How to Make Your Men’s Ministry More Effective
- Chris Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 26 Jun
What’s the most effective ministry at your church? Odds are, it’s not your men’s ministry.
“When I talk with pastors about their men’s discipleship programs, there is usually awkwardness and silence,” says Craig Fry, a former church planter and pastor who now heads Christian Leadership Concepts (CLC), a parachurch men’s ministry. “Leaders are frustrated with the state of their men’s ministries, and they’re not sure what to do.”
Recognizing that the typical man has many commitments and responsibilities, churches try to offer men’s events that are convenient for the men of the church and the community, according to Fry. Pancake breakfasts. Big-game dinners. Saturday morning Bible studies. Monthly inspirational meetings.
“These events sometimes succeed at getting men in the door,” says Fry, “but, over time, these approaches are counter-productive. They don’t ‘stick’ with men. They don’t lead to transformative life change.” If you’re ready for the impact of more effective men’s ministry, here are 5 important steps:
1. Address the problem: lack of challenge leaves powerful desire untapped.
The problem, according to Fry, is not that men are too busy. It’s not that men don’t have an interest in growing deeper in their faith. And it’s not that men don’t want to hang out with and develop relationships with other men.
The problem is that men are not challenged. “Men have an innate desire to rise to a challenge,” says Fry. “But our culture has emasculated men and made a walk of faith seem as exciting as a Valium Convention. So, when guys see an event or program that anyone can do and that doesn’t require any kind of commitment, they conclude that it probably is not worth their time or attention.”
In most churches, the women are much more active than the men. But the lack of activity by the men can be misleading.
“Hidden in the typical church are dozens or even hundreds of men who have adeep desire to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Word,” says Fry. “They have a thirst for genuine brotherhood with other believers. A yearning for relational honesty and transparency. A call from God to influence their home, church and the marketplace. A sense of humility and a servant’s heart.”
2. Pursue the opportunity: rigorous commitment creates true disciple-makers.
CLC has demonstrated that, when a church ‘awakens its sleeping giant’ – men who want to be true disciples of Christ – the results can be extraordinary.
“CLC was started by a man named Hal Hadden,” says Fry. “When Hal moved his family to Nashville, all of their belongings fit in a U-Haul, and he had only $800 in his pocket. But he had a vision to create a safe yet strong environment for men to grow in their walk with Christ.”
Fry continues, “His template was the model Jesus used – a group of 12 men, dedicated to each other and the Kingdom of God, learning from each other and God’s Word for a lifetime.”
“The first thing Hal did,” Fry explains, “was to gather 24 men together and challenge them to meet each week for prayer, study, and accountability. He asked them to pray for a week and then give him their answer. He expected only a handful to respond favorably but, to his surprise, 18 of the 24 men said yes.”
What started with 18 men has grown into what Fry calls “one of the best ministries no one’s heard about.” Over 10,000 men have completed the rigorous CLC program called ALL IN, with about 1,000 men participating in each of the past seven years.
In each group commitment to ALL IN,roughly a dozen men agree to meet for two hours every week for two years. That’s over 100 two-hour meetings. And each week the coursework takes an additional two hours to complete.
Clearly, men are rising to the challenge. “CLC has discovered a tactful way of challenging a man’s manhood,” says Fry. “We are unapologetic in striving for a higher commitment.”
Fry shares that one of CLC’s Area Directors puts it this way: “When I speak to a man about facilitating a CLC group, I don’t mince words. I look him right in the eye and ask if he has what it takes to be a disciple-maker with his brothers in Christ. If a man doesn’t feel called to do CLC, then he shouldn’t do it.”
“When a man is genuinely challenged, there is something within him that wants to rise to the challenge,” continues Fry. “CLC recognizes that as part of God’s design and a mark of authentic manhood.”
3. Expect the bonus: creating and motivating a ‘band of brothers.’
Men who do CLC study the Bible. A lot. But Fry says that it’s a misnomer to label CLC as a two-year Bible study. “CLC is much, much more than that,” he explains. “CLC is a relational, discipleship pathway for men that creates true brotherhood.”
And when a church truly disciples a group of men, whether through CLC or another approach, the men are likely to become a band of brothers.
“Most men have acquaintances,” says Fry. “Maybe a lot of acquaintances. But few have trusted friends. When men meet together, every week, they get a lot more than truth from Scripture. They get more than leadership training. They get friendships with a small group of men who, like them, desire to grow in their faith, their awareness of God’s work in their lives, and their places of service within the body of Christ.”
These are not shallow, transient friendships. “Transparent bonding, trust, vulnerability, and unwavering accountability are forged during this time,” says Fry. “Men learn to do life together as they lead at home, church, work, and in their communities.”
4. Accept your mission: to transform lives in the local church.
CLC augments the men’s ministries at many churches, both large and small. As a former pastor, Fry has a heart for the local church and the people who lead it.
“CLC is designed to help pastors and make their lives easier,” he says. “We can aid in increasing the spiritual growth of a church. When one of our Area Directors meets with a pastor, our introduction is a simple but powerful one: Consider me as a free staff member. I have no agenda and there are no strings attached to any of our programs. I’m not starting a competing church. I’m not asking to be in your budget. I report to you, and I want to help your ministry to men. Will you allow me to work for you?”
One church that has a strong partnership with CLC is Christ Community Chapel, which has its main campus in Hudson, Ohio. The church first learned about CLC nearly a decade ago when a man who had done CLC in Pittsburgh moved to the Hudson area.
“This newcomer to our church said that we had to start doing CLC here,” recalls Caleb Eernisse, the men’s ministry pastor at the church. After hearing testimonies from CLC veterans at the Pittsburgh church, Christ Community Chapel formed a pilot group of 12 men to try CLC for two years.
The pilot group loved CLC.
“They told us, ‘We’ve got to do this,’” says Eernisse. “It was a great experience for them. They liked the format and materials, the Scripture memorization, and discussions of applying the Bible to your life. But what they appreciated the most is the relationships that they built with other men.”
5. Extend the challenge: move men beyond sports and weather into the Great Commission.
“When men get together, there usually are just two safe topics: sports and weather,” Eernisse explains. “These guys went beyond sports and weather. Before CLC, most of them had very few men with whom they had a deep spiritual relationship. Over two years, they got to know their CLC brothers, and they allowed themselves to be known by these men. There was accountability. There was trust. And they loved it.”
Since the first group, nearly 500 men have participated in a CLC group at Christ Community Chapel. And when men complete CLC, Eernisse has another challenge for them.
“CLC is a discipleship program,” he says. “It’s all about training leaders. So, when guys finish CLC, we challenge them to lead in some area at Christ Community Chapel. They can be a facilitator and lead discussions at our Men’s Fraternity meetings. They can lead a community group. They can be a mentor in one of our youth groups. We challenge them to go from being discipled to being disciple-makers. It’s the Great Commission in action.”
Fry echoes that sentiment. He believes that discipleship, one man at a time, is the key to reaching a nation for Christ. And he is planning for success. “We are building the CLC infrastructure to handle growth,” he says.
Chris Bolinger is the author of Daily Strength for Men, a 365-day daily devotional published by BroadStreet Publishing and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, DailyStrengthForMen.com, and other retailers.
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