113 – Sustainability: The #1 Problem in Men’s Ministry
Why can’t we ever sustain momentum in our men’s ministry? Whenever we seem to create some good momentum, it inevitably peters out.”
“Sustainability” easily ranks as the #1 challenge to men’s ministry. Many churches-even entire denominations-have quit trying. For many that still have a men’s ministry “on the books,” it has become an albatross around the pastor’s neck. Guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are a number of strategies to help you sustain momentum. These ideas will not seem like “a magic wand.” Plenty of ideas will help you win a sprint, but these ideas will help you go the distance. Remember, you need long term sustainability because it takes a long time to make a disciple.
1. All-Inclusive: Change your church’s perception of men’s ministry: Which ministries get the most resources? The ones perceived to produce the greatest impact. Redefine “men’s ministry.” How many men do you have in your church? Count them. That’s the size of your men’s ministry! Help your pastors, elders, deacons, and program directors understand that if you have 100 men, then the size of your men’s ministry = 100.
Think big! Your men’s ministry is probably much bigger than your church leadership has been thinking. Don’t think of your men’s ministry as a small group of your most committed men. Six men meeting on Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. does not a men’s ministry make. Men’s ministry is “everything we do in our church that affects men.” Have a plan to disciple every willing man in the church – ushers, parkers, choir, Sunday school teachers, elders, deacons and pew warmers -right where they are.
“All-inclusive” men’s ministry is a whole new worldview, so you will have to hammer away. But, once your leadership sees the possibilities of discipling all your men into leaders, there will be no turning back.
2. Relevant: Offer intentional content: Sustain momentum by scratching where men really itch. If you offer the right content, men will come.
What’s right? Imagine you will have a man and his family for, say, 5 years. What are the lessons so important that if he should leave without getting them, you will have failed him? This, then, becomes the content of your discipleship program. You can see examples of relevant topics we’ve taught at the Man in the Mirror Bible Study over the last three years by visiting: http://www.maninthemirror.org/biblestudy/series.htm (you’ll have to complete a one-time registration if it’s your first visit).
3. Model: Challenge leadership to model what you’re trying to create: Tom Skinner said, “We must become the live demonstration of the kingdom of Christ so that anytime someone wants to know what is going on in heaven, all they have to do is check with us.” Don’t just be a committee: pray, study, fellowship, and care for each other. In other words, model what you want to build. If the leadership team models authentic relationships, in due time men will see that and want to be part of it. Also, it is doubtful if you can ever sustain momentum among men if the leaders can’t sustain momentum among themselves. A good credo: “Let’s become to each other what we are asking our men to become.”
4. Focus: Increase your impact by coordinating disciple-making methods on the same theme: Sustain momentum by picking a theme (whether for a week, a month, or the year), then focus your entire church on that theme. The “constituted means” to make disciples are preaching, teaching, Bible studies, small groups, private devotions, mentoring, seminars, retreats, informal discussions, and leadership training. The 40 Days of Purpose program has shown just how effective it can be to point all the arrows in the same direction.
5. A System: Reach new men by repeating the cycle: Build a system that periodically “starts over” to reach other men who may be ready now, but not then. Man in the Mirror’s “Create, Capture, and Sustain” model can show you how to build a sustainable men’s ministry system. Go to www.maninthemirror.org for more information about the National Training Center or to order the Men’s Ministry Action Plan.
Be careful to select a right system, because you won’t know if it’s the wrong one for a few years. By that time, you will have burned out your best leaders. After that it takes a few years for a new group to be willing to give it a shot. And then a few more years to build momentum. Basically, picking the wrong system can blow off up to a decade of your ministry.
6. Service: Send your men out who are ready to serve (but not before) or you will lose them to someone who will: Sustain what you have by sending your men out. Once a man has grown to a point that he has a grateful heart, he will want to serve his Lord. He is no disciple who never wants to serve Christ. On the other hand, until a man has enough Jesus for himself, don’t ask him to give away what he himself lacks.
