Recipe for Success
by Chuck Warnock
Arvon Baptist Church, New Canton, Va., uses a community breakfast to connect with unchurched men.
Take one small, rural church, add a desire to reach men, mix in a great Sunday morning breakfast, and you’ve got a recipe for outreach success. But two years ago when Troy Hickman became pastor of Arvon Baptist Church in rural New Canton, Va., the church was not successful. Attendance had declined to about a dozen regulars, and the church was viewed as too affluent to reach hard-working men.
Hickman was told, “You can’t get men to come to church,” but he didn’t take that discouraging advice. With a desire to reach men, he started a Sunday morning men’s breakfast called Men’s Fellowship. Hickman’s vision was to reach unchurched men who gathered each weekday morning for breakfast at Jack’s, the local diner. He thought the church could tap that same desire for fellowship.
Today, Arvon Baptist Church averages 35-40 in worship attendance, and the Men’s Fellowship has a regular attendance of 20-25 at the once-a-month Sunday breakfasts.
Here’s How They Did It:
Create a community event. Arvon Baptist and Pastor Troy Hickman designed the Men’s Fellowship to be a community event, not a church event. Although the Men’s Fellowship meets at the church at 8 a.m. on the third Sunday each month, the program features community issues of interest to men. The local sheriff’s department told men how they could get involved in community watch activities. The county hospice ministry and Meals-on-Wheels informed the men of their services and invited volunteers to get involved. The chairman of the county board of supervisors talked about county government and the future of Buckingham County. The breakfast started off with 14, and then grew to 18, and now two dozen attend, and most of these men didn’t go to church.
Promote the men’s breakfast where men gather. In addition to talking about the men’s breakfast at Jack’s diner, the community barber, who is a church member, also helped get the word out one customer at a time. Now the church’s sign announces the next meeting well in advance.
Make a Low-key connection to the church. Most of the men who attend the Men’s Fellowship are not members of any church. But Hickman doesn’t want the monthly breakfast to be just another civic club. In addition to meeting at the church, the breakfast opens with ‘prayer and Scripture reading, but no preaching takes place. Even with this low-key approach, many of the men now consider Arvon Baptist Church their church home. Recently, a woman and her daughter visited the worship service at Arvon. They introduced themselves to Hickman by explaining, “My husband attends your church.” When Hickman inquired further, he realized the woman’s husband was part of the Men’s Fellowship.
Encourage men to get involved. Not long after the Men’s Fellowship breakfasts began, the church had to put a new roof on one of its buildings. Two church members had volunteered their time, but the project was bigger than two men could handle easily. On the Saturday work was scheduled to begin, eight pickup trucks pulled into the church parking lot unannounced, and a dozen men piled out ready to help. A job that would have taken weeks was completed in two Saturdays.
For Christmas the church decided to present a live nativity scene to its community. Immediately the Men’s Fellowship took over the design and construction of the nativity scene pavilion, saving the church time and money, but mostly allowing these formerly unchurched men a way to give back their skills to their church and community.
Hickman says, “Our church wants to be part of our community, and we want the community to be part of our church.” For about two dozen men who attend the Men’s Fellowship, his vision has become a recipe for success.
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.”
This article “Men’s Breakfast: Recipe for Success” by Chuck Warnock, was excerpted from the magazine Outreach. November/December 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.