Volunteers Needed

Pic 003Five weeks ago, Hurricane Florence came ashore in North Caroline causing devastation with 1000s of homes being flooded or receiving severe wind damage.  Immediately after the storm passed many organizations began gearing up to provide relief and start recovery of those effected by the storm.  Many of us have been working tirelessly since then providing services such as feeding; removing contents and damage sheetrock, insulation, flooring, cabinets, etc; removing vegetation debris; and administrative support.  Many volunteers have stepped up coming from as far away as Oklahoma, Indiana, and New Jersey to assist in this massive effect.  Now less than two weeks ago Hurricane Michael came ashore in the Panhandle of Florida causing more devastation.  Our volunteer base is being stretched because of these two hurricanes.

Pic 001Therefore, I want to encourage you to find an organization assisting the many that are hurting and volunteer your time.  Maybe you are saying I cannot do physical labor anymore.  Understand, but there could be administrative duties you can help with.  Maybe you can just be a friendly face someone needs to see as they come asking for assistance.  Many are comforted just by having someone to talk with and who will pray with them.  Some organizations need volunteers to make meals for the volunteers and provide other support.

Pic 002I want to encourage you to find an organization and consider volunteering a day or even a few hours.  If you own a business, consider encouraging your employees to volunteer by giving them a paid day to do so like some businesses have done.  Volunteers are going to be needed for many months and even years to help the many affected by these storms to bring some sort of normalcy back into their lives.

Don’t be Afraid to Start Small

Disciple MakingI was recently asked, “What if only two men show up?”  My answer.  “Start with those two.”

When I first began to work in Men’s Ministry, which today I refer to as Ministering to Men – for that is what we are really doing – I was disappointed if 100 men didn’t show up for an event.  Especially for a church who had a membership of over 2000 with about 800-1000 men connected in some way with the church.  Many times, only 20-30 men would show up for monthly activities and often the numbers were even lower.  Even when we planned events that we thought would interest men; the Boomer generation was the primary group attending and not all of them were coming.  In addition, I could not understand why the younger men did not attend.  I felt as if I had failed.

But, as I began to study the culture and what men are looking for I began to realize the way we were doing men’s ministry was not working anymore.  What we had done for the past 30-40 years no longer works.  Today, men – especially younger men – are so much busier then they have ever been before.  Recognize that;

  • Many are working long hours to provide for their families and just don’t feel like attending anything after they leave their jobs for the day – week.
  • Their children are more involved in sports than ever before. Playing 3-4 sports, practices, and games every weekend doesn’t leave much time for family, down-time to rest, and especially time to go to another event or activity.

courageous-movie-men-praying-7Men leaders are finding it is easier for men to meet in small groups in places like coffee shops, at the gym, in their offices, at restaurants over a meal, maybe in someone’s home.  Places that seems to be outside the box and not what we in the past has considered the norm.  There are many resources available for groups like these and do not require much preparation.

In addition, when you keep men discipleship groups size down to about three to four you will find the bond between men will be even stronger and in turn it will strengthen the church.  Dr. Gary Yagel in his book Got Your Back, says “If the church has any hope of strengthening its men, it must get men into relationships with other men.  It cannot continue to largely ignore the need men have for connection.”  Remember, even though Jesus picked 12 men to pour his life into and sent them out to change the world, he pulled three of those men, Peter, James, and John, even closer; allowing them to see his glory, successes, and struggles in a different perspective.  He connected with those men in a totally different way than he did the rest of the disciples.

So, don’t be afraid to start small with just a few people in the group.  In fact, this group could be the catalyst to see more groups to start over time.  As these men begin to see the benefit and begin talking and sharing how God is using the group to help them grow, it will inspire other men to be part of a group.

I am currently meeting with a few men with the hope we will roll out to other men who will be led by the men in this group when the time is right.  The tendency for us is that we want to see tremendous results now.  But the reality is, it takes five to ten years to develop an effective ministry to men in the local church.  I realize most men don’t have the patience.  It took me a few years to realize it wasn’t me or that the men were not interested.  We just had to understand the problem and find a different approach.  So, keep at it.  God will reward your efforts.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Reaching Men: Going Beyond the Normal Saturday Morning Breakfast

Discipleship GroupFor the past couple of months, I have written about planning for the coming church year and asking the question, “Where are the Men?”  This month as you continue planning let’s look at some ways that we can reach men that are connected with our churches but are not attending any of the men only events.

