The Training Ground story started in the hearts of founders Xan Hood and Cory Smith before they knew each other or what God would accomplish through them.
In the early 2000s, Xan was at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and was working with a team of people that started a ministry called “The Cross.” Cory was going full throttle working in Richmond, VA, with Young Life. By God’s design, both men moved to Colorado Springs and in 2005 found themselves talking at a holiday event hosted by John Eldredge.
Xan had just written the book Untamed. The discussion that day in John’s very crowded living room led both Cory and Xan to realize they were thinking about ministry in a similar way.
Early in 2006, Xan joined Cory, who was working at a painting company. Through the process of working with several young men, their passion began to find clarification. Both men noticed the benefit of young men working, living, and growing together. This experience, their mutual years of ministry, and observations of the masculine journey birthed the idea of Training Ground.
There were many discussions with quality people in other living rooms, coffee shops, back decks, and garages. Many of the people that joined them in those locations would eventually become Summer instructors (now called “Guides”) provided the strength, inspiration, and encouragement to move forward with a developing dream.
In 2006 Xan and Cory incorporated the not-for-profit Training Ground. Cory said spending the $1000.00 for the domain name wwww.trainingground.com was a considerable risk. For sure, it was, as both Xan and Cory were recently married and were starting families.
It was now 2007, and the first class of Training Ground men was accepted and planning for a summer in Colorado. Cory remembers, “It was an intense and exciting time as we spent three weeks renovating the first TG home, a cabin in Palmer Lake, Colorado. We put in new countertops, painted, rehung doors, and prayed. Donors sharing the TG passion caught the vision. In the summer of 2007, three weeks after the renovations started, the first class of TG alums found their way to a cozy cabin in Palmer Lake, CO.
Cory says, “That summer, we were fortunate to have the group of guys we did; they were hungry and willing. We were passionate but had no idea of what we were doing, and the funny thing is that much of what we started is still the same today.”This statement is true. The TG trips and format were so successful that first summer that they are still a critical factor in the continuing success of the ministry. Training Ground today makes the same trips to Estes Park, the Snowy Range, and the Grand Tetons. The teaching topics are also similar and continue to develop as Training Ground welcomes more and more qualified teachers along the way.
Through many trials, several TG lodges, staff changes, an economic recession, and several years, TG has ministered to over 150 College-age alumni and hundreds of men of varying ages through all of its sessions and destination trips.
Close to the heart of TG is the desire to enter Men’s stories. The 3-month sessions are only the beginning. Once a man has been through the program, he joins a select group of men that have journeyed the same roads, had the same discussions, and spoken a common language. With every graduation, marriage, new birth, and accomplishment, the family of TG grows exponentially. At the same time, the impact of volunteers, donors, and staff increases into our culture and eternity.
Whether you have a history with TG or are a newcomer to the ministry, we are privileged to welcome you into the family. We are so proud to walk with you into God’s next steps.