A Life-Changing Ministry
Is Done by the Men Themselves
By Steve Sonderman
Two years after I became a Christian I was thrown into my first ministry opportunity. I was in college, and I was asked to lead a Bible study for students from the high school I had graduated from. When I arrived the first night there were thirty students waiting for me in the basement of one of the student’s homes. I began by asking my students what they wanted to do on Wednesday evenings. They said they wanted a meeting where they would feel comfortable bringing their friends. They wanted to reach their school.
I told them I could never pull that off by myself. We started to divide up tasks. Treats – eats are important for high school ministry. Slide shows to illustrate my talk. Greeters. Musicians. Discussion group leaders. Before we left that first evening everyone in the room had an assignment for the next week. They not only knew they were into something much bigger than themselves but they felt important – everyone was vital to the ministry. The results were staggering. This small group of thirty students quickly grew to over 150 within a couple of years. I had been taught a major lesson in ministry. The church works best when everyone does his or her part.
Men’s ministry is effective when it is done by the men themselves. Ephesians 4:11-12 states the principle: We are “to prepare God’s people for works of service….” The word “prepare” means “to set a broken bone,” “to mend a frayed fishing net,” “to restore something to its original condition” or “to condition an athlete.” The only way a church will come to maturity, Paul says, is if people are deployed into service.
The first Reformation put the Word of God into the hands of God’s people. Today we are in the middle of a second reformation that is putting the work of God into the hands of God’s people. For many years most men have settled for ushering and maintaining church buildings and grounds. Men can do so much more. You will severely hinder your ministry’s development if you try to do everything yourself. The task of the leadership is to give away the ministry to other men. Always be looking for men who can take responsibility. Again, to use the illustration of a coach: It isn’t your job to play the game. It’s your job to prepare your players to play. You train them. You develop their skills. You motivate them to work hard. In the same way the job of your leadership team is to train, develop and motivate men to serve both inside and outside the church. The principle I have tried to lead by is this: your ministry will only grow as fast as leadership is developed.
A couple of questions to ask yourself:
What am I doing that someone else could be doing? Maybe someone else can do it better. Maybe they can’t. Give the job away and give a man a chance to learn. As our senior pastor says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
Which men aren’t serving in the church who should be serving? I am not interested in stealing men away from serving somewhere else and signing them up to serve in my ministry. I look for guys sitting on the sideline who need a little encouragement to get into the game.
And some thoughts to keep in mind:
Don’t start a new ministry until you have a leader lined up. It’s easy to dream up great programs you could start for the men. But without leadership recruited and ready the jot will fall back to you and your leadership team. If someone has a great idea for men, I listen. And then encourage him to start it. I provide support, training and prayer. I won’t do what another man can do. God seems to work this way: If He gives a man the vision, then He’s probably giving him the ministry.
Make service opportunities known. Just this month we were wondering who could organize our men going to the upcoming Promise Keepers Conference. Finally we listed our need in the bulletin. Five men showed up to be on the committee. If we hadn’t made the job known we would still be agonizing over who to ask rather than letting men’s God-given interests guide them.
Start your ministry right by giving it away from the beginning. Your leadership team has to make widespread involvement in doing ministry a core value right from the start. It’s easier to talk about Ephesians 4 than to actually do it. It may be hard for some on your team. They worry the job won’t be done well. They’re probably right that it’s easier to do it themselves. That isn’t the point. Constantly ask your leaders who they are getting to help them on whatever project they do.
A Life-Changing Ministry Shows Balance
During my years as a college pastor I worked with a variety of campus ministries. I was able to speak throughout the state at many of their groups. After a while it became obvious that each parachurch group had a hot button. For one group it was evangelism, for another it was small groups, for another discipleship and building up believers, and for yet another it was world missions. Each emphasis is good. Each is necessary. But each emphasis is just that�an emphasis. It can’t be the whole picture.
It’s easy to grow a ministry that gets so caught up in one biblical mandate that you ignore the others. The men of your church become muscle-hound in one area and 98-pound weaklings in another. It is possible, for example, to pour a great deal of energy, money and time into seeing unbelievers come to know Christ but then to spend little time grounding them in the basics and helping them become fully devoted followers of Jesus. Your attendance will be great but your men’s maturity level dismal. It’s possible, on the other hand. to spend so much time perfecting your care for one another that you never bother to reach out to those outside the faith.
