By Rich Peck
The average Protestant church has 39 percent men and 61 percent women, according to a study of 300,000 worshippers in 2,000 congregations across the United States.
No one believes we have too many women, but many congregations want to find ways to reach the 69 million men who do not attend any church.
“If your church has a United Methodist Men unit that meets, has fellowship and does some great work within the church, that is wonderful,” said Gil Hanke, top staff executive for the Commission on United Methodist Men. “Don’t throw away what is working for the 25 percent of the guys that are involved.”
At the same time, Hanke advises churches to find ways to reach the 75 percent of men who are not interested in belonging to a United Methodist Men’s organization.
“Do something that provides the other 75 percent places to fit in,” Hanke said. “Ask the pastor what his or her vision is for the men of the church and of the community, and then develop action steps that the men of the church can complete to bring all these men into relationships with Jesus Christ. We need the support of the pastor, but the men need to carry this forward.”
Scouting reaches youth and families. The Commission on United Methodist Men has a historical commitment to scouting and civic youth ministry. Scouting has proven a successful way for people to join the church, resulting in the opportunity to introduce, nurture and strengthen a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Nearly one-half of the 371,400 scouts meeting weekly in 6,700 United Methodist churches are from unchurched families, but few churches do much to strengthen ties with these units.
The Rev. Bill Payne, a member of the Florida Annual Conference, says that in 1986 he became pastor of a 90-member congregation that had only a passive relationship with a Cub Scout pack and a Boy Scout troop.
“When vacancies occurred, I recruited a scoutmaster and cubmaster who were committed church members with a credible Christian witness,” said Payne. He served as the chaplain and encouraged other church members to volunteer as leaders. He also invited unchurched Boy Scouts to attend confirmation classes and earn “God and Church” awards. Within three years, adults who entered the church through scouting ministries filled half the positions on the administrative council and Sunday morning attendance grew to 210.
The Commission on United Methodist Men is recruiting volunteers to help churches understand scouting as a ministry and provide churches with information about “God and Country Awards” provided by St. Louis-based Programs of Religious Activities with Youth. This scouting ministry specialist organization also provide information about various other programs to enrich youth ministries. At present, 113 people have volunteered to assist with this effort.
Provide other entry points. Men who might not accept an invitation to attend church are sometimes willing to spend a night with the homeless or work in a food pantry. They might be willing to help build a Habitat for Humanity house or participate in the Amachi program of Big Brothers-Big Sisters in which men become mentors of boys whose parent(s) are in prison. Surprisingly, some men who are reluctant to spend an hour in church will be willing to spend a week repairing tornado-damaged homes or building homes in a developing nation.
Equally surprising, some men who won’t join a men’s Bible study may want to participate in the Disciple Bible Outreach, a prison ministry that provides Bible study and practical help for inmates to re-enter society.
A few men may accept an invitation to a barbecue in which they are told about “Letters from Dad.” Greg Vaughn, founder of the program based in Richardson, Texas, tells men how he had nothing meaningful to keep after his father died. He encourages men to attend four training sessions in which they learn how to write lasting letters to their families.
“Letters from Dad” proved just the thing to revitalize the men’s ministry at First United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas.
“We wanted something new and different and family-oriented,” said the Rev. Phil Grose, the church’s associate pastor and director of men’s ministry.
The church threw a kickoff barbecue and drew 70 to 80 men, more than half of whom Grose said signed up for the letter-writing program. During the training sessions, the men learned to tap into their emotions and learned practical writing tips to better express themselves.
After presenting the letters to their loved ones, the men shared their experiences with the group.
“When you get a group of men together, everyone tries to hold their emotions in, but we were all just bawling after a while,” Grose said.
Men’s ministry specialists. The Nashville-based commission has recruited men’s ministry specialists to help local churches expand their ministries to men. Following interactive training experiences in the classroom and online, these volunteers are able to help churches provide spiritual growth opportunities for church members and ways to reach unchurched men. Certification for the men’s ministry specialist takes 12 to 18 months and is completed with the guidance of the Turner Center for Church Development at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Wesleyan Building Brothers provides a means for spiritually immature men to become “spiritual fathers” who are able to mentor other men in their spiritual pilgrimage.
“It takes us back to the Wesleyan tradition of small groups,” said George Houle, Wesleyan Building Brothers coordinator for Kansas. “Jesus grew his disciples from fishermen, and then sent them out in twos.”
Man in the Mirror Ministries conducts “No Man Left Behind” leadership training conferences based on 20 years of research in the best principles and practices for reaching men.
Final test. The real purpose of United Methodist Men is not to get more men into church; it is to get more Christians out of the church building and into ministry outside the church walls. The measure of an effective men’s ministry is how many:
• Children and hungry you fed;
• Homeless you sheltered;
• Families that have re-engaged in the church;
• People you’ve served; and
• People who have committed to follow Christ.
Ministry to men can bring men into your church family, sometimes through the front door with worship, small groups and men’s events or through the back door with mission projects, barbecues or scouting. Either way, it works.
Rich Peck is the communications coordinator for the General Commission on United Methodist Men. Distributed by United Methodist News Service.
Create a ‘safe’ environment for men’s ministry
Space, both physical and abstract, is important for men. Is there a place they can go in the church and let down their guard? In this place, can they share their pain, their challenges?
• It can be as simple as how you arrange the chairs. (Hint: men don’t want to sit too close to one another.)
• You don’t have to hang power tools from the walls, but the area décor should be “masculine.”
• The space must provide confidentiality. Men must feel comfortable to
expose their hearts. Intimacy is arrived at over time.
• There is a “male” way of communicating. Church-going men often use too much “church speak” that would drive away men they may invite from outside the church.
• Men are attracted to goals and challenges. The goal is the launching pad for what men do. The group cannot focus solely on discussion. Here they make plans, and learn to trust one another by doing things together.
—From Interpreter Magazine