When we begin to think holistically about the men of our churches, we find men everywhere; not only are they involved in men only activities, but they are working as Sunday School Teachers, working with children, working with the youth, ushering, singing in the choir, playing in the band, deacons, elders, working in Disaster Relief/Recovery, recreational leagues and the list could go on.  We have men, who are on the fringes of the church.  Their children are attending our preschools, VBS, AWANAs, Ranger Ministries, Summer Camps, and this list could probably continue.  But the question is; “How do we minister to these men?”

We need to think outside the box of our typical ministry to men and begin to understand these men may not be able to have time to work on projects; but, many of them are looking for meaningful relationships with other men who are willing to pour their life into them.  Many of them don’t even know what they are looking for; but, they know cropped-2013-09-07-08-28-20.jpgthere is something missing.  I am reminded of 1 Thessalonian 2:8 where Paul said, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”  The phrase to understand and make it a part of your ministry to men is “to share not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (bold for emphasis).  Let me give you a few examples of how we can do that.

  • A lead Usher who makes cards with a verse on one side and points about the verse on the other side and gives it to those helping on Sunday morning. Spend five minutes talking about the verse and then praying with the men.  This could be expanded to men who are members of the choir or praise band, parking cars, teaching, etc.  That is ministering to men.
  • A Sunday School Teacher who plans events for the men of his group to attend ballgames, racing events, fishing, etc. to develop relationships so he can pour his life into the men and they can see he works through life issues just like them.
  • A church who gives a book out to all the men of the church dealing with men life issues. Encourage a time for any man who desires to meet and walk through the book once again helping them see he is not the only one who struggles with life issues.
  • A man who reaches out to 2-3 men and invites them to meet with him regularly to walk through a book or read and talk about a book in the Bible.
  • Begin a mentoring ministry where seasoned men can put their name on a list for younger men to connect with to help them grow.
  • Create events for dads of preschoolers, VBS or other children ministry attendees to attend an event with their child and provide the dads an opportunity to join a group that may help him be the dad and husband God desires for them to be.

But most of all we need to create a welcoming atmosphere for men.  They need to feel no pressure or judgements, remember they are people and not projects.  We need to understand that everything our church does that touches any man is ministering to men.  Everything!  There is an old saying in the business world, “Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.”  Therefore, our ministry to men are perfectly designed to produce the type of men we have sitting in the pews of our churches.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike

 

 

 

Spiritual Mentor – Discipleship Group Survey

SurveyIn our Conversation on Ministering to Men I have written a lot about discipling relationships.  So I was wondering how many are in a discipling relationship or do they even know what is a discipling relationship.  I put together a simple survey to get a basic understanding of what people may or may not understand about discipling.  Three questions.  Depending on the your answer to the first question you may not need to answer the Q2 or Q3.

Take a moment and click the link below to ‘Take this Survey’ to answer the questions.  Thank you.

Take this survey

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike

Light Your Fire!

As we approach Christmas we are probably all excited about spending time with family and friends.  If you are like me you may even be taking a break from all the hustle and bustle of ministry to deal with the programs, get togethers, and parties that come with this time of the year.  Though there is nothing wrong with that, we need remind ourselves to stay focus on our relationship with God and not let our fire – our passion – die.

This time of year, while it is cool, many 20161204_150627[1]of us will light fires in our fireplaces or in the fire pit outside.  Maybe spending time around some fire pit roasting marshmallows as we gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas.  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” uh.. sorry, got carried away in the moment.  Anyway, we start those fires and we don’t think much about them afterwards, unless the fire starts to die down and we stoke it or put some more logs on the fire to keep it going.

We get so busy in this time of the year some of us either forget or neglect (I will let you choose) our devotions.  With the New Year fast approaching it is my hope and prayer we will find time to reflect on this past year on reaching our men.  What did we do right and what could we approve on?  One thing I feel we all can do more, is to encourage our men to develop an intentional and intimate relationship with God.  How to keep the fire burning?

Recently I finished a study in Leviticus and one of the items I was drawn to, though I have read it many times, was the command God gave to Moses and Aaron about the fire on the altar.  In Leviticus 6:12, the Lord told Moses, “The fire on the altar is to be kept burning: it must not go out” (CSB).

