38 – How to Reach Men on the “Fringe” Through Your Church
Wanted: Man with an arrow through his heart to reach men on the “fringe”. Experience not necessary, but must sense a “calling” or “leading” from God to love spiritually needy men. One (or more) of these spiritual gifts required: service, adminstration, leadership, faith, wisdom, teaching, evangelism, shepherding, or encouragement. Good people skills a must. Will customize job description to suit calling and gifting. Can’t be angry at men because they’re not more spiritual. Senior pastor’s support mandatory.
Men on the “Fringe”
Picture a man zooming 70 miles per hour down an expressway toward the catacombs of commerce. Another just like him loom 50 feet off his front bumper, and still another hangs 30 feet behind him. He glances left, then right, and sees other men just like him. This man will fit into one of four categories,
He thinks he has arrived and that the rat race is terrific.
He’s just starting to wonder if he’s running in the right race.
For some time he has had a lingering feeling something isn’t quite right about his life.
He has hit the wall.
Would you do me a favor? In the blank spaces above write the names of two or three men you know in each category.
Men on the fringe are hurting. They are tired of running the rat race. Their energy has been depleted. Their marriages are rocky. Their children are preoccupied. Their finances are in disarray. They are thinking, ” Is this all there is? There must to be more to life than this. There’s got to be!”
Men on the fringe are either barely inside or just outside the door of the church. Biblically, these men have let the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of money choke the word and make it unfruitful ( Matthew 13:22); they’ve let the yeast of culture work through the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9); they’ve done that which is permissable but not beneficial (1Corinthians 6:12); they’re high risk for a great crash because they built on sand and not the rock. (Matthew 7: 24-27).
Often men like this are what Os Guiness has called “the undiscipled disciple”. They have not fully yielded their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Their world view tends to be a jumbled concoction of ideas cherrypicked from church, television, Business Week, positive thinking seminars, and the Harvard Business School (the technical term for this is syncretism).
Men on the fringe are tired. They have a lingering feeling something isn’t quite right about their lives. Their lives are not turning out like they planned. They are coming unglued. They don’t feel like anyone really cares about them-personally. They are achieving their goals but success doesn’t satisfy.
These men are cultural Christians. They practice “spare tire” Christianity. They merely add Jesus to their calendars as another interest in an already busy schedule. Their lives are shaped more by the herds of commerce than the footsteps of Christ. They are disciples of Wall Street, not Church Street.
Here’s the question: How will your church reach these men?
Reaching Men on the Fringe Through Men’s Ministry
Some of these men are in the church and some are not. Some of them are Christians and some are not. There are 94 million men in America and 67 million of them do not attend church. We estimate there are between 5 and 10 million men inside the church and another 5 to 10 million outside the church living on the fringe but who are ready to reconsider their lives.
A church based men’s ministry focused on reaching men on the fringe can help you grow your church. As men become spiritually awakened they become more active. They become disciples. They become workers in the church. They become better financial stewards and tithers. They take up less of the pastor’s time for counseling. They get their children more involved.
Man in the Mirror helps pastor reach men on the “fringe” and lead them into a long-term discipleship process. We’ve had the privilege working with hundreds of churches. Among them we have seen hundreds of ideas that don’t work, and a few that do. This newsletter is about a few that do.
Local church men’s ministry is not that complicated. A few key principles must be kept. Everything else can be flexible.
Three Prerequisites to Reaching Men on the Fringe
1. The senior pastor’s enthusiastic support for a men’s ministry. A church will always go in the direction of the pastor’s heart. An organized men’s ministry in the church simply will not flourish unless the top man is for it. You can’t mess with the man with the mike! No middle position here. If he is not actively “for it” then time, attention, thinking, planning, money, and people resources will flow to other ministries in the church.
2. A man pasionate about reach other men. This can be the senior pastor, an associate pastor, or a lay leader. This is not rocket science. You don’t have to be experienced or a great orator to lead a men’s ministry. If you have a consuming desire to see men’s lives change-that is enough. Iif your passion focuses on the “ends” of changed lives, then God will help you put together the “means” to do it.
3. The right strategy. In the 1970s Wang Laboratories became the leading supplier of word processing machines in the world. Unfortunately, Mr. Wang’s strategy was to limit use of his software to Wang machines. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has said,
If Wang had recognized the importance of compatible software applications, there might not be a Microsoft today. I might be a mathematician or an attorney somewhere, and my adolescent foray into personal computing might be little more than a distant personal ministry.
