17 – How to Build a Strong Men’s Ministry
(01.14.18 Notice: We have begun a new series of posts based on this one using updated thoughts after 20 years. Come check out Building a Strong Men’s Ministry.)
THE DYNAMICS OF MEN’S MINISTRY TODAY
Almost unimaginable numbers of men are attending Promise Keepers stadium rallies. Why is that? What are these men looking for? What motivates them to go?
Promise Keepers has created a new Christian culture among men. Promise Keepers responds in a culturally relevant way to men who know there must be more to their Christian faith. PK meets men where they feel comfortable– in football stadiums. I’ve met men who didn’t know what to expect, but never a man who wasn’t deeply touched by attending. Many men are supernaturally transformed by attending a single stadium event. It is truly a unique work of the Holy Spirit.
The difficulty with all mountain-top experiences, of course, is that you must return to the valley. Many men go to large-scale momentum events, get fired up, come back excited, try to start a men’s ministry, and find men respond –for awhile. But then other pressures set in, there are bills to pay, they get distracted, they can’t generate big numbers, the flame burns down, and they become less and less interested in the work of building the kingdom. So the leader becomes discouraged, gives up, and waits for the next mountain-top.
What are the components of a strong men’s ministry? Why do some men’s ministries lose steam? Why does the initial excitement fade away? Is it inevitable? How can we keep the passion? How can we build other men in their faith? Those are some of the questions we will address in this equipping newsletter.
THE KEY PRINCIPLES OF A STRONG DISCIPLE-MAKING MINISTRY
1. Five Groups To Reach. In every church there are five groups of men:
The mass of unsaved men
The mass of cultural Christians
Men who are or want to be disciples
Men who are or want to be leaders
Men who are hurting — men with “broken wings”
For a men’s ministry to be successful it must address the needs of each of these five groups. In other words, you must offer something for every man. The goal should always be to point men to opportunities to rise to the next level of growth.
2. Long Term, Low Pressure. It takes a long time to make a disciple. We must give men permission to stand around the rim of what we are doing and observe. Men come along at different speeds. Give them permission to buy in at their own pace, and allow them to come on board at their own level of involvement.
3. Show Men Christ Versus Fix Their Behavior. Once a man at our outreach Bible study received Christ, but he was slow to let Christ influence some aspects of his behavior. One morning at a leader’s meeting, one of our leaders suggested we get a group of men to take this fellow to lunch and confront him on his behavior. After some discussion, we agreed that we should show him Christ rather than just focusing on his behavior. The Holy Spirit must change men’s lives, but we can point them to Christ.
4. Relationship Based Versus Task Oriented. The foundation of successful men’s ministry is building relationships. Without real and deep relationships, men will feel no sense of community with one another. If we only call men together to “do” there will be no glue to hold them together when the planned event is over. Events attract men, relationships make them stick.
5. Five Goals For Every Man. Over the years we have discovered five things a man can do to keep his life on track. These five disciplines in no way earn salvation, but they are wise. The man who wants to know God will put himself in the way of falling more deeply in love with Jesus.
A consistent quiet time
An organized Bible study
An accountability group
Active church involvement
A personal ministry
(We develop these five ideas more fully in the A Look in the Mirror entitled “The Five Defining Disciplines of Growing Men” which you can request by contacting our office).
When men do the first four of these disciplines they will find themselves filling up to the overflow in their own personal relationship with Jesus. Then, out of the overflow of gratitude for all that God is doing in their lives, they will virtually burst to do something in service to express that appreciation. Give these men opportunities to serve on the leadership team, as discipleship group leaders, and as planners and executors of momentum events.
If you want the men of your church to get fired up, then point them to these disciplines.
6. Five Responsibilities Of Every Man. Every man must be taught that he must take personal responsibility for his own private life in five areas:
His walk with God
His relationship with his wife
His relationship with his children
His personal finances
Your men’s ministry should focus on encouraging men to take responsibility for their own private lives. No one else can or will do these for a man.
