Brian Butler is the founder of Dumb Ox Ministries— A organization that works with teens, young adults, and families, cultivating authentic masculinity and femininity through the lens of the St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Through integrated sexuality and prayerful community, Dumb Ox helps others prepare for, and pursue their unique vocations to love.
What inspired you to start Dumb Ox Ministries?
Originally, I felt called to use my gifts of communication to share the Gospel in creative ways. But Dumb Ox Ministries began simply as relevant, relational youth ministry. Over time, I saw that when we presented St. John Paul II’s revolutionary teachings of the Theology of the Body, it sparked radical movements in the young people we were evangelizing. At the same time, it was making a personal impact in my life and those of our team. As an authentic vision of love and sexuality took deeper root in our ministry, we began to see the overall crisis of sexual morality as rooted in a crisis of sexual identity. It’s no wonder that ‘theology of the body’ is actually the subtitle of John Paul’s master work. The title is Man and Woman He Created Them. The relativistic approach to sexual morality today is rooted in a confused anthropology of what it means to be man and woman, created in the image and likeness of God. The more we share the beauty of God’s original plan, the more attracted people become to the love that God intended for us from the beginning. Making that presentation in a way that is experiential and communal has become our focus. When we come together in a space of freedom, anchored by prayer and the Sacraments, pursuing God in friendship creates a firm foundation from which to make hard and rewarding choices, joyfully growing in the gift of chastity. It is in this context that people find freedom to work on a holistic “successful integration of sexuality within the person,” which is an encompassing work of life, with many stages of growth. Thus, the mission is to work with teens, young adults and families, cultivating authentic masculinity and femininity through the lens of the Theology of the Body. Through integrated sexuality and prayerful community, Dumb Ox helps others prepare for, discern, and pursue their unique vocations to love.
Can you tell us about what Dumb Ox Ministries has been up to lately?
For years, we have been producing resources and offering live events in a creative way that meet people where they are and invite them deeper with Christ in an environment of authentic community. We have done traditional seminars, conferences, and speaking engagements as well as creative media and non-traditional mentoring. But, whether we are producing something radically new like an original musical (ie: GARDEN, a 2-hour retelling of the story of Adam and Eve), giving talks, writing books, or offering retreat experiences like ECHO, we triangulate our focus between the current needs we see, the unique mission God has given us, and the prayerful community God has given us. This is how we share the journey of receiving God’s love and pouring it out on others. Lately, that turned into our annual fundraiser being canceled due to the pandemic. So, we took a communal celebration we normally do on retreats and turned it into a unique online event that brought 42 acts together in a virtual talent show fundraiser. Families, friends, and individuals shared their gifts and brought faith and joy to light in a moment of fear and uncertainty. With thousands of views, 300 unique donors, and over $11,000 raised, we were blown away by the response.
In a similar vein, even though we had to cancel our 4 biggest and best retreats of the year (ECHO), we spent this summer improving our missionary program with a team of young adults and launched new online communities for teens called Journey groups. In this way, even as big events were canceled, our staff has continued to mentor young adults and those young adults mentor teenagers.
What have been the most difficult or challenging parts of starting this venture, including your new mission endeavor?
The growth of our ministry has been a long, slow journey laced with failures and frustrations. To receive certain inspirations and need to work for years to see them begin to take shape calls for patience and fortitude. Our Western mindset of success often demands results on a relatively quick timetable, so waiting and trusting that God will provide what is needed to bring the vision to fulfillment has been a cross. Yet, if we faithfully follow Jesus in carrying our crosses, that journey always leads to resurrection. Our new family mission, Love + Testify, is an example of that. Even as the pandemic has wreaked havoc, the call to slow down and spend more family time and prayer time has been an almost ubiquitous experience for those who are serious about faith and family. Love + Testify is our response to God’s invitation for us to not wait for things to get better to live faithfully, but rather, to “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4).
My wife, Lisa, and our kids joined sometimes by others from our community, will be going parish to parish (in an RV!), offering a unique parish mission in 11 cities from August 29-December 16. Blending corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, we hope to bring light where there is darkness, freedom where there is paralysis, and faith where there is fear. Our desire is not to be dismissive of the challenges, but to creatively and faithfully ask, “How can we help with our gifts?” No matter how bad things are with pandemics or civil unrest, our God is greater. He knows our needs and wants to enter into the specific nooks and crannies of our lives as men and women, purifying and strengthening us to love each other as He loves us. As finances are up in the air for many parishes, Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel recently popped out to me in a new way, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10:8) So, we are not writing contracts or taking deposits, but trying to give with the generosity with which God has given to us. While donations will be gratefully accepted, there is no financial expectation or burden on the parish. We are confident God will “fully supply all of our needs” (Phil 4:19)!
What have been the biggest benefits or takeaways from your time as an entrepreneur?
St. John Paul II once noted that the New Evangelization must be new in “ardor, methods, and expression.” I believe that means that we have to become accustomed to (even if uncomfortable with) doing many things for the first time. Doing things for the first time means that the theme of the score of evangelization is meant to be played with a familiar rhythm of faithful risk. But the benefit of being an entrepreneur of the Spirit is that, in the end, if the risks being taken are not for ourselves but for the glory of God, then, properly understood, failure is not an obstacle. If we do something with high hopes and it doesn’t turn out as we planned, we learn to find the way that God is revealing His will in that apparent failure. What good is He teaching us? How do we need to grow in humility? How did God protect us from ourselves? From something we did not foresee? Learning to take risks for all the right reasons–for love of Christ and His Church–has taught me how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, who produces deep impact in the lives of others that far outpaces the return of investment on ideas that are simply wild and unique.
If you could sum up your experience as an entrepreneur in one sentence, what would it be?
If our ministry is only as strong as our relationships, the more I invest in my relationship with Jesus and the other disciples He’s gifted me with, the greater the risks we can take together with love as the firm foundation of every venture.
To learn more about Brian and Dumb Ox Ministries click here