The practical point is this: when you start to develop your ministry you want to plan a balanced ministry. I will be candid – this isn’t easy. The trend today even in whole churches is to move toward one area or another.
When you develop your plan, keep these four biblical mandates in mind. I’m not saying that you will be able to address each of these the day you start your ministry. These are, rather, things to aim at as you move ahead.
In Mark 16:15 Jesus gave His disciples the mandate to go into the world and preach the Good News. Archbishop William Temple has a great definition of what Jesus meant. He says, “Evangelism is to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior and to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.'”
There are more than three billion people on earth who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Most of the men you have in your ministry are surrounded on a daily basis by people who make up this category. Part of your ministry needs to be designed for those in your community who are without God, without Christ, without hope. Here are a few brief principles that will help you develop a ministry that reaches out to non-Christian men:
See evangelism as a process. Many people see evangelism as a Tuesday night mugging session. There’s a reaping mentality that says you have blown your job if men at your meetings don’t immediately pray a prayer to accept Christ. But in John 4:34-37, Jesus likens evangelism to farming. Some dig up the hard ground, others plant the seeds, still others water and weed and in the end someone gets to harvest the crop. Evangelism is the same way. You make your presence known in the community through lives that are pure, holy and loving. You proclaim the Gospel in verbal witness. In time you help nonbelievers step over from a life separated from Christ to a new life with Christ.
Think beyond the walls of the church. The average believer loses contact with all of his non-Christian friends within two years of becoming a Christian. Encourage your men to see their sphere of influence as the places they spend most of their time – likely their workplace and neighborhood. A survey conducted in Chicago’s downtown loop asked 400 business people who they would most likely talk to about spiritual things. Given four options – a priest, an evangelist, a family member or the person working in the office next to theirs – more than 90 percent said the person working in the next office. That person would best understand their stresses. You can help your men see the need to develop relationships with those right around them.
Supplement their personal evangelistic efforts. While your men are busy building bridges with those around them, start to plan activities throughout the year that supplement their efforts. Plan events designed for men to bring other men. Each spring, for example, we do a “Breakfast of Champions” at a local hotel. The meeting is short and sweet, with a testimony and message tailored to the seekers in the audience, who have been personally invited by the men of the church. We even tell our men not to come if they don’t bring a guest, because the event has one purpose – to proclaim the message of Jesus. As a leadership team, think hard about what you can do that is specifically evangelistic.
Train your men. Most men haven’t been trained in one-on-one evangelism. Not only are most men unsure how to explain their faith point by point to another man, most men aren’t able to share their own testimony with another man. Build into your ministry events that aim to teach all the men in your church to share the Gospel. You could accomplish your goal through a special Sunday school series. We include it in our “Top Gun” program, which I will describe later in the book. Bill Hybels’ book “Becoming a Contagious Christian” is an excellent text, as is Paul Little’s book “How to Give Away Your Faith.”
Men need not only to commit their lives to Christ but to be grounded in that relationship. In Colossians 2:6-7 Paul writes, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Most men aren’t well grounded in the basics of Christianity even after years of church involvement. They can say and do the right things, but they have little vitality in their relationship with Jesus Christ. In the “establishment” area of your ministry you can help men to be what they have positionally already become in Christ. It’s a process of grounding them in the basic spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, solitude and memorization. It’s here where you give them skills to walk with Jesus the rest of their lives, so they aren’t dependent on others for their growth. It’s here where they learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ – to obey Him, learn of Him, follow Him and become like Him. Some principles to keep in mind for this area of your ministry:
Use natural bridges. If one of the men in your church leads another man to Christ, he may be the best person to do the follow-up work. He could use a tool like the Navigator’s ‘Operation Timothy’ and meet with the man for several weeks to cover the material.
Use small groups to build men. Later we will spend a whole chapter talking about how to develop a network of small groups in your ministry. For now let’s just say that small groups are an unbeatable way for men to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Small groups are places where men are encouraged, challenged, prayed for and held accountable. It’s where the flames of faith can be fanned. As a leadership team, ask yourself how you can get small groups going in your church.
Don’t overlook the basics. With the wealth of men’s material on the market today, it’s easy to study topics like parenting, being a better husband or getting along at work – and never deal with the issue of Christian growth. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t just to mold men into better dads and husbands. You want men to learn to love Jesus Christ and obey Him in every area of life. The recent men’s movement is compartmentalizing men – even despiritualizing them. It isn’t a good trend. Within your curriculum for both small groups and large groups you want to include material that grounds men in the basics of Christianity as well as in men’s issues.