7. Senior Pastor’s Support. Perhaps this is the #1 ingredient. Without the support of the senior pastor — not only in word, but involvement — your church’s men’s ministry will never develop. When you ask for his support, don’t scare him to death. Remember, he’s been trying to get his men out of the pews and into action for decades. Now, suddenly you come on strong like you’re the one who finally thought of it. Actually, your interest is the fruit of his ministry. The reaping now taking place among men is the result of years and years of our pastors and men’s ministry specialists faithfully sowing the seed into men’s lives.
WHY MEN’S MINISTRIES LOSE STEAM
Why do some men’s ministries overflow with life and vitality while others lose steam?
Recently I visited a church trying to start a men’s ministry, but the church was full of burned out “workers.” They had put the cart before the horse.
The Bible tells us, “Go and make disciples … baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Often we get this confused with, “Go and make workers … browbeating them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Bible doesn’t call us to make “workers,” but “disciples.” The purpose of ministry, then, is to make disciples, not workers. Men don’t enjoy being made to go on a forced march. True disciples will become workers out of the overflow of their growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Bible does, however, call us to “pray” for workers:
“The harvest is so great, and the workers are so few,” [Jesus] told his disciples. “So pray to the one in charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for his harvest fields” (Matthew 9:37-38, TLB).
So we might put it this way: God calls us to pray for workers and make disciples. Too often we try to “make workers, and pray for disciples.”
Here’s a key idea: If your church and men’s ministry focuses on getting its men to do “works” rather than “making disciples” it will burn them out. You will lose all your steam.
THE THREE COMPONENTS OF A STRONG DISCIPLE-MAKING MINISTRY
1. Leadership Team. Bill Bright has often said, “Everything boils down to leadership.” The height of your men’s ministry will be determined by the depth of your leadership.
Pull together a leadership team of four to twelve men who want to see God do something among the men in your church. Meet as brothers once a week and begin building among each other what you hope to build among the men of your church. Spend your time together in Bible study and prayer. Don’t spend your time in an “operations” type meeting, which is the tendency.
Challenge each of your leaders to start a discipleship group of his own. More about this in the section which follows: “3. Discipleship Groups.”
Identify men who are disciples and are ready to move to the next level. Share your vision. Don’t waste time trying to persuade men not that interested — they will only pull you down and hold you back later.
If you don’t have men ready, then spend the time to disciple some potential leaders until they catch your vision. Don’t worry about how much time it takes — the investment will be worth it in the end.
Think long term. Richard Foster well said, “Our tendency is to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years.” Remember, it takes a long time to make a disciple.
Encourage each leader to live his life in such a way that others can tell he has been “with Jesus” (see Acts 4:13). As a team, encourage the men to become to each other what they want their church to become. That will create a model so attractive that other men will then want to be part of it. As Tom Skinner often said, “We must become the live demonstration here on earth of what is happening in heaven, so that any time anyone wants to know what is happening in heaven all they have to do is check with us.”
At each church where we go and speak, we tell the staff that if they only relate to each other as a committee, then they will reproduce a church full of committees. But if they will relate to each other as brothers and build loving relationships, they will reproduce a church full of brothers and sisters in Christ.
It’s the same for your men’s ministry. If you only get together as a planning committee you will never show men the model of what you want them to become. The leadership team must become the model — the live demonstration — of what you want to reproduce. The other men in your church will emulate your leadership.
2. Momentum Events. Holding periodic momentum events or attending a Promise Keepers meeting (which are large-scale momentum events) are adrenaline for your men’s ministry.
Momentum events are motivational. They create excitement, interest, converts, and get the message out. They will give you a quantum leap forward.
Plan to hold an event not more than quarterly (rest your players) and not less than twice a year (an entire year between events seems light).
Invite a men’s speaker to your church. Host a Success That Matters™ Seminar. Hold an evangelistic luncheon in a downtown club or country club. Plan an evangelistic fishing retreat. Buy tables at your Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. Find out which national and regional men’s ministries are active in your city and meet with them to find out how you can work together. Support and co-host city-wide men’s events sponsored by others.
Caution: The problem with momentum events is that they only create momentum. The momentum must be captured, and then relationships must be built to sustain momentum. If the only reason men get together is to plan and execute events, what do they do when the event is over? What is the basis for continuing to be together?
Remember, relationships are the glue that will keep men together. Maintain a dual focus between events to provide energy and relationships to keep your men together. Be proactive in the planning process as to how an event is going to deepen relationships among the men. This leads us to the third component of strong men’s ministry.
