Developing a Game Plan for Men’s Ministry

Developing a Game Plan for Men’s Ministry
Steve Sonderman

For NFL players, Tuesday is playday. It’s the day players usually have off- to mend wounds, fish, hunt or just hang out at home and enjoy their wife and kids. For the coaches, though, Tuesday is a workday. It’s when the offensive and defensive coaches head to separate rooms and develop their plan for the upcoming game. While coaches do some of this strategic work during the summer, most of it happens on Monday and Tuesday of game week. Coaches view and review films, study the enemy’s weaknesses and strengths, design schemes and develop plays, all with the purpose of using the talent at hand to its fullest.

We’re at the same point in the development of your men’s ministry. You have done the preliminary work. Now we’re ready to get to work designing a game plan for your unique situation. I will outline in this chapter the steps you can take to write a purpose statement, develop a strategy and lay out a timeline for your ministry. You leadership types will shine. You administrative types will eat this up.

There’s no getting around the fact that to do serious planning you need a place and time where you can concentrate.

This is too important to developing your ministry to hurry through the exercises. It takes time to do your planning right. It takes more time to do it wrong. Try one of the following options to make quality and quantity planning time happen:

Option 1: Weekend Retreat. You might choose to take your leadership team to a local retreat center where you can spend Friday evening through Saturday evening working through the material. You probably have plenty of retreat centers around, but scout out the following to make best use of your time:
a. A spot close to home so you don’t spend all your time driving.
b. Food prepared for you so you don’t spend all your time cooking and cleaning up.
c. A quiet meeting room where you can relax, talk, pray and work through the material.
d. Decent sleeping facilities so you get a good night of sleep.
e. A flip chart for writing down all your ideas and thoughts; You may come back to something you thought of at the start of your time together.
f. Allow for some free time. You won’t be able to keep working at an intense level for hours on end. Plan into your weekend time to take walks, go swimming or hang out.

Option 2: Four Evenings. If you can’t free up time for a retreat, try four consecutive Monday evenings. It gives you the same amount of work time, just spread out. One benefit of this option is that it gives you in-between think time. Make sure you still seek out a spot that is quiet and removed from any distractions, a home where the kids are gone for the evening or a room at church might work. I know of one leadership team that rented a conference room at a local hotel so they would have a sense of work while they did their planning.

Option 3: Two All-Day Saturdays. These are a little tougher to plan because most men make Saturdays family day. You could do one Saturday, then wait a month to meet a second
Saturday. Again you get in-between time to run your ideas past other people.


You might think of other ways to structure your planning time. But no matter where or when you decide to meet there are several steps you can work through to put together your game plan. You might not find each part of the process necessary to your situation, but each is designed to help the process along.

The first step–brainstorming ministry ideas–may be the most exciting and rewarding for you as a leader. Having tabulated all the surveys and culled some general themes, You can get down to business and bring focus to the ministry. Brainstorming is how you take general ideas and begin to make them into something that begins to look like a ministry.

You can limit this activity to the small group of men on your leadership retreat, but it’s even better to do it with a larger group of men before you go. It’s a way to give men ownership of the ministry and excitement for the ministry. I built our larger brainstorming group two ways. First, once I had completed all of the individual surveys, I notified those men that we would meet in a few weeks to share the information gathered and to brainstorm further on the issues they raised. Of the sixty men interviewed, forty showed up to continue the process. What I saw was that the time I had taken to personally involve these men through the interview process had already raised their stake in the ministry. Second, I invited all the men who had indicated on the churchwide survey that they wanted to help with the men’s ministry.

I began the meeting by sharing the results of the survey. I then broke the men into random small groups for brainstorming, giving them five areas to discuss for ten minutes each. These were five areas that had stood out during our survey work: we talked through, for example, how to get men into small groups, what to do once the men are plugged in, how to train leaders. Your top five concerns may be totally different from ours.