The “front end” choices you make about your men’s ministry are the most important ones. They define the ministry. So important, in fact, that to make the wrong choices may put you out of business before you ever get started.
The National Coalition of Men’s Ministries, a network of denominational and para-church men’s minsistries, recently asked themselves, “What does God want to do among men in our day?” They said, 1) to win lost men, 2) to call Christian men to a deeper commitment, 3) to make disciples of these men, and 4) to equip and call these men to personal ministry.
This is not an insignificant source of information. Half of all churches in America and virtually all the major men’s para-church ministries including Promise Keepers were present. So, the strategy of your men’s ministry should focus in some way on one or more of these four strands. The more the better.
So, are you the man? If so, let’s get going!
Forming a Leadership Group
Form a leadership core group of like-minded men. Three to six men will do. Become to each other what you want your men’s ministry to end up looking like. In the final analysis, you will reproduce what you yourselves become.
So, get into the Bible.
If you can’t find any men who want to be leaders, then find 4, 6, 8, or 10 men who you can teach in a discipleship Bible study. If you can only find one man, then start there.
Tell these men you want to build a men’s ministry that reaches out to men on the fringe both inside and outside your church.
Obtain their commitment up front to build an atmosphere of grace and sensitivity to non-churched or minimally churched men. Remember, it takes a long time to make disciples. Don’t get angry with men because they are not as spiritually mature as you would like. Think long term, low pressure. Give them permission to stand around the rim of what you’re doing. If it’s authentic they will come inside the circle on their own. If it’s not authentic, well…who can blame them?
How will you go about actually reaching the “fringe” men? How will you lead them into a long term discipleship process?
There are three problems that you must solve to reach men on the fringe and lead them into a long term discipleship process. These problems are core, critical, and strategic.
Step One: Create Momentum
The first challenge in reaching men on the fringe through your church is, “How do you overcome the inertia in men?”
When they launch the Space Shuttle from Cape Canaveral they strap it to a booster that contains five million gallons of liquid fuel which all burns off in 8.5 minutes. Then the shuttle travels another four million miles on a little bucket of fuel. Why is that? The maximum amount of energy required in nature is the amount needed to begin a stationary object in motion. It takes a lot of energy to overcome inertia.
As one of our leaders says, ” A man is a hard thing to reach.”
What’s needed to get men moving is an event that creates “church-scale” momentum. One of the great problems of recent years has been how to bring the stadium-scale momentum created by a PK event back into the local church. We believe events are needed within the church and immediately surrounding community that create “single church” momentum.
Variety here is key. The secret is to have many different kinds of events to create momentum that appeal to the interests of men on the fringe. So have…
a seminar on men’s issues,
a New Year’s Day Bowl Game party,
a professional Christian athlete to speak on a Saturday morning,
a couples dinner with a speaker,
a seminar on money and investing,
a time management speaker,
an inner city work project,
a weekday lunch outreach held at a location other than the church,
a father & son breakfast at a local restaurant.
Maintain variety in the “atmosphere” of these events. If you are trying to reach men on the fringe, don’t sing praise music at every men’s event you have. Tailor some of the events so that they will feel as comfortable as possible. Make sure that the only thing men “stumble” over is Jesus.
Also, you may not want to have a strong evangelistic appeal at every event. Sometimes, men on the fringe just need the opportunity to build relationships with men in the church. Or, an event may raise issues that allow a committed man to talk more one-on-one with the man he invited.
Remember what it was like when you were not a Christian. Put yourself in the position of a man on the fringe. Better yet, ask a non-Christian friend to attend an event and evaluate it for you.
Create a warm, non-threatening environment. Remember, men are on the fringe for a reason. Don’t frighten them to death with religious jargon and gymnastics. Put the cookies on the bottom shelf. Put out ashtrays for those who smoke if you want. Chill out and have a good time. Don’t wear your underwear so tight. Hang out with people like Jesus did. Dismantle any holy huddles that don’t result in loving, grateful service to God.
Relationships are the key. You will only reach these men if committed men in the church take the time to invite them. They will almost never come on their own initiative. All you are trying to do with your publicity and packaging is make it attractive enough that they won’t say “no” when somebody invites them.
Don’t expect to just host an event and reach men on the fringe. If they don’t get personally invited, they won’t come. Communicate the vision so men in your church are excited about the opportunity to invite other men. Also, do things with a high level of quality and sensitivity so that your men trust you enough to bring their friends.
Step Two: Capture Momentum
The second challenge in reaching men on the fringe is, “How do you keep your event from becoming just another blip that didn’t matter?”
