MEN’S MINISTRIES REVITALIZED
By: Jack Stephenson
There was a time when men’s groups were an active part of church life. These groups apparently met men’s needs for fellowship, spiritual support, and service, so they came.
For the last 20 years, however, men’s ministries have been on a downhill slide. Why? It is possible that what is being offered no longer connects with the needs men have.
Jack Stephenson, Adviser for the American Baptist Men’s Rocky Mountain Region, says that success follows quality involvement in meaningful projects. “I am not at all convinced that numbers are that important. The crucial thing is active participation of those who are interested.”
* Base men’s ministries around a theme they can buy into. This may take the form of utilizing men’s job skill, their hobbies, or their leadership potentials to help others. Specialize the approach to meet the needs of people over program.
* Address the issue of time. Groups don’t have to exist indefinitely. They can meet their goals and disband. And scheduling specific, short meeting times is better than not meeting at all. Use flex time. Groups can meet at various hours–for breakfast, during the evening, on Saturday mornings.
* Organize small groups of men who have similar interests. A diverse group of Christian men can profitably study the Bible together, but addressing all men’s needs in one place is hard. Offer groups for tradesmen, business executives, or retirees, based on churchmen’s situations.
Specifically men need to feel they are making an important contribution to the church, experiencing satisfying fellowship, and supporting each other as they live out their faith during the week.
Stephenson describes the difference between men’s and women’s involvement: “Traditionally, women have been the ones doing spiritual, missionary, and social work. Men are the most neglected resource in many churches.”
STARTING A MEN’S MINISTRY
How does the church that is doing little in the area of men’s ministries get started?
1. Men must see the need.
2. They must be willing to assume leadership.
3. The pastor must be supportive.
Helping men see the need may be the natural result of a vital ministry. As the pastor encourages spiritual growth, men will want to know how to live their faith. Ideally a key layman will articulate the need. Or, a pastor could initiate a men’s fellowship group by writing a letter to all men offering the opportunity and leaving it up to them whether to begin.
“Either the pastor is supportive, or it will not go,” says Stephenson. “The pastor has to be the motivator, the encourager, and have a real handle on needs the men have.”
But in addition it takes committed laymen. (The president of the Baptist Men’s Rocky Mountain region, Carl Sperry, is a member of Stephenson’s Colorado Springs church. During the day Sperry lays carpet. At church he’s active in men’s ministry.)
Stephenson concludes, “The happiest I’ve ever been was when some of the men from my church went out to another congregation to speak on getting a men’s ministry started. Lay people were insuring the continuation of this ministry. What a boost to me to see this aspect of Christianity in action.”
THE SEASONS OF A MAN’S LIFE
Men rarely have mentors after about 40. A man may have valued relationships with family, friends, counselors and co-workers, but the mentor relationship in its developed form is rare. It is surrendered, with other things, as part of Becoming One’s Own Man. One result is a greater ability and interest in being a mentor to others.
The Mid-life Transition ordinarily has its onset at age 40 or 41 and lasts about five years…
The Mid-life Transition is a bridge between early adulthood and middle adulthood. As in all transitions, a man must come to terms with the past and prepare for the future. Three major tasks must be worked on.
* One task is to terminate the era of early adulthood. He has to review his life in this era and reappraise what he has done with it.
* A second task is to take his first steps toward the initiation of middle adulthood. Although he is not yet ready to start building a new structure, he can begin to modify the negative elements of the presents structure and to test new choices.
* A third task is to deal with the polarities that are sources of deep division in his life (Young/Old, Destruction/Creation, Masculine/Feminine and Attachment/Separateness).
(The above material appeared in the Innovations for the Church Leader Magazine.)
Christian Information Network