At the end of the brainstorming time, each man ranked on a 3 x 5 card his top three ideas from all the ones recorded. Each man then shared his rankings with the rest of the group, so that in the end each group produced three or four ideas they ranked the highest. They did this for each of the areas I wanted them to discuss. Then they came back to the large group with their three top suggestions for small groups, and what an incredible time that was. It was one of the most exciting hours of my life to hear each group stand up and share their ideas, visions, dreams and plans. We passed on all of the men’s 3 x 5 cards of ideas and suggestions to the leadership team for tabulation so we didn’t waste any ideas. I can look back almost five years at the notes from that initial brainstorming session and see there in basic form what we are doing today.

To sum up, here are some general guidelines you should share with the guys before they break into their groups:
1. Accept and record all ideas.
2. Don’t comment on anyone else’s ideas during the brainstorming process.
3. Save time at the end to discuss the ideas and refine the suggestions.
4. Don’t start to draw conclusions: this meeting is for generating ideas, not setting forth plans.

Here’s an overview of the process we used:
1. All ideas within a group are shared and written on a chalk board or flip chart,
2. Individually the men write on a 3 X 5 card their top three choices out of the many suggested.
3. Each man around the circle shares his number one choice. That pick gets three points. His second choice gets two. His third choice gets one.
4. The numbers are totaled up and the top three or four ideas move on to the larger group.

Settle on a Purpose

Not everyone who took part in the brainstorming process joined our leadership team. But many did. To have so many guys involved in the brainstorming session really generates an infectious enthusiasm and excitement.

With your brainstorming complete it is time to move on to the most critical step in the whole process, defining your purpose. Pinpointing the goal of your ministry isn’t something you can do in a large group–this is definitely a task for your planning retreat or meetings.

Without a clear and concise purpose it will be very difficult for your ministry to stay on track. It is very easy to plan a lot of nice and exciting meetings and activities, but not have a purpose.

There are three related reasons why you need a purpose statement for your ministry:
1. A purpose statement keeps from taking on more than you can handle. Every time I go to a leadership planning meeting I find myself saying the same thing: “How does this fit into our purpose?” Just this noontime I met with two coordinators from our ministry. They told me all of the things they wanted next year: great ideas, but I had to pop the big purpose question. What is our purpose for the men’s ministry? And of your part of the ministry? The discussion that followed got us back on track.

It’s too easy to do activity for the sake of activity. You can always revisit your purpose statement. It can evolve over time. But having a purpose statement that is short and sweet keeps what you do fitting within the big picture.

2. A purpose statement helps you make decisions. When someone has a new idea for a ministry there are two questions I always ask: (a) Who is going to lead it? and (b) What is its purpose? Without a purpose statement, deciding for or against a ministry can be tough. With a purpose statement, you aren’t deciding on the basis of egos, slick presentations or what happens to sound fun at the moment. Because everyone has signed on knowing our purpose statement, it’s the one fair way to determine which ideas work for us and which don’t. Our coordinators meetings are much smoother when we keep in mind the overriding purpose of the ministry.

3 A purpose statement keeps you working at your strengths. You can do many things. But what have you decided is the best thing? Most ministries try to do too many things. It’s better to start slow and simple. Reach one group of people and minister to them effectively before you move on to another group. A well-designed purpose statement keeps you on-task.

It would be easy to swipe someone else’s statement and I have been tempted to do that many times. But the real benefit of working through your mission yourselves is ownership. In the end you may end up with a statement identical to what some other group has chosen. That’s fine. You know that you went through the process and determined what God has put in your own hearts.

You can start the process of writing your purpose statement by having the leadership team read as many passages of scripture as possible that are relevant to your ministry’s mission. You can come prepared with some, and have the group share some as well. (For example: Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:11-12; Colossians 2:6-7; Acts 1:8; John 13:34-35.) This exercise will help you focus on where you believe God is leading your ministry.

Exercise 1- God’s Purpose and Your Purpose

1. Make a list of verses that have to do with God’s purpose for your ministry.

2. With these in mind, pull out themes that highlight what you believe God could be calling your ministry to. You will find it helpful to write down some of the key phrases or words that come from the verses you read and study (for example: equip men, evangelize men, mobilize men for service, build disciples, engage the community, reconcile men to __, instruct men in__). Make the list as long as you can.

