The reason men present such a challenge to the church is not because they are unmotivated or unchallenged or lacking opportunities to connect. To use a baseball anaology, the church is simply not throwing most men pitches they can hit.
It's not as easy as it looks to get a mass of men to first base, where they can then begin to run the purpose-driven bases. Even if you are successful at getting them to participate in a spiritual growth campaign, it's another challenge to move them around the bases in a way that resonates deeply with their manhood.
In order to feel confident about the spiritual process and pathway, there are some definite dos and don'ts when it comes to getting large numbers of men into the discipleship experience. This should be mission-critical in your journey toward health as a church. If you want more competent and reliable leaders who take over the heavy lifting of the ministry, here are some ideas to explore.
Strike Out Pitches
Fast Balls of Super High Commitment. We have lost so many opportunities to reach men in the last decade because we have set the bar too high and they give up before they even start. If the only option for a man to connect with other men in the church is a one-year spiritual discipleship program or to go “on mission,” you’ve lost him. Your average man will say to himself: “I am not there yet.” Typically, if a man has sin or character issues that he deems incongruent with the “high commitment” profile, he will stay away.
Curve Balls of Heavy Theology. There is theology -- and then there is theology that “plays.” Men fear what they don’t know and are constantly measuring their ability to connect to people or situations based on their level of knowledge. If the “feel” or offerings of your men’s culture are overly theological, most men will assess their Bible knowledge and self-select out of the program. On the other hand, we should take our cue from Luther, who said, “My temptations are my masters of divinity.”
Off-Speed Emotional Pitches. Can you name three things which cause emotional discomfort in the average unchurched man? Try these on: singing, socializing, and sharing. Ironically, most men’s events, programs, retreats, or small groups place a high premium on all of these. Men treat emotions like smelly socks: They put them in the back of the drawer or in the hamper. They are not something they cozy up to! So when you seek to build a men’s culture that is attractive, you have to balance the fact that most men are in emotional kindergarten and that their DNA is built to avoid these exercises.
REMINDER #1: The purposes are lived out in the context of his gender. The principles behind the purposes are for everyone. However, they find their fullest expression for me within a masculine context. Moving around the bases requires that the steps in between each base provide experiences, tools, and a pathway that draws me as a man to the next base. A healthy men’s culture always has this in mind and works to create opportunities to express the purposes in masculine way.
REMINDER #2: Felt needs in men’s lives are the best and most useful way to grab their hearts and connect them to a men’s small group. “Hungry?” Feed them. “Naked?” Clothe them. We can’t say to a guy who is struggling in his marriage or trying to get the monkey of lust and fantasy off his back, “We are studying the book of Romans in my men’s group. Want to come?” I’d love it if more men in the church would say to their non-Christian buddies, “I am going to this men’s group, and it has transformed my relationship with my wife.” The most powerful common denominator that connects us all is pain. Find and speak to the pain and you will get a response. Last Father’s Day, we gave a book on family leadership to every man in attendance at church, preached a message on leadership in the home, and offered a class on how to be the spiritual leader in your family. More than 500 men showed up that week for the classes, which we spun out into small groups. Why? They felt intuitive relational pain in that area.
REMINDER #3: Men who are helped in an area of deep need by your men’s ministry will become your strongest future leaders. Celebrate Recovery produces more leaders than any other ministry in our church. It’s not rocket science when you think about it. Help a man defeat his biggest demon, and you have one loyal soldier who is asking “What’s next?” Our motto here is: Touch the pain. Transform his life. Take him down a pathway of leadership development.
REMINDER #4: The goal must be to establish a men’s culture, not a men’s ministry. One is relational; the other is program driven. One is identity based; the other is activity based. One says “Come and see” first and then “Come and commit;” the other says "Come and commit right out of the gate." A strong men’s culture moves a man down a path of progressively higher commitment. A culture incubates a virus: A man gets exposed, gets infected, and then infects others.
REMINDER # 5: Developing leaders must be the focus over doing events. First and foremost, this requires a dedicated and mature leader who men will follow and desire to imitate. Second, it requires a leader who reproduces leaders like himself. Third, it requires a well-thought-out plan of public ministry to men combined with a private pathway of leader development where men are selected and trained. Fourth, leader development goals must be communicated consistently, executed practically, and reproduced simply in all that is done. Jesus said, “But everyone, after he has been trained, will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40 NASB)
If you would like to get your church on a path like the one I described, I strongly recommend hosting an Every Man Conference in your church. It will connect men in small groups and provide the training needed for your men's leadership to put more men from your church and community on a purpose-driven pathway toward spiritual health. Click here for more information.
Kenny Luck is the Men's Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He is also the Founder and President of Every Man Ministries which helps churches worldwide develop and grow healthy men's communities. Please visit www.everymanministries.com for more information.