Is the Reach of Your Men’s Ministry Wide and Deep?
Making disciples is helping men who don’t know Christ become followers of Jesus. Your ministry must engage men at each stage of this journey. We call it the Wide-Deep Continuum, and every man in your ministry has a place on its path.
By the Man in the Mirror Team
A church we worked with was having their annual men’s retreat. A few men from the leadership team became a sub-committee and took on the task of organizing it. They set three goals:
- Reach out to men who didn’t traditionally attend their church’s events
- Help men get to know each other on the retreat
- Develop a follow-up strategy that kept men involved after the retreat
They worked hard to promote the event, and 80 guys registered, including 12 who were not very involved in the church and had never been on a retreat before.
They had a businessman speak on a very practical level about how being a Christian affects your everyday life. The talks were short and had plenty of discussion time afterward. In order to make the new men feel comfortable, they allowed the men to sit wherever they wanted during the sessions and discussions.
They had a lot of fun through competitive activities. During the retreat, it seemed like guys were really getting to know each other. The discussion times were robust, and they offered a follow-up activity for guys to get involved in—smaller groups of men that would meet for six weeks to go deeper into the issues raised by the event. At the end of the retreat, 60 men signed up for the follow-up, including eight of the 12 “fringe” men.
A week or two later, the entire men’s ministry leadership team met to debrief, including the retreat planning team. The retreat team was excited to talk about their success and frankly eager for a few pats on the back. What they heard next blew them away.
“Well,” said one of the leaders shifting uncomfortably, “I guess I’ll start. I have to say I was really disappointed in the retreat this year. I just feel like we wasted an opportunity.”
“Yeah, me too,” added another leader. “For instance, the speaker hardly talked about really spiritual things at all. He didn’t teach from the Bible; he mostly spoke about his own experiences.”
“And the discussion times…,” another man chimed in. “Every time we were with different guys. We should have assigned guys to groups of four and stuck with those guys for the whole weekend. We could have met and prayed together and hopefully gotten into some deep issues.”
There were other comments about the speaker, scripture memorization, guided private devotionals and other “missed opportunities” from the retreat. The planning team was stunned. They had met every goal they had set for the weekend, yet the leadership team was ripping it apart. What went wrong?
Different Men with Different Needs
Making disciples is all about taking men who don’t know Christ and helping them become mature, passionate followers of Jesus. This journey can be represented by a path, or “continuum” as we say, from men who don’t yet know Christ (WIDE) all the way to mature disciples (DEEP).
Your ministry to men will need to help men at every stage of this journey. We call this concept the Wide—Deep Continuum.
Every man in your church can be placed somewhere on the continuum, and that determines the offerings that will appeal to him. As a man matures in his faith, he will move farther across the continuum.
How could knowledge of this continuum have helped the leadership team from the retreat example above? First of all, the planning team could have shared their goals with the rest of the leadership team and gotten their buy-in. All disappointment is the result of unmet expectations. The leadership team had one set of expectations about the target audience for the retreat; the planning team had another.
Notice that none of the suggestions that the other members of the leadership team made were bad. Teaching straight through passages of scripture, staying with the same group of men for deeper discussions, having longer personal times with God—these are all great retreat activities to deepen men’s faith.
But there was also nothing wrong with the type of retreat the team actually planned. It all depends on where you are aiming on the continuum.
Applying the Wide—Deep Continuum
You will interact with men at all points along this continuum. On the left side—the “wide” side—are men who are not all that interested in spiritual things. To reach guys on the wide side, you need activities that reach them at their point of interest. These are activities that require little or no preparation and low commitment. Typical activities at the wide end are softball teams, BBQs, a Super Bowl party, golf, hunting, fishing, etc.
To reach men on the deep side, you need activities that meet their spiritual needs more deliberately. These activities probably have a connection from week to week; they require preparation; they’ll go deeper into Biblical concepts; they will offer accountability and transparency; and their focus will be on more mature Christians. Typical activities might include small groups, Bible Studies, leadership training, service projects, or spiritual retreats.
No activity you do can meet the needs of every man in your church.
In our illustration of the retreat above, the retreat planning team was focused on reaching guys more to the left of this continuum, while the rest of the leadership team were hoping to reach guys on the right of the continuum.
As you make ministry plans, make sure you are offering a range of activities that will interest men all across the continuum. You’ll need different types of activities to reach the different types of men in your church.
THE BIG IDEA: No activity you do can meet the needs of every man in your church. Build a seamless process using different activities to reach different types of men.
Your Leadership Team and the Continuum
If you’re like most churches, you’ll have leaders who are passionate about men at different points along this continuum. Left to their own devices, your leaders will naturally tailor events to their passion and calling. That’s okay! Just be sure your leaders are clear about your target audience with every opportunity you offer. Help them understand the purpose of the event so they can support the agreed upon agenda of the team.
As an example, consider this hypothetical situation: It’s Sunday morning and your men’s ministry leadership team has just finished a prayer time before the services. An usher approaches and tells your team that two men are in the lobby asking for someone to talk to them.
One man has wandered in off the street. He is not sure why he is there, but he seems a little down and said that he is looking for answers. He wants to know what this Christianity thing is all about. The second man has been involved in the church for a while. Due to personal circumstances in his work and marriage, he really wants to take the next step in his relationship with Christ. He wants someone to talk with him about how to study the Bible and pray.
Quick! You have to choose only one. Which man would you rather go talk to?
You may have a heart for evangelism. Your desire is to reach out to lost souls and point them toward the cross. Because of this, you feel drawn to talk to the man who is seeking Christ for the first time.
You may have a heart for discipleship. You love helping Christian men build the Kingdom of God and understand what it means to study God’s word and pray. Because of this, you feel drawn to talk to the man who is seeking a deeper relationship with Christ.
After sharing this example during one of our No Man Left Behind training courses, a pastor and the men’s ministry leader from his church came up and said, “You may have just saved our relationship.”
The pastor explained that he would go out into the community and meet new men and convince them to give the church a try. But every time a new man walked in, his men’s ministry leader would talk to them, invite them to join a small group, and explain the importance of accountability.
“As fast as I could get new guys in the front door,” the pastor said, “they were running out the back.” Understanding the continuum helped them realize that their hearts were for men at different places.
The layman now realized that every man has to go through a process. They’re not always ready for accountability and transparency. He and the pastor agreed to develop an appropriate process to move men along the continuum.
Remember: Men at the left side of the continuum are seekers, trying to find their way to Christ. Men on the right side are leaders, wanting to follow Christ more closely and serve him. Most leaders are wired to work with men at a certain point on the continuum. When you grasp this concept, it can help save a lot of trouble and misunderstanding.
Your ministry includes all the activities and interactions that your church has with men. It’s these interactions and activities that engage men and help them move forward in their spiritual journey. However, not all of these activities have to be men’s only activities driven by the traditional idea of a men’s ministry. We will talk more about this concept in the next post.