Exercise 2:-Defining Your Purpose

1. Taking time to talk and pray, narrow your list from the second question in Exercise 1 to phrases you believe give direction to your ministry.

2. Write a rough draft of your purpose statement. You might want to start off your statement with something like, “Our ministry exists to glorify Jesus by __” Remember, what you write will tell you and others what the main business of your ministry is,

3. Refine your purpose statement. Here are some questions to ask yourselves:
(a) Is it clear and concise–not over two sentences?
(b) Does it state what we are about as a ministry?
(c) Is it easy to communicate to the leaders and men o your church?
(d) Does it empower us as leaders?
(e) Is it consistent with who we are as a church?

4. Once you have settled on a purpose statement, take time to evaluate it. Pray over it, work on its grammar and phrasing. Share it with others and get their input. As a leadership group, come back to it in a month and see if it is still what you want. Make notes here of changes you need to make.

Down the road it will be important to have a purpose statement for each ministry you develop within the men’s ministry. If you develop small groups, for example, work those leaders through the process of developing a mission statement of their own that flows from the overarching one. In the past month our Top Gun leadership team has been meeting early Friday mornings to work through the mission statement for that component of our ministry. As an outside observer it was exciting and gratifying to see these men wrestle with what their part of the ministry is to be about. With the purpose statement in hand, they have a greater sense of mission and ownership in the ministry.

You’re probably curious as to what the purpose statements of other men’s groups look like. This is ours:

The purpose of the Elmbrook Men’s Ministry is to encourage and equip men to evangelize the lost, establish them in their faith and equip them for service in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the World.

Another ministry says it this way:

The Men’s Ministry exists to make disciples who will build a movement of multiplying groups to bring Christ to all of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and beyond.

Fond du Lac Community Church has this as their statement:

Community Church’s Men’s Ministry is dedicated to creating opportunities for men to develop vital friendships, personal integrity and profound Christ-centered growth.

Structuring Your Ministry

You need to know what you want to do. But you also need to decide how you are going to do it. In this step you will determine as a leadership team how you will structure your ministry to accomplish your mission.

This isn’t an easy step for most people. Our natural tendency is to do ministry the way it’s always been done. Or to grab an idea from a book or magazine or conference. But to develop a life-changing ministry you need programs that work best for your people in your congregation. For some of you it may be a monthly Saturday breakfast. For others it may be a once-a-quarter evening rally. For others a Sunday school class just for men, and maybe only part of the year. Every situation presents different needs. Every situation holds different opportunities. So every situation demands a different approach.

Now is your time to identify the best place for you to start. As you work through the following exercise, think long-term. Give yourself time. Start wondering what programs you can put in place over the next five years to accomplish your mission statement. Don’t forget to draw on all of the information you have gathered from interviews, surveys, meetings with your pastor and other church leadership, and your brainstorming sessions.

Exercise 3–Structuring Our Men’s Ministry

1. Tell what you know about the men of your church and your area:

What are their top five needs?
What do their friends need?
When are they available?
Where are they involved in the church already?
Why do they need their own ministry–what can you provide that the rest of the church doesn’t?

2. Tell what you know about effective ministry to them: Where will they likely come to a meeting?

What types of special events are consistent with who they are?
What topics are they interested in?
How do they build relationships with other men?
How much time do they have to offer?
How structured should it be?

3. Tell what you know about your leadership team: What is your greatest strength?

What is your greatest weakness?
If you had to do a men’s event tomorrow, what could you do well?

4. Tell what you know about your church:

What types of ministries have been successful in your church? Why?
What expectations does the church leadership have for what you do?

5. Given your answers to the questions above, what elements would you like to include in your ministry to men? (evening small groups, weekly large group, monthly large group, quarterly large group, etc.)

6. Use your purpose statement to filter through these ideas. Which ideas help you reach your goals? Which ideas should you set aside because they don’t directly help you to reach your goals?

7. Where should you start? What one program would be most effective and relatively easy to initiate within the next year?