Give your men a kingdom perspective. Challenge your disciples to reach out to other men for discipleship. A disciple is called, equipped, and sent-called to walk with Christ, equipped to live like Christ, and sent to work for Christ. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Unless you send him you will stunt his growth-he will become a spiritual dwarf. Besides, a men’s ministry that doesn’t send men is a “closed” system that has entropy built into it.
7. Interdisciplinary: Foster interdisciplinary cooperation: Sustain you men’s ministry by meeting periodically with all the other ministry program or department heads-women’s ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, Christian education, and so on. Suggest an “Interdisciplinary Discipleship Council”-an IDC-that meets bimonthly or quarterly. The more you know about each other’s plans, the better total church planning you can do. Also, the visibility for men’s ministry will create respect for the need to disciple men and the impact men have on the rest of the family members and church.
8. Expectations: Manage the expectations of the leadership team (and your own): Are you frustrated that you want men to succeed more than they do themselves? That’s a formula for leadership dropout. Don’t expect more than the Bible promises. Expect men to drop away every time you ask for deeper levels of commitment. Why? Because the command to make disciples is juxtaposed against the principle of the parable of the sower.
In other words, some of the seed is snatched away, some withers, and some gets choked by life’s riches and worries. Part of sustaining momentum is not expecting too much. You wouldn’t eat 5 pounds of food and expect to gain 5 pounds. Neither should we expect a man to hear “the 10 things every Godly man believes” and completely “get it.” The roller coaster is normative.
On the other hand, don’t expect less than the Bible promises. (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:15, Luke 19:10, Matthew 13:24, John 15:8, John 14:12). The problem is not that our plans are too big, but too small. Raise expectations. Educate leadership (and yourself) about what’s really going on. There is a spiritual battle raging in the cosmos for the souls of your men. The secular symptoms we see like neglect, divorce, and working too much are spiritual casualties of war. This a battle God can win-that He is going to win. We must not, we cannot and, by God’s grace, we will not fail.
9. Intergenerational: Create an emphasis on intergenerational ministry: Many youth workers now believe that the age segregation (therefore isolation) of our youth into traditional youth ministry over the last century may have been a horrible mistake. Almost 9 out of 10 teenagers will drop out of church by the end of their senior year in high school, and only 5 will return-40% permanently drop out. Sustain momentum among your men by creating rites of passage that connect men and boys through sports, recreational activity, and small groups. I wrote The Young Man in the Mirror for a spiritually mature adult to take a group of high school boys through a rite of passage into manhood.
10. A Shepherd Model: Recruit “shepherds” rather than “teachers” to lead small groups: Possibly the most important thing is to make sure your men really feel like somebody cares about them. At a church of 5,000 in California, the Men’s Minister, Wes Brown, (yes, full time) experienced a quantum leap in effectiveness when he changed his leadership model from “teaching” to “shepherding.” In the beginning he recruited “teachers” to lead his small groups. Success was modest. After 11 years he had 137 men in small groups. Then he realized that what men really needed was someone who cared about them personally. He changed to a “shepherd” model and exploded to 750 men in just 4 years-a 550% increase!
Okay, time for a quiz.. Rate your church on each of these ten ideas (1 = always, 2 = often, 3 = sometimes, 4 = little or never)
___ 1. All-Inclusive: We changed our church’s perception of men’s ministry.
___ 2. Relevant: We offer intentional content.
___ 3. Model: Our leadership team models what we’re trying to create.
___ 4. Focus: We coordinate disciple-making methods around the same theme.
___ 5. A System: We reach new men by repeating the cycle.
___ 6. Service: We send our men who are ready to serve (but not before).
___ 7. Interdisciplinary: We foster cooperation with other ministries.
___ 8. Expectations: We manage the expectations of the leadership team.
___ 9. Intergenerational: We emphasize the transfer of spiritual wealth.
___ 10. A Shepherd Model: We recruit “shepherds” (vs. “teachers”) to lead small groups.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world. David Delk is the COO of Man in the Mirror © 2002. Patrick Morley and David Delk. All rights reserved.