I’m not a men’s ministry guru. I’m not even a neophyte. I have been able to, by God’s grace, serve with a small team to invest in the men at my church over the last several months. Here’s a few of our decisions we’ve made about ministry to men.
- It should exist to help men be better men elsewhere. That should seem obvious, but for us, it means that it only happens quarterly. It isn’t a weekly breakfast. It isn’t even a monthly class. At Mercyview, our missional communities are the context in which most ministry happens. That’s the place we want men to spend most of their time. We want them to be great men to their families, their friends, and their missional communities, so why would we create anything that vies with those things for their time? We wouldn’t. Another thing this means is that we are addressing manhood holistically. Have you noticed how facets of manhood that are often brought up are things you’d do with other men (hiking, hunting, fighting, arrgh!) What good is that in the workplace or at home. If they are great fishermen, but lousy fathers, we’ve failed. What would it profit to gain a 1-handicap and lose your marriage?
- It should be Gospel saturated, Bible soaked, Trinitarian shaped times of intentional interaction. Another “no duh!” right? But what that means, then, is that we don’t spend time playing games, chatting, watching sports, or simply eating together (though we usually have coffee and light snacks). We also don’t expect a 5 minute devotional to really get the job done either. We spend almost 3 hours digging into God’s Word together, hearing teaching that is deep, challenging, and pointed, and looking each other in the eyes and asking hard questions. Life’s too important to not do serious work together like this. None of us need other men who will share a hobby or passion for football…but I’ve not met a man, yet, who doesn’t need other men who will get face to face and/or shoulder to shoulder with them to move away from darkness and towards light.
- It should include wisdom and witness from as many as possible. While there are a few of us shaping the ministry and, especially in the beginning, doing a big chunk of the teaching, more and more we are pulling in guys (young and old) to minister. We don’t want to give the impression that one guy (or 3 or 4) has it all figured out…we don’t. We don’t want to give the impression that God isn’t at work in every life there…He is! Sometimes it’s a testimony, sometimes it’s leading a large group discussion, sometimes it’s facilitating small group interaction, sometimes it’s participating in a panel or Q&A, and sure, sometimes it’s teaching. And more and more, we want every man there to speak to other men on behalf of God. There is wisdom in our collective experiences. No man can be silent or we all lose something. There is also wisdom in preparing more and more men to speak and lead. For some, this is their first taste of that at Mercyview, but we are committed that it won’t be their last!
- It should target the heart. Of course we teach, and that hopefully engages their minds. Sure, we quote Calvin, Spurgeon, Piper, Lewis, Goodwin, Luther, Sibbes, Edwards, Athananius…you get the point. We want to think deeply, but we are AIMING for the heart. We believe, with Jesus, Peter, Paul and with our beloved reformers, that the HEART is crucial. So, when we teach on being “Men of the Word,” we don’t just talk about memorizing it or studying it, we also talk about delighting in it! When we ask, “how can we help guys understand the Theology of Adoption,” we answer by not only giving them well-reasoned content, but craft activities that help them see themselves as adopted sons of God, over whom their father dances and sings and weeps with joy!
So, how’s it gone? I’m hearing men talk about what they are learning, what is challenging them, and how it’s affecting their lives. By that, I’m encouraged. Even weeks later, guys are talking about what we learned together or an intense small group interaction they had at the quarterly gathering. That’s fruit! It’s getting into their bones and into their hearts. I’m seeing guys apply something they learned on one topic to another topic, seeing how Biblical manhood is integrated. Hallelujah! I’m seeing guys slough off passivity and start serving. Praise God! Is it perfect, absolutely not. But it is intentional. I don’t have time to lose…I’m desperate for real life, real interaction, real faith, real joy. And as it turns out, so are a lot of other men.
What about you…what does it look like for men to do life together at your church? I’d love to hear!