8. What additional programs do you want to see happen over the next several years? In what order?

Timeline the Ministry

Once you have decided where to start, your next step is to plan exactly how to make it happen. To project managers out there this will sound very familiar, and even those of us who don’t manage timelines day to day can use some of the great software designed to help this process. Whether you plot your ministry on-screen or on paper, what you want to do is put things in order, because some things can’t happen until other things take place first. And you need to break the jobs down into manageable tasks with manageable deadlines. Developing an entire men’s ministry can be utterly overwhelming, but looking at small steps along the way feels much more achievable.

When I began our men’s ministry, for example, I knew I had to do two things the first year: raise the identity of the ministry and develop leadership for the ministry. I was committed to this for the long haul, and for the ministry to grow I needed solid leaders. So the first ministry we started was Top Gun, a nine-month leadership training program designed to encourage and equip men to lead in their home, workplace, church community and world. My sole purpose was to develop a small number of leaders who would be responsible for the ministry in the future. Of the twenty-four men who went through the program the first year, eighteen hold key leadership roles for us now. Those two steps were small enough to handle, yet big enough to get us on the right path.

Three points to remember here. First, think long-term and go slow! I can’t say it enough. You won’t develop your ministry overnight. Even if you put in place one or two straightforward programs, what you do needs ongoing evaluation and innovation to stay fresh. When I consult with churches everyone wants a big men’s ministry right away. It just doesn’t happen that way. A well-rounded, full-blown ministry takes years to happen. Second, you need to choose one area to work on: leadership development, small groups, a men’s retreat. It is more important to do one ministry well than to do a bunch poorly. When men sense you are doing things with excellence and purpose they will be drawn in and pull others in besides. Each year you can add one or two more components to the ministry, taking strategic steps you outline in your five-year plan. And third, what works in one church may not work in another. There is no magic formula for doing ministry. One of the scariest things about putting this material in print is that someone would think that what we do at Elmbrook has to happen everywhere.

Use the following exercise to set a timeline for the major ministries you want to see happen over the next five years and to list what needs to happen to ensure the program is established and completed.

Exercise 4- A Timeline for Ministry

1. When do we want to start the various components to the ministry?
Year One
Year Two
Year Three
Year Four
Year Five

2. What has to be done in the first year for each of the major ministries we want to start?
When done?
When done?
When done?
When done?
When done?
When done?

3. Step back and consider: Are the goals you have set for each year of your ministry realistic? Measurable? Open to evaluation? Flexible?

Divide Up Responsibilities

This is the easy part. When you have a list of everything toe done for your first ministry, assign people to do them. We’ll took in detail in the next chapters at what kind of help you need to make your plans happen, but at this point you might want to work on a list of other people to help you.

Go back to question 2 in the last exercise and jot names of men who may be able to help you with each task.

Wrapping Up Your Retreat or Planning Sessions

When I coached high school football we spent Saturdays watching film from the night before and putting together our game plan for the next week. The room where we met had a sign in it that said K.I.S.S. When I first started I had to ask one of the other assistants what K.I.S.S. stood for. I should have known. Keep It Simple, Stupid. It was a principle we reminded ourselves of every time we drew up a game plan.

It’s not a bad slogan for ministry as well. It’s easy to come up with great ideas and schemes, but if your people can’t execute them they aren’t much use. What you have accomplished in your planning retreat or planning sessions now needs to be evaluated over the course of time by your leadership team and the men of your church. Take what you have done and let it simmer for a few months. By giving yourselves time you will be able to pray over your plans, think through them and refine them and boil them down to what you can really do. To be honest, this is the most difficult part of the process. I know several ministries that have taken up to a year to work through all this.

So take your time. And keep it simple.

Exercise 5-Revisiting Our Plans

Give yourself at least a month after your initial planning sessions before your leadership team considers the following questions.

1. Are your plans realistic? Are there any ideas that seemed good during your initial planning that you need to reconsider?

2. What obstacles do you see to your plans? How can you overcome them?

3. Refine your decisions. What changes do you need to make to your plans?

The above article, “Developing a Game Plan for Men’s Ministry” was written by Steve Sonderman. The article was excerpted from chapter six in Sonderman’s book, How to Build a Life Changing Men’s Ministry.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

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.”