3. Discipleship Groups. The third component of a strong men’s ministry is the discipleship group. This is the place where men receive ongoing spiritual care. There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. Men cannot do it on their own. We need other men to become all God wants us to be.
Disciples are “pupils.” They are students of Jesus. They are men who desire to become more like Christ. These goals can best be accomplished in two types of discipleship groups.
First, and most important, is an organized Bible study. I can say with confidence that I have never known a man whose life has changed in any significant way apart from the regular study of God’s Word. The Bible is the living Word that changes lives. And, in the end, success in ministry is changed life.
Some groups study Christian books (like mine, for which I’m grateful), but book studies, fellowship groups, and prayer partner groups are no substitute for bringing men into direct contact with the living Lord through His living Word.
Second, and a close second, is an accountability group. We define accountability: “To be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.” Accountability groups are a tool for men to get beyond news, sports, and weather. Accountability means to give permission to a small group of men to ask you how you are really doing.
Accountability brings objectivity. Other men are able to help us add to our lives everything God would add and subtract from our lives everything God would subtract.
We produce a wallet-sized card printed on both sides which can be used as a guide for a weekly or bi-weekly accountability meeting. At lunch one day a wealthy businessman stared at the card and said, “Isn’t it interesting that everything a man needs to know to keep his life on track will fit on the two sides of a business card.” (Contact our office for free copies).
For a more full treatment of accountability you can request a copy of the A Look in the Mirror issue, “How to Start an Accountable Relationship.”
To have a successful men’s ministry you must have something for every man.
For the mass of unsaved men you need evangelistic meetings. Also, you must offer training to men about how to share their faith.
For the mass of cultural Christians you need momentum events to motivate them and discipleship group opportunities to help them move forward.
For those who are or want to be disciples you need discipleship groups — Bible studies and accountability groups. Don’t overlook book studies and prayer groups. Offer many things for many interests.
For those who are or want to be leaders you need a leadership team. Have a core group that meets regularly, and also, a wider, growing circle of leaders that you are discipling.
For men who are hurting, identify men in your church uniquely gifted to minister to them. These will be men who have the gift of encouragement, wisdom, and/or mercy and who can be good listeners. They should also know the resources available within the church and larger Christian community (such as counseling services).
Here’s an idea to help focus your men’s ministry: Love your weak men, and disciple the strong.
The great need today is for tens of thousands of men who truly do love God to help other men move to the next level by first becoming disciples themselves, then by making disciples, sharing their faith, becoming leaders, and praying for workers.
We can’t browbeat men into serving God. Serving God must come from deep wellsprings of gratitude for all that God has done and the hope of what He will do through Jesus Christ. Once men really know Christ they will be willing, even anxious, to show other men Christ.
And what about that man who thinks becoming executive vice-president of his company is the greatest thing to which he should devote his life? When, because of the way we live, men see that the kingdom is more attractive than the world, then they will want to build the kingdom, not the world. They will forsake loving the world.
1. Have you gone through the experience of getting “pumped up” for Jesus, only to find your enthusiasm wane and lose your momentum? If so, what distracted you and why?
2. Read the passages in Matthew 9:37 and 28:18-20. God calls us to “make” disciples and “pray” for workers. How does this get turned around, mixed up, or confused in your own mind? In your church? What should be the goal of men’s ministry in light of these verses?
3. See if you can restate each of the following principles discussed in your own words:
Five Groups To Reach
Long Term, Low Pressure
Show Men Christ Versus Fix Their Behavior
Relationship Based Versus Task Oriented
Five Goals For Every Man
Five Responsibilities Of Every Man
Senior Pastor’s Support
4. Three components of a successful men’s ministry were mentioned. What were they? Do you agree or disagree? What else is important for effective men’s ministry?
5. Which of the five groups mentioned are you in? Are you ready to go to the next level? What are some practical steps you can take to keep you from being distracted?
6. Is your church ready for a men’s ministry, or to go to the next level? If so, what’s your next step? Pray and ask for wisdom as to how you can have an impact on the men of your church and community.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley has been used throughout the world to help men and leaders think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to equip them to have a larger impact on the world.
© 1995. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.