You don’t want to raise a bunch of human sponges who attend your meetings solely to take in what they can. The third part of a balanced ministry is getting men out of the stands and into the game. Help your men discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts. Help them highlight areas in the church where they can serve. Help them not only to understand but also to practice good stewardship of time, energy and money. In short, help them become contributing members of the body. Some principles to keep in mind:
Provide ongoing training. As with evangelism, most men haven’t had teaching in the area of spiritual gifts and servant-hood. This is something you can build right into your small group curriculum if it isn’t offered on a church-wide basis. Christian bookstores have many gift assessment books; one we have found helpful is “The Willow Creek Assessments”. A new tool that looks in depth at how talents, spiritual gifts, values, passions, and personality fit together is “LifeKeys” from Bethany House Publishers.
It’s important when you use gift assessments to talk with each class participant to discuss what they found and where they want to serve. The crucial point is to connect them with
service opportunities – and to let them try something else if their first shot isn’t a good fit.
Pair men with mentors. Most men prefer to learn by watching and doing rather than sitting in never-ending classes. Keep all your training opportunities active and practical. Give special attention, though, to pairing new men with experienced leaders in your church. Whatever the ministry skill to be learned, the time is both educational and encouraging.
Form men in teams. Throughout our church we have groups of friends that serve together. Some areas of our youth Sunday school, for example, are run by teams of singles or young marrieds. Other classes are taught by pairs and trios of men. Give your men away and let them impact your church together.
Mission is the final piece of a balanced ministry. Nothing is more exciting than to see men involved in Christian Businessmen’s Committee (CBMC) or prison ministry or sports ministries or missions. The fact that the church exists to take the whole Gospel to the whole world is something to continually keep in front of your men. Around our place we call it becoming a “World-class Christian.” One criteria you can use down the road to evaluate your ministry is how many men you train and send to serve in ministries that coach non-Christians. Keep in mind the following:
Encourage “vacations with a purpose”. These two-day to two-week trips allow men to experience a culture different from their own. Your men can take a construction trip, business trip, prayer trip, sports trip or medical trip. Whatever their task it’s a great way to expose your men to what God is doing around the world. Pre-trip training and the trip itself teach the men what missions is all about.
Men who have gone on our trips to the Philippines, Romania or South America have all said that the trip was instrumental in their growth as a Christian and in their involvement in world missions. They come home knowing that “We are to be global Christians, with a global vision because our God is a global God,” as John Stott puts it. Mission trips are another chance to help men realize they are part of something enormously bigger than themselves – that they can help every nation, tribe and people come to know Jesus. In a later chapter I will discuss how to plan and carry out a short-term mission trip with your men.
Profile missions in your ministry. Because some men aren’t anywhere close to going on a cross-cultural trip you need to bring missions to them. You can have missionaries on furlough share at your large group meetings. You can spend time praying for the missionaries your church supports. During our annual churchwide missions fest we throw a special men’s breakfast for all the visiting missionaries. They get to eat with the men and share what they are doing and tell how the men can pray for them. It’s a highlight of our year. You can also feature at your meetings men getting ready to leave on short-term trips. Have them explain what they will be doing, why they are going and how the men can pray for them. All of these things build excitement for world missions.
Include missionaries in your ministry. When missionaries are home on furlough they need places where they feel encouraged and loved. Ask your pastor if there are any missionaries in the area that you can invite to join a small group – not to lead but to simply be one of the guys. It’s an excellent way you can minister to them.
Highlight parachurch ministries. Many wonderful ministries need your men. Periodically you can feature one of these ministries not only to let the men know what the group does but to advertise ministry opportunities. You could feature ministries such as the Gideons, Athletes in Action, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Prison Fellowship or the Christian Businessmen’s Association. These are all worthwhile ministries as are hundreds of others.
It could be easy to be overwhelmed as you read through these four keys to a balanced ministry. Let me say it again: these won’t all be in place from the beginning. You need to go slow to develop a solid foundation. But as you grow, keep these four areas in mind so as to develop a balanced ministry.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”
Article “A Life-Changing Ministry Is Done by the Men Themselves” excerpted from “How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry”. By Steve Sonderman.