Interact Magazine 1997
Volume 8 Number 2
Most of us had been to a men’s convention before but never quite like this! Imagine 4,000 men singing Amazing Grace, intently listening to the Bible being expounded or sharing a meal together. It was more than inspiring; it was simply awesome to sense the presence of God at work in the midst of so many men. It happened in February this year. The event? the first Men’s Convention at Katoomba, NSW. the articles in this edition flow out of that convention. Hence the theme of ministry to men.
Why a Men’s Ministry?
In the lead-up to the convention, our contact with churches revealed a startling fact: very few of them had any kind of structured ministry to men. Most had ministry to women, children and young people but nothing designed to impact the lives of men. Both at the convention and in subsequent seminars designed to encourage the development of men’s work in churches, we discovered there is a hunger amongst men that isn’t being met.
There are several reasons why every churches needs a structured ministry to men.
It Takes Men to Reach Men – If for no other reason, we need to specifically equip men to reach men.
God’s Call to Be Godly – A friend of mine recently said, ‘It’s difficult to preach on godliness today; there are so few models.’ Paul’s word to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11 is relevant to every Christian: ‘Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.’ If men in our churches are to be vital, strategic Christians they need godly models.
God’s Special Role for Men – In a counselling situation with a young couple, I asked the female, ‘What do you really want from this fellow?’ She thought for a moment and then said, ‘I want him to be a man!’ In the context she was really saying she wanted him to take some level of responsibility in leadership of the home, to provide the kind of support and encouragement for her and their children that would convey biblical principles, to embrace the Ephesians 5:21-28 strategy. In her mind, this was what being a Christian man was all about and she was right.
God’s Strategy in Leadership – Most of our churches have difficulty finding key men who will provide godly leadership for their congregations. One reason for this is that very little is done to prepare men for leadership. The simple fact is that vital, growing churches have leaders who encourage spiritual vitality in those they lead.
Common Patterns in Churches with Viable Men’s Ministries
Following the Men’s Convention I surveyed churches around the country that I knew had a functioning men’s ministry. These activities seemed to be common to most.
Most has some form of structured discipling, either on a one-to-one or small group basis. The program ranged from discipling new converts and helping men to grow, to developing key leaders.
One pastor wrote that no church can afford to neglect the biblical process of discipling others. Discipling is biblical in that it is an integral part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19,20). Is was clearly the habit of both Paul and Barnabas to take young men with leadership potential and develop them through a discipling process (1 Timothy 2:2, Acts 11:25; 15:36-40).
Which method we use to disciple men is relatively unimportant. But having a discipling strategy in place is an absolute imperative if we are to have vital people in our churches. I constantly meet men – tragically, some of them in leadership roles – who have a very inadequate grasp of what God has done for them in the gospel. They have never had the advantage of being adequately discipled. Consequently their spiritual foundations are shaky and there are significant gaps in their Christian framework. They simply don’t know how to live the Christian life.
The discipling process ought to help men come to grips with what it means to be vital and godly, and equip them to both live the Christian life and share their faith with others. Men need help to establish priorities in their personal lives and to know how they should function within their families. They also need help to operate with integrity and effectiveness in their relational lives. We should be encouraging them to discover their spiritual gifts and to recognise their potential for ministry in the life of the church.
These are not an alternative to the normal small group structure that is an integral part of growing churches. One Pastor wrote, ‘The idea of our discovery groups is to meet at a mutually convenient time (usually early in the morning, so that there is no clash with other responsibilities). The men share together, so there is a support and fellowship component, and then work through material relevant to their needs as men.’
Interestingly, most of the key churches I spoke with have something like this in operation. The men usually meet for breakfast and, having addressed the issues they as men need to face, they simply work through books a chapter at a time and talk about the relevance and application of this material to their particular circumstances. Books that were mentioned were Point Man, Spiritual Leadership and Clearing the Cobwebs.
As the heading implies, men meet in groups of three, again at a mutually convenient time, to provide input, support and encouragement to each other. One Pastor said, ‘The triplets groups are the best thing we’ve ever done as a church. The men in these groups build close relationships and are able to pray very specifically for each other and be accountable. Some of these triplets have a very clear commitment to evangelism, praying for specific men, arranging family dinners together, to which their non-Christian friends are invited.
A weekend away with a keynote speaker provides a great opportunity for relationship-building, relaxation and, of course, relevant input from the Bible. Such retreats need to be well planned and organised. The best ones I’ve shared in have been those where the organisers have established clear goals and have discernable strategies to achieve them.
In many of the surveyed churches, the evangelism strategy for men either centres on one-to-one evangelism (when men are equipped to share their faith with others) or on outreach breakfasts or dinners where unconverted men are invited to meals paid for by those inviting them. The meal must be well catered and held in a neutral venue, with a speaker who will relate easily to men. The program needs to be as well planned and uncluttered as possible, with time after the meal to chat over coffee.
First Steps in Developing a Men’s Ministry
Some of the statistics in Dudley Foord’s article ought to motivate us to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to adequately minister to the men in our congregations. Could I make four suggestions?
What are the needs of the men in your church? What is their potential? What resources can be called upon (both from inside and outside your local church) to help your men reach this potential?
2. Establish Goals
In the light of the needs and potential of the men in your church, what are reasonable and achievable goals (both short-term and long-term) that you should encourage them to embrace? Goals are about vision, and vision both motivates and keeps us on track (Proverbs 29:18, Philippians 3:10-14).
3. Develop Strategies
Having established your goals, plan how you intend to achieve them. The whole concept of goals often comes unstuck because of unclear strategies, but when we clearly know how we intend to reach our goals they become an important part of our life and ministry.
4. Develop a Care Group
Every successful ministry has a group of key people who embrace the vision and commit themselves to be a part of its fulfilment. You may need to work at developing this care group. Find out what’s happening in other churches. Spend time together talking through ideas and share the needs, goals and strategies. When this group is equipped and excited, it will form the foundation of the functioning men’s work.
© Rev Kel Willis (1997)