I am privileged to join with over forty men's ministry leaders from around the country in the production of what may be the most significant gathering of best practices for ministry to men to date. I have co-labored with many of these fine contributors for over 25 years now and respect their work.
My chapter, excerpted below, addresses the Senior Pastor and reflects what I believe is the most important consideration for effective ministry to men. Copies of this book are now available for sale in our store.
An Important Message for the Senior Pastor
Over the past twenty-five years, I’ve put on men’s events in hundreds of churches and spoken at numerous high-profile men’s conferences across North America. Here’s what I’ve learned: meaningful ministry to men cannot evolve from grass-roots efforts. For too long we have ignored the senior pastor and asked lay leaders to move the mountain.
I believe that men’s ministry (i.e., pancake breakfasts, camping trips, PK rallies, ISI events, and the like) can easily be run by lay leaders. However, that is not ministry to men; it is men’s ministry. And there is a big difference.
I have yet to see a truly effective ministry to men where the senior pastor was not fully involved and in charge. In communicating this point, I want to be careful not to take anything away from the talented lay leaders across the country who are doing an incredible job in the area of men’s ministry. Rather, what I would like to focus on is the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
If ministry to men is defined as bringing men into meaningful relationship with God and developing them into fully devoted followers of Christ who can make a difference in their world, then churches need to move from an event-led ministry into a more intentional, pastor-led ministry. Even in large churches where there are several levels of management, ministry to men should report directly to the senior pastor. This sends a strong message to the whole church about priorities.
Perhaps, just as important is identifying and equipping trustworthy men to be part of the discipling process. Paul lays out the plan, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 TLB). Let’s establish a structure for that strategy.
Picking Your Leaders
Consider God’s order here on planet earth. It flows from God the Father, to Jesus the Son, to the man as the spiritual head of the family, to his wife, and ultimately to their children. Where, in that order, is the first place the church can make an impact? Obviously, it’s with the man. But look at your calendar and annual budget. There’s a good chance you’ll see that there’s much greater investment in youth and women’s ministries than on ministry to men. It seems that we have our ministry priorities out of order.
If you agree, here are some suggestions on how you can move forward. Prayerfully consider two or three, or perhaps in larger churches, as many as eight to ten men you believe possess a level of maturity and a desire to be involved in ministry to men. Call each man individually and ask him if he would consider helping you manage the most important ministry in the church. Invite him into your office for a one-on-one interview.
Treat the interview the way you would if you were hiring an executive staff member. This communicates a level of importance that will stimulate your candidates. Share your passion for ministry, and let them know how you think this is going to impact the church. Give each man a strong vision, and then ask him if he will join the first string.
Once you have your first string in place, ask this group of men to prayerfully consider a list of ten to twenty (depending upon church size) additional men whom they believe carry a passion for ministry to men and have the spiritual maturity to join the next level. Let them know you will be making your own list of candidates as well. Then get your core team together and prayerfully and honestly review these candidates, agreeing on the men you want to invite to the next level.
Use the same formal interview process as before. Again, the idea here is to plant the vision—let them sense your passion as their pastor. You now have a small group of men you can begin calling on for help, and a second level to assist in carrying out the day-to-day management of your new ministry. Together you may want to come up with a name like Men’s Ministry Council, or some other clever means of identification, that will give each team member a sense of being part of something special.
Disciple Your Leaders
It has been said, “We teach what we know but reproduce who we are.” That parallels another quotable truth, “At the end of the day, our ministry is only as good as the hands that extend it.” Your goal with your leadership team is to help them become, to each other first, what they expect to produce in those they will be serving. In other words, practice discipling each other.
Make a concerted effort to meet, at least weekly, with these leaders with a specific agenda in mind:
- Go through a structured learning system to help these leaders grow spiritually and in their understanding of leadership.
- Carve out time for prayer and encouragement—get to know and minister to their areas of struggle.
- Model transparency—they need to see it in you first.
- Have the difficult conversations with men who are lagging. Ask them to step back in order to grow more before assuming a leadership role.
- Discover the weaknesses and strengths of your team.
- Bring strong training resources geared toward developing good group facilitation. On Target Ministries has recently invested a great deal of time and resources, creating and launching a solid video curriculum for this purpose.
- Develop a plan together, laying out strategies for at least the next year in reaching and discipling men.
Learning from the Past
As you plan your strategies for growing men, many lessons can be learned from the last few decades of what many call the Men’s Ministry Movement. While several high-quality ministries have evolved and the flag has been raised indicating the importance of ministry to men, we have not had the kind of results for which we had hoped. In fact, men in the church may be worse off today than they were when the movement began.
That statement is not meant to be a slam aimed at many fine efforts, but rather, a testimony to the power of our culture to pull men away faster than we are able to engage them in meaningful discipleship. One of the reasons this has happened stems from our unwillingness to strive for and measure the right outcomes. Our tendency to value events and numbers over observable spiritual maturity is at the center of this dilemma.
A word of caution here: Please know I would never say events are bad. Rather, I am saying that we may be eventing men to death. In putting all our eggs in the event basket, we fail to realize that men are rarely experiencing any life-giving transformation. For sure, well-planned events can be a rich, soul-satisfying experience. However, our failure to move men beyond the event and into meaningful, ongoing spiritual development is a significant problem and a lost opportunity.
The question is, why are lives not being transformed? It’s not because events are uninspiring. It’s also not a lack of truth—we have the best truth since Jesus walked our planet. Rather, it’s because we fail to give men what they crave most. It takes a relational environment for truth to become transformational.
Most church-sponsored ministries to men are awkward at creating the kind of life-giving relational environments where we can move that truth from life implication to life application.
Growth through Relationships
Our job as pastors and leaders is to cast the vision, gather the right people to move that vision forward, and measure the right outcomes—spiritual growth, not numerical breadth. Men grow most effectively through an ongoing commitment to a small-group system around some sort of carefully chosen curriculum. At On Target Ministries, we are committing our entire future to the development of this idea with new curriculum and facilitation training.
One of the primary reasons men give up on small groups has to do with poor group management or facilitation. If they see a well-organized plan and that leaders have high expectations, the men will feel cared for and loved. It is also important that your leaders are highly trained, encouraged, and appreciated—remember what the great Oswald Chambers said, “God will not do any more through you than you first allow him to do in you.”
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