The two great problems following a good event are 1) to do nothing and 2) attempt too much.
It takes an enormous amount of energy to stage a successful event. Why is it that we often put very little thought into how we will capture that momentum? It’s like turning on the heat during winter but leaving the front door open.
If we do nothing then the man goes “blip”. Then next year we invite him again and he goes “blip”. The year after? “Blip” again. After a few years a lot of men end up leading “blippy” lives.
Or, we ask them to do too much. We ask them to make a commitment based on end-of-event enthusiasm. But on Monday his customers start complaining again, on Tuesday he remembers he’s 15 days late with his mortgage payment, and by Wednesday his enthusiasm has waned considerably.
You’ve driven a car and accidentally shifted from 1st to top gear. What happens? It’s the same when the follow-up opportunity we ask men to do is too much. Most men on the fringe don’t want to do a lot of preparation. Most men are not going to read a 200 page book. So the event follow-up needs to scream to the man, “You can do this!” It has to be a second gear idea.
The best follow-up opportunity I’m aware of to capture event momentum is 6-week Discussion Groups using the Success That Matters Life Plan. Call for more details.
Whatever your method, you must try to capture the momentum that you create in your men’s ministry. Whenever you host an event, be intentional about how the event fits into your overall strategy for men and how you will capture the energy and excitement that it generates.
Step Three: Sustain Momentum
The third challenge in reaching men on the fringe through your church is, “How do you keep men involved after the novelty wears off?”
Create a variety of opportunities for men to get better acquainted with Christ since men will be motivated to know Him in many different ways. A restaurant with only one item on the menu will soon go out of business.
Each time you ask men on the fringe to take another sep, some will drop by the wayside. That’s okay. The parable of the sower is always at work. We reach out to the men who want help. We entrust the others in prayer to our sovereign God.
Most meaningful change takes place in the context of church-based relationships. One of the best ways to foster these relationships is to get men involved in small groups.
Provide as many men’s growth and discipleship opportunities as possible. The greater variety you offer, the more a man from the fringe will find something that engages him where he walks.
Here are some possible ways to engage men,
Book study groups
Early morning leadership development with the pastor
Obviously, overlap will occur. Bible studies will pray. Book studies will look up verses in the Bible. Accountability groups will study books. The key is to engage men in ways that relate to where they live, work, and play.
Provide the right “next step” for every man. To be relevant we must address the questions men are asking, not the question they are not asking. People are trying to solve their problems, not ours.
For ten years my Bible teaching model was, “What do men need to do?” In 1996 I changed my learning model to, “What do men need that they are will to do?” In other words, if a man needs to consider 100 areas, but he is only far enough along his spiritual pilgrimage to engage seven of those areas, it doesn’t make sense to talk about the other 93. Instead, focus on the seven, lead him along, then add other subjects as he grows.
Here’s a key learning principle. Most men from the fringe will be focused, at least initially, on only their felt needs-career, money, family, time management and so on. That’s okay. Talk to them about money, and show them what Jesus had to say about it. In other words, give men what they need in the context of what they want.
Because our message is a message based upon the truth of Scripture we must be relevant while never compromising what is real. Francis Schaeffer said, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibilty of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.” “Fringers” have their own language. We must speak God’s truth in the language of men on the fringe.
Your ulitmate goal should be to get men studying God’s Word with other men. It is the Bible that changes lives. In Isaiah 55:11 the LORD says, “My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Check with you denomination’s men’s minstry office for small group resources or call our Resource Department for information on what we and otehr men’s ministries offer.
The greatest time waster in my life has been the time I have had to spend undoing that which ought not have been done in the first place. I believe making the wrong men’s ministry choices will likely cost you five years of wasted time. So, I entreat you- go and make disciples of men on the fringe. Think about how to create, capture, and sustain momentum.
As my wife, Pastsy, recently observed: “People are going crazy over their cholesterol and spending billions of dollars and hours to extend their live for five or ten years. But then each of them will die and go to heaven or hell. Why don’t people spend more time thinking about that? Why don’t we spend our time and money encouraging them to think about that?” Good questions.
After encountering God in His holiness Isaiah tells us, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Will you go? Why not gather two or three like-minded men and begin dreaming about how to create, capture and sustain momentum among the men you listed at the beginning of this article?
You can do this! In Zechariah 4:6 the LORD says, ” It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” In other words, “It is not by your clever insights, persuasion powers, exhaustive preparation, or by using all your energy, but by God’s Spirit.” So relax and trust God. Let Jesus be your first and best thought to men. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1997. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.