knew it was time to resign and go for it.
February 2012 Church on the Hill, McMinnville, Oregon
Jim announced his formal resignation effective June 2012. With no resources or way to earn a living Jim began to lay the groundwork for the formal launch of The Great Hunt for God. During this time Jim learned to ruthlessly trust God for provision in the midst of many sleepless nights.
June 2012 First Office Building, McMinnville, Oregon
In June 2012 friend Bob Emrick invited Jim to move his office into the Kaos building that would soon be torn down and reconstructed to what is now the Barberry Restaurant and 1882 Grille.
During that time Jim struggled to launch The Great Hunt for God, raise funds and recruit new teams and team leaders. But the money was not coming in and they were forced to miss two of their summer house payments. By fall the bank was notifying them that their home was going into foreclosure.
Jim’s stress level was exploding. His worst fears were coming true.
October 2012 Ruby Tuesdays Restaurant, McMinnville, Oregon
Things were coming to a head and three events happened that changed everything. The first happened one morning when Jim was in the bathroom and Shanna confronted him with, “Are you SURE God has called you to this?” After answering in the affirmative Shanna shot back, “Then stop stressing us all out about the money. Trust God!” At the time they were two days away from payday and still $1,100 short.
That same week, in three separate meetings, three random men shared that God had been speaking to them about a certain Bible passage. Interestingly enough, it was the same passage. Jim took that as a sign that God would take care of the $1,100 needed to make payroll and he began to pray regularly for God to take the burdens. Here is the passage:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30.
Two days later a couple invited Jim and Shanna to Ruby Tuesday for dinner. There they shared that they had sold a piece of property and wanted to support the fledgling ministry. The husband slid a folded check across, and Jim was positive he knew the exact amount. But, after instructions to unfold the check. Jim and Shanna broke into more tears when they saw that they did not receive a gift of the expected $1,100 but one for $30,000 instead! No one has missed a paycheck since that day when God affirmed the ministry.
June 2013 Second Office and third offices, McMinnville, Oregon
The main office moved once more to an extra office space donated by Denny and Lucetta Elmer above Union Block Coffee, which they own and remained there until it was moved again to Coast Hills Community Church in early 2015.
January 2017 Change of Name and vision
In 2017, seeing the writing on the walls that we could not compete against more trusted and tested organizations, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to change The Great Hunt for God name, vision, and strategy.
The Great Hunt for God became Men in the Arena. The working vision was changed to “Trusting Jesus Christ to build an army of men in the arena, who are becoming the best version of themselves in Christ and changing their world (because when a man gets it—everyone wins).”
The strategy changed from competing to collaborating, and from writing curriculum and starting teams (although this is still part of what we do) to building an army of men working together to become their best version
January 2020 And Beyond
Today, men in over 90 nations around the world have downloaded episodes of the Men in the Arena Podcast. Close to that number are men in our forums, and each of the fifty United States of America has been impacted in varying degrees.
We regularly pray that God would put us on display so we might put him on display (Galatians 6:14). Our dream is for Men in the Arena to become a household name for the glory of Jesus Christ.