Why a Priority for Men’s Ministry?
by Dudley Foord
Interact Magazine 1997
Volume 8 Number 2
Social changes in the last 20 years have been enormous and the impact on men has been disorienting and destabilising. So much confusion has been caused by the redefinition of gender and roles, the pushing of feminism and the search for identity. Little wonder men are so bewildered! There is, therefore, an urgent need to help Christian men in our churches to be taught with clarity God’s plan for them.
The special needs of Christian men cannot be met only by the regular Sunday pulpit ministry or in mixed Home Fellowship Groups. It is essential to establish a vital ministry to men – teaching and patiently discipling them to effectively function in their personal life, marriage, family, work and church, and also helping them to connect with non-Christians in order to share the gospel with them.
There are several other compelling reasons why such a ministry needs to be initiated …
Across Australia, the average congregation is made up of 67% women and 33% men.
We dare not sit back, shrugging our shoulders and say that’s the way it is! Surely something needs to be done to redress this serious imbalance and reach more men. Aussie males are reachable for Christ.
Men are generally more difficult to reach than women.
Their schedules are packed and demanding as they try to be super-husbands and super-dads, giving time to the family, community and church. To motivate men in the local church, therefore, special plans need to be creatively put together. This requires more time and effort on the part of church leadership, or little will be achieved.
However, men will respond to creative leadership and make time available when they recognise it is for their good to help them grow in the Christian life. Then when such men in turn make special efforts to connect with non-Christians, they will discover that Aussie males can be reached and won for Christ as they are befriended and loved.
A man’s influence on his wife and family is enormous.
Although statistics vary, the situation is generally something like this:
If a child joins a children’s group in a church (eg. a Boys/Girls Club or Sunday School) and his or her parents do not attend the church, then only 2-5% of these children are converted to Christ and continue as adult Christians.
If the mother of the child is a Christian and attends the church, the proportion of children who continue as convinced Christians jumps to 20-30%.
If the father attends the church then the proportion of children who continue as practising adult Christians jumps to 70-85%! In addition, the whole family will generally attend too.
This alone is sufficient to warrant a priority for men’s ministry.
Generally speaking, churches will be weak where there is no effective men’s ministry.
The small proportion of men in a church is usually overworked keeping the church functioning, with little opportunity of receiving ministry to enable them to grow to be mature Christian men. In a significant number of churches it would seem that women are forging ahead in their spiritual lives while men are not. This is not the fault of the men, but rather the result of the ministry priorities of those churches.
The New Testament is replete with clear teaching (eg. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) that spiritual leadership in the local church is generally designated to men. This does not mean that women are to be relegated to only serving cups of tea! On the contrary, mature, spiritual male leadership in a local church establishes the liberating context for a very significant women’s ministry.
God has created us for relationships. Many Christian men hold to the notion that they are just too busy for time to be given to building close relationships with other men.
But it is in the context of the joy and pain of maintaining close relationships that we grow to maturity. The buttoned-up Christian loner who keeps to himself does miss out on knowing much of the living God in experiential terms. It is in relationships that knowledge of God becomes deep and real. A vital men’s ministry will provide a structure for such relationships to exist.
Many Christian men misunderstand their role and ministry in the local church. There is a widespread notion that the quintessence of male spiritual leadership consists of sitting on the main church committee and making big important decisions.
This aspect of ministry is not to be minimised. However, it is possible for a man to be so engrossed with the nuts and bolts of the church’s administration that he has no time left for the nurture of his own spiritual life. There are men in our churches who have sat for years on committees but who are sadly only babes in Christ. Worse still, they are not even aware of it. Every Christian man needs to recognise that God’s plan calls for him to grow in godliness and Christ-likeness (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:1-4) as a top priority. When a church has godly, wise, mature men to sit on committees and provide spiritual oversight, it will reap great benefits from such godly male leadership. Dissention is often caused by ungodly leadership which has not grown up in Christ.
Most relationships are of a peer group character. Few Christian men recognise the importance of significant relationships with other men across the age range.
A men’s ministry can facilitate the development of such meaningful relationships across the generational boundaries. The old need the young and vice versa. This breadth of relationship can build up each Christian man and in turn impact the whole church. It really is a tragedy in many Australian churches that activities and fellowship are so segmented in watertight compartments, that no thought is ever given to the importance of cross-generational relationships.
The Christian man is a key player in establishing a stable Christian family and home.
Love is to prevail and the home is to be a storehouse of love and wonderful memories. It ought to be a place where people love to come – warm and always welcoming, where hospitality is generously offered to all (not only friends). With the marriage break-up rate at 42% and the steep increase in dysfunctional families, a stable Christian home can have a profound ministry to other fragile and divided families.
Additionally, a Christian home needs to be a place where the gospel is told and explained to people. A men’s ministry will supply the motivation and know-how to achieve a vibrant Christian home.
It is so easy to be squeezed by the world into its own mould.
Each Christian man needs to have his vision of Christ and of being a godly leader constantly renewed. A men’s ministry can provide this in a very specific way.
For these reasons it is URGENT that a men’s ministry be pioneered and maintained in every church as an essential instrument of ministry to build up Christian men in Christ. A necessary component in this process is the training and equipping of them to be godly.
In conclusion, let it be said that a significant men’s ministry is hard to get off the ground. If there is one in a church it is often not done well, or little is attempted, as there is an inadequate grasp of what constitutes a men’s ministry.
It is not enough for a minister to delegate this ministry to a responsible leader. Certainly an appropriate leader needs to be appointed, but the minister needs to demonstrate enthusiasm for this ministry by warm-hearted participation and constant encouragement, for a vital men’s ministry will have a significant impact on the life of the church as a whole.
Bishop Dudley Foord has a church consultancy ministry and is Chairman of the Katoomba Men’s Convention.
© Copyright 1997 Christian Growth Ministries Inc