If you know anything about the anatomy of a fire, you know there are three elements required for any fire to burn.  First is the heat.  Heat must be present.  Without heat the fire will not burn.  Throw some water on it, you will take away the heat and the fire will eventually die.  Second, a fire must have oxygen.  Just like humans this helps the fire to breath.  Just like us, you take away the oxygen, basically suffocating the fire, it will die; and finally, you must have fuel.  Rather it is wood, paper, gas, or something else.  It must be some sort of a combustible product.  But if you take the fuel away from the Heat and Oxygen, guess what, the fire will die.  You must have all three to sustain an active fire.  Without any one of these – heat, oxygen, fuel – the fire will die.  It cannot live on.

When I read Leviticus 6:12 it got me thinking.  In fact, in verse 13 God was even more emphatic about keeping the fire going, He said, the “Fire must be kept burning… continually; it must not go out” (bold is mine).  I wrote in the margins of my Bible here, “Example of our passion for God.”  Our fire must not go out.  The fire that is within us.  The fire, that when we surrendered to God, that became alive in us, must not go out.  But let’s face it, there are days when we feel this fire has gone out; or at least it is down to the embers just glowing, it is no longer a raging fire.  It will not take much more for the fire to die.  What do we do?  What will keep this fire within us raging – burning.

Just like the fire in the Fire Pit or the Fireplace, we need three elements to keep the fire in our lives – our passion – burning for God.  We need to have three disciplines in our lives active to keep that fire burning.  Below is the three elements we need to maintain an active fire – passion – in our lives.

  1. Spend time in the Word of God. This is your fuel.  I don’t mean when you go to church or a Bible Study, I mean read it every day.  Discipline yourself to read the Bible.  I recommend reading at least five chapters a day.  Depending on the length of the chapters this will take 15 to 30 minutes.  Dedicate a time in the day.  Get up a half hour earlier.  Turn off that TV a half hour earlier.  Use your lunch break.  Seek a time to do it and DO IT!  Nothing will cause your fire to go out quicker than neglecting the reading of the Word; taking away the fuel of the fire.  And when you read, allow it to find a place in your heart and meditate on it.  “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11).
  2. Spend time in Prayer. This is your heat.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.”  Always being in an attitude of prayer.  But you also need to discover your prayer closet and spend time there.  Often, we read in the gospels about Jesus stealing himself away to spend time in prayer – sometimes praying all night.  You need to spend time talking and listening to God.  If your attitude towards prayer begins to cool down then your fire – passion – will begin to become nothing more than embers, barely hanging on.
  3. Spend time with other believers. This is your oxygen.  We cannot live this life alone.  Jesus sent his disciples out in twos.  The apostles had traveling companions in ministry.  Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us that “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.”  Verse 10 says, “For if either on them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”  Then at the end of verse 10 a warning is given, “But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”  All of us need Barnabases around us.  Gathering together to worship.  Hanging out with each other.  Working together.  We need others in our lives to keep us encourage and to pray with us when we begin to feel suffocated with the struggles of life.

If your fire is dying and it is just the slight glow of the embers or has gone out completely, examine yourself like we are told to do in Lamentation 3:40.  Probe your ways.  You may find out that one of these three disciplines are missing from your life.  If one is, put it back into the mix to keep the fire burning.  Do something to activate the fire again.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Be Thankful – Always!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name. – Psalm 100:4

ThanksgivingThe Thanksgiving season is upon us.  Thursday, we will be celebrating this year’s Thanksgiving Day.  Families and friends will gather in homes and other places to enjoy a hearty meal, desserts, maybe watch football, or even play a game of football as a family.  My oldest grandson told me this weekend he was going to play football with his Dad’s family this weekend while visiting in Ohio.

But so often we enter this day as just another holiday and though we talk about this holiday being a day to be thankful, we oftentimes overlook what we are thankful for.  Yesterday while in church I heard the pastor state we shouldn’t be thankful only once a year; but, our lives should be lived as a Thanksliving.  Being thankful for what God has done for us every day all year long.

So, what am I thankful about?

First, my relationship with God.  The fact that He loved me so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that I could have eternal life and have it more abundantly.  That even in my depraved state, Jesus loved me to the point of death so that I can be saved.  Without Him and the relationship I have with Him, all those I mention below would not be possible.

I am thankful for my wife.  For over 41 years she has stood beside me and have been a blessing to me, in the good times and the bad.  We have worked through them together.  She has been a wonderful Mom to our two children, she has been an adopted mom to our in-law children and treat them as if they are her own.  And of course, she is a great Memom to our grandchildren.  Always having that right snack around the house.

I am thankful for my children.  They are a delight of my eyes and a joy to my heart.  They too have blessed me beyond measure.  I have been blessed that they have stayed in the area and I can see them often.  I know many parents do not have that luxury and I am grateful that God has seen to it they have been able to stay close by.  And I am thankful for the ones God placed in my children’s path to marry.  My in-law children are as much a part of my family as my own children and I like to think of them as my own.

Proverbs tells us that “Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly” (Pro. 17:6).  Or as some translations say, “of the age” or “old men.”  I don’t consider myself none of those yet, but my grandchildren are a crown.  One of the most enjoyable times in my life now is my grandchildren climbing in my lap to share Peanut M&Ms or to watch, as one calls it, “Kirock.”  For those that don’t understand the language, that stands for Coyote of Roadrunner and Coyote.  What a joy it is to watch them grow.

I am thankful for my extended family, my brother who has been a support to me in so many ways after our Dad died when I was 14 years old.  Offering me wisdom though I didn’t listen to him when I was much younger.  A sister who died quite some time ago, who while I was growing up, always showed her love to me.  My in-laws, Joanne’s family, as they have been like brothers and a sister to me.  Joanne’s Mom as she has treated me as one of her own.

Thankful of the many friends I have, too many to count or mention individually.  Scripture tell us “the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel” (Prov. 27:9).  Thankful for my church family.  Thankful for my partners in ministry throughout the state of North Carolina and the nation (you know who you are).

To have all the family and friends and knowing my Savior Jesus Christ that I am thankful for would not have been possible if it had not been for my Mom and Dad, who both many years ago, have gone to be with the Lord.  Who made sure the first time I went to church was nine months before I was born.  They made sure I was in church regularly hearing the Word of God.  To that I am very grateful because all the others that I mentioned above may not have been possible.

Thank you to all of you who have been an inspiration and an encouragement to me throughout my life.

To the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike.

The Farm Road

The farm road I was walking this morning as the sun was rising over the property was quiet.  Nothing wa20170814_080542[1]s stirring on it as I dodge puddles left by the recent rain.  No vehicles moving, no animals that live in the woods of the property.  Just me as I talked with God.  Every five minutes the app running on my phone would chime in and would let me know how far I had walked and how long I have been walking.

This morning I spent time praising God for who he is.  My rock, my fortress, my strong tower.  Praying about the events of the weekend how it saddens me as I read of how people behave claiming to be Christians; yet their character and attitude did not display the image of God as we saw through Jesus as he walked on the earth.  Praying that these people would see the real Jesus, have the heart of Christ, compassion of Christ, and love each other like He did, even those who hated him, to the point of dying for them, not because of them.

As I walked down the road I looked to my right and spotted a deer looking at me through the thick bushes and trees that hug the road so closely; reminding me how people are watching us through their struggles and misunderstanding of the gospel, watching to see how we will react to them and what our response will be.   This morning I let the deer go on it’s way but if it had been hunting season and I was a hunter I could have easily dropped the deer right where he stood.  Much like many who are filled with hate and don’t know the love of Christ will do to people who do not look like them, talk like them, or hold to the same ideals.  They are like hunters looking for their next target.   I pray these individuals will come to know Christ in an intimate and intentional way; for when they do, they will be repulsed by the actions we saw this weekend.

As I continued to walk I was reminded of the path we are on.  At least those who are truly followers of Christ.  When I looked down the road I saw the bushes and trees close to the road and knew that I could not veer off the road without getting scratch from the limbs and having to fight the limbs to find a path that was not there.  But so many people are.  They struggle every day because they are trying to live life on their own, doing things that looks right in their own eyes, yet falling into a quagmire where they do not understand how they got there or how to get out.  When all they had to do was stay on the path.  A path that Christ Himself created for us to follow.  The teachings of the Bible, the Word of God.  Yes, we will step into puddles for time to time or get struck in the ditch but God’s Word can and will help us to know how He wants us to live.  I imagine the majority of those this weekend that participated in this weekend events have probably spent little time in reading, much less allowing the Word to find a place in their heart.

I pray that God will intervene and cause those who do not know Him to be pierced with the Word and the Holy Spirit will begin a work in their life that will result in a life with Christ; truly imitating his character and attitude of our Lord and Savior.

As men who are in Christ we must be the example to our families and communities of who Christ is.  “As men we must be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.  Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

By the way – I walked 1.33 miles in 29 minutes.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike