Getting Men Involved in Men’s Ministry

20180407_135802[1]This past weekend I attended the North Carolina Baptist on Mission (NCBM) Mission Conference.  While there I assisted in leading breakout sessions on Men’s Ministry or Ministry to Men as I like to refer to it these days.

The attendees to the breakout sessions were asked to complete an information card with a couple of questions.  One of the questions was asking for their biggest struggle or challenge they faced in ministering to the men of their church.  The area most of the attendees stated their biggest challenge did not surprise me as this is what I often hear.  Their biggest challenge?  ‘How can we get more men involved including the younger men?’  This is a great question.

20180407_120229[1]This is a common issue with most churches who desire to have a vibrant ministry to men.  There are three areas that churches lack as they seek to reach the men of the church.  When I began in ministering to men a number of years ago my mentor share these with me and he regularly reminds me of them.  As I visit churches and talk with men’s leaders I see these ‘lack of actions’ in the majority of churches.  So, what are they?

  1. Lack of Intentionality. Failing to target the men of the church.  Many churches desire to have a ministry to men, but they do not target the men or think about how to involve the men in everything they do.  What does it mean to target men?  The pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church puts it this way, “We unashamedly target men in our church, in our messages, in our… well, almost everything.”  Statistics tells us that if you get the man, you get everyone else within his sphere of influence – especially his family.  With the younger men their lives have become so busy in this day they have very little time to attend another activity, so you have to think outside the box.  Which leads to the second point.
  2. Lack of Multiple Entry Points. Often, we think in terms of a Saturday Morning Breakfast, Tuesday Night Supper, or a Bible Study.  But what are you doing to reach the men whose children attend VBS, the church’s Pre-school, youth ministries, men who are involved in the Welcoming Team or ushering or singing in the choir.  Are you encouraging Sunday School Teachers or Home Groups Fellowships to develop something for the men attending?  I have heard of a Lead Usher using business cards to place a verse on one side and a few points about the verse on the other side.  He then gives these cards to the men helping the next Sunday, using the cards as a short devotion, then praying with the men before they begin the morning.  Just five minutes and he is ministering to men.  Or the Sunday School teacher that plans outings with just his men in the class developing relationships to disciple.  There are many ways to create entry points for men to be ministered though the various ministries of the church, we just need to look beyond what we have considered the normal venue for ministering to men.  Which to do this takes us to the next point.
  3. Knowing Your Players. My mentor was a basketball coach for many years thereby using this term.  But you understand what I am saying.  Get to know your men.  Not all men will be drawn to a particular event or study but maybe if it is something they are interested in they will come.  You know the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.”  Conduct a survey with the men of your church.  Go to baptistsonmission.org/Church-Programs/Men-s-Ministry/Resources-and-Events for a ‘Simple Interest Men’s Survey.’  Or use it to create your own.  Just don’t make it too complex.  Then use the information from the surveys to get to Know Your Players and then create opportunities for Entry Points for your men.

There you are, the three common lack of actions most every church is not doing.  When you get your ministry team together begin thinking in these terms.  As you put these actions in play I believe you will begin to see more men involved, especially your younger men.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike

Two Are Better Than One: Watching Together

Two are better than oneFor the past few posts we have been looking at Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12.

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

In the first post regarding this scripture I shared with you this is a good description for men to apply Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV), into their lives to encouragement men as they develop an intentional relationship with God.

In previous posts we have looked at verse 9 encouraging men to work together; and verse 10, encouraging men to walk together.   This post we will look at verse 12 that gives an indication of our third action and that is men ought to be watching together or in the action of watchcare.  Watching out for each other as we work and walk together in our daily activities and spiritual growth.

Verse 12 of Ecclesiastes 4 states;

12if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Back in the day when Solomon wrote this, it was dangerous to travel alone.  They traveled in groups for fellowship and safety.  We can say the same in today’s culture.  It is dangerous out there.  The enemy is lurking around, waiting for the opportunity to trip us up.  To cause us to fall into that pit spoken of in verse 10.  And if you do not have someone walking alongside of you and watching with you – you can end up being a statistic of another brother who fell in a pit with no one to help pull you out.

But if you have someone to walk along side of you that we can confide in and who can encourage us as we navigate this world, you will have a better chance to resist anything the enemy may try to overpower you with.

As I read the New Testament, I see men ministering alongside other men.  Jesus sent the disciples out in twos (Luke 10:1).  The apostles had each other.  Paul had Barnabas and then Silas.  Barnabas had Paul and then Mark.  Paul poured his life into Timothy.  If these men who we like to put on a pedestal as examples of Christ Followers had men walking alongside of them, watching with them and providing accountability for their actions, what makes us think that we men don’t need this today?

When we meet with men in our discipleship groups we need to ask hard questions and we should expect hard questions to be asked of us.  Questions such as; “Have you read the Bible this week?  What did you read and what did God reveal to you?  How were you tempted this week and how did you respond?  How is it going with your wife?  Do you feel you are in the center of God’s will for your life?  What are you struggling with in secret?  Are your priorities in the right order?  Is the ‘visible you’ the ‘real you’ and are you consistent in your relationships?”

Hard questions.  Asking the hard questions is an accountability tool but it is also men showing brotherly love to other men – watching out for each other to ensure we do not allow ourselves to step off into a lifestyle that will hinder our relationship with God and with others.

Do you ask hard questions to the men you have relationships with?  Do you allow men to ask you hard questions?  If we are serious about sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron, then we will allow these questions to be asked.  We will allow other men to ‘call us out’ when we are moving in a direction with our life that will hinder our walk with God and our relationship with others.

The interesting idea about verse twelve is the use of a cord or rope.  As twine is woven to make a cord it becomes stronger as each twine is woven around and through another.  The more twine woven the stronger the cord becomes.  Thereby the verse says two may be able resist; but, three is not easily broken.

So, I encourage men to look for men who will ask these questions and others as necessary.  You will be amazed how this will help you to stay true to God’s word if you are honest with your answers.  Get in a group of two to three guys that holds you accountable and provide a watch care for you.

Next post will be the conclusion of this series.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike.

 

Two Are Better Than One: Walking Together

Two are better than oneFor the past few posts we have been looking at Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12.

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

In the first post regarding this scripture I shared with you this is a good description for men to apply Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV), into their lives to encouragement men as they develop an intentional relationship with God.

In the previous post we looked at verse 9 encouraging men to work together.  In this post we will look at verse 10 encouraging men to walk together.

In the last decade one of the things I enjoy doing, is to pour my life into other men.  1 Thessalonians 2:8 shows the example of this as Paul and his companions spoke of their passion towards the people of Thessalonica;

8We 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.

Ten years ago, while I was going through some health trails of my own I was invited to join a small group of men on Saturday morning from my church.  I discovered this group of men were men who not only loved the Lord but had a strong desire to pour their lives into other men.

  • Men who encourage other men as they are going through their own struggles of life.
  • Men who share their own battles and how they walk through those struggles.
  • Men who taught God’s word.
  • Men who encourage scripture memorization.
  • Men who would hold me accountable. Ask me some hard questions about integrity, bible reading, my devotion time.
  • Men who would pray with me and be available whenever necessary.

This had a dramatic effect on my life.  This drew me closure in my walk with God, more than anything else I had ever done in the church.  It helped me to develop an intimate and intentional relationship with God.  More so than I had ever known.  And because of that time in my life, God gave me a passion – a burden – to minister to men.

Today I meet with men regularly.  As an example, I meet with one group of men once a week early in the morning at a local McDonald’s restaurant before they head off to work.  We talk about their past week; their rewards and their struggles.  I ask them what they are reading, in the bible and in general.  I ask them about their devotion time.  We study God’s word.  We pray.  This is Walking Together as men deal with the issues of life and the culture of the world we live in.  Encouraging men by letting them know they are not alone and there is someone there that can help pull them out of the pit if they fall.

We men have a knack of trying to do life on our own.  But when you look at scriptures you see that is not how Jesus showed us.  Jesus pulled 12 men close to him to teach and encourage.  He pulled three of those men – Peter, James, and John – even closure to pour His life into those men.

Jesus modeled what it really means to disciple – to mentor.  To go after the real issues that affect an individual’s relationship with God and others.  And the only way you can do that is to develop an intentional relationship with others.

Jesus taught his followers to make disciples, not converts.  The way a believer moves from one to the other is through the intentional discipleship of their character, knowledge, vision, and skills.  While evangelism brings people to Christ, discipleship brings people to “full growth in Christ” so they can be “equipped for every good work” (Eph 4:15, 2 Tim 3:17).

When Jesus pulled those 12 men into his circle He knew what we all know: men are like icebergs – we only see the tip; but, there’s a much deeper spiritual drama unfolding below the waterline.

Men in the church today face the same challenges and frustrations as men outside of the church.  That should not be.  For example, in the book ‘No Man Left Behind’ it states that for every ten men in the church;

  • Nine will have children who leave the church.
  • Eight will find their jobs dissatisfying.
  • Six will pay the monthly minimum on their credit card bills.
  • Five will have a major problem with pornography.
  • Four will get divorced – affecting one million children each year.
  • Only one will have a biblical world-view.
  • And, all ten will struggle to balance work and family.

Men, we need each other.  As I talk with men, without exception, every one of them will tell me they struggle the most when they are alone.  Every one of us need a man who can walk alongside of us.  This is what discipleship is all about.

When we talk to men we find that though they may not be showing it on the outside, we find that many men are hurting.  Something is holding them back from feeling fully alive.  They inevitably mention one or more of seven inner aches and pains that most men feel when they are trying to do this journey on their own:

  • I just feel like I’m in this alone.
  • I don’t feel like God cares about me personally – not really.
  • I don’t feel like my life has a purpose – it feels random.
  • I have these destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down.
  • My soul feels dry.
  • My most important relationship is not healthy.
  • I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that will make a difference and leave the world in a better place.

So, what do we do about it.  What do we do to help these men and how will it impact the church?

We will discuss that next time as we look at verse 12 of Ecclesiastes 4.  It will be the third action that we need to apply in our lives as we encourage men in their walk with Christ – the action of watchcare.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike.

 

Two Are Better Than One: Working Together

Two are better than oneIn my previous post I shared that many Men’s Ministries use Proverb 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV) as their scripture verse for the ministry.  Though this is true, we need to understand how this is done, how does one man sharpen another?  It is not done just because you attend church together, sitting next to each other in a church service or at a men’s conference.  We need to understand how to sharpen each other and I believe Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 helps us understand how men need to go about sharpening each other.  We read this from those verses;

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

I have come to appreciate this text in Ecclesiastes more for what ministering to men should be all about.  In the previous post I shared there are three actions I see that we can glean from this text for us to apply in our lives to help us minister to men.

In this post we are going to look at the first of these actions which is working together.  Look at verse 9 again,

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.

In the New American Standard Bible, the last few words of this verse read, “good return for their labor.”  We see in this verse the attitude of working with another and not working alone.  As we work together we increase our output, our efficiency, our effectiveness in accomplishing the task we are about.

Working with others has advantages.  God designed us for companionship, not isolation and not loneliness.  We men sometimes prefer isolation.  I know I do.  I enjoy my time alone and to be perfectly honest with you, I like working alone.  I feel like I can get more accomplished when I am by myself.  But that is not really true.

Working together we not only have a good reward for our efforts; but, we also begin to develop relationships with those we are working with.  Working together gives us an opportunity to get to know the people God has place in our lives.  By getting to know these individuals, winning their trust, you will earn the privilege to speak into their lives as God leads.

Working together also helps us to recognize the work God is doing.  We have the joy of seeing God’s hand as He is transforming men into His image.  Those who are more mature in Christ can also be an example to those who are new in their walk.  They can provide encouragement.

A few months ago, I had the privilege to travel to Big Pines Key, Florida with about 15 others to help in the recovery effort from Hurricane Irma.  Though it was a blessing to help the people in Florida there was even an additional blessing to work alongside other men.  We walked into some sad and devastated areas that most would not know where to start.  But because there were men working together we encouraged each other and got right to work on the property and house we were assigned and within a few short hours had the property and the outside of the house cleaned up to allow reconstruction.

What we did in Florida was a massive undertaking, I know that, but there are tasks and mission opportunities in our communities that men need to be working together to encourage each other to complete.  To advance the kingdom of God and bring needed help to those in our communities that cannot do it on their own.  Sometimes just getting together to fellowship with each other over a meal, or watching a sporting event, or some other activity can go a long way to help create those relationships.

We see this throughout scripture.  Jesus sent the disciples out in twos.  The apostles worked together in at least groups of two.  Always ministering and supporting each other wherever they went.  This is the example men need to take and apply to their own lives.  Working alone can and will allow you to be an easy target for the enemy.  So do not do it wherever possible.

Men need to be building relationships, so they can be there when men need encouragement and together we can advance the kingdom of God by working alongside each other to help those who are in need.

Through work activities men can encourage and support other men who may be struggling and as you develop relationships with these men we move to the next action we see in this text.

Next time we will look at the second action we need to apply to our lives; Walking Together.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike.

 

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than oneWow!  We are in a New Year and already at the start of the second month.  Where does the time go?  Seems that we just start one new year and then Wham!, another is upon us.  This year is starting off with a bang.  Many of us has dealt with the flu or some other sickness during January.  The first two weeks of this year had me down as I ran a fever for eight straight days.  That will zap the strength right out of you and it takes a while to get your stamina back.  But I am back and ready to see what God is going to do in 2018.

Since I have been involved in ministering to men, I have had the opportunity to meet with men throughout Southeast North Carolina and across the state regularly.  There are many men who are doing great work for our Lord and growing daily in a relationship with God.  However, there are a large number of men who are struggling with life issues.

One of my struggles, according to my wife, is that she tells me that my filter is wearing out.  That sometimes I speak before I think about what I am going to say.  Well that may be true.  But, you know, I like being surprised just like everyone else.  I may make light of our struggles, but I am like every other man when I say that I too struggle with issues.

Over the next few posts I want to share with you how men in our churches can be impacting other men in their local body of believers.  How they can be an encourager and help men who are struggling with life issues.

When we ask most churches, what are they doing with their men or what does their Men’s Ministries consist of, we find that it is centered around gathering events or mission opportunities.  That is all well and good and I certainly encourage these activities; but, we need to understand that ministering to men is much more.  Many times, Men’s Ministries uses Proverb 27:17 as their scripture verse;

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV).

Though Proverbs 27:17 is true, that one man does sharpens another, there is a text in Ecclesiastes I believe helps us to understand how men need to go about sharpening each other.  The text is found in Chapter 4 verses 9-10, 12.

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

Read this text again.  Verse 9 and the beginning of verse 10 is a word of encouragement; but then, at the end of verse 10 we see a warning, “but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  Then verse 12 provides us another word of encouragement.

Over the last decade I have come to appreciate this text in Ecclesiastes more for what ministering to men should be all about.  The next several posts we will unpack this text and discuss the three actions I see for us to apply in our lives to help us minister to men we encounter.

I will give you a hint and tell you we will find it all deals with relationships.  Rather men want to admit it or not – men respond to ‘manly’ relationships.  As Tim, the Tool Man Taylor would say, “Auugghhh?”  Men are somewhat isolationist when it comes to their feelings; they rarely share their feelings, even to their wives.  And they certainly are not going to share with another man unless they know they can trust the individual completely.

Men, if they are left to their own devices, will run like water taking the path of lease resistance, even if it is wrong.  That’s why men need strong relationships in their lives.

Next time we will look at the first action we need to apply.

Together in the adventure and challenge 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 Ministry of Hanging Out

Jeff Kisiah and MeThis past weekend I had the privilege to “Hang – Out” with my mentor and friend, Jeff Kisiah, Executive Director of Band of Brothers Charlotte.  Jeff taught me the concept of the Ministry of Hanging Out (MHO) when we first met many years ago.  It is something we all do, hanging out, we just don’t recognize this as an opportunity for ministry or even to include it into our ministry.  When a bunch of guys get together and do something they connect with or have a common interest we refer to this as ‘hanging out;’ but, we generally overlook the value of these times.

I have learned the importance of having numerous “on ramps” for enlisting men into the battle for men souls.  Oftentimes we have events that really interest the men in our churches but that is all they are – events.  It is an “on-ramp” that has been closed and we must wait for the next “on-ramp” to hopefully get men on a path of discipleship.

Recently, I was at an event with over 60 men in attendance.  They had fun, ate, and listen to a short message.  This was a great “on-ramp” opportunity for men to invite other men who are not connected to the church or sitting on the fringes.  These men could then witness the importance of men rubbing shoulders (Proverbs 27:17) encouraging them to get involved in a discipling relationship.  But oftentimes we don’t use these opportunities and the “on-ramp” is essentially closed.

Sometimes we go to the other extreme.  Too many times the “on-ramp” we give men only provide entry points on the “deep end” of the discipleship continuum such as;

  • In-Depth Bible Studies
  • Leadership Training Modules
  • High Commitment Venues

I was in a meeting recently where someone was sharing he didn’t understand why they couldn’t get men to come to the Bible Studies.  Well, it could be the “on-ramp” is too steep or too sharp of a curve.  Often men need to develop relationships with the men who are involved in those studies before he feels comfortable to attend.

Then we get frustrated when the men “on the fringe” who remain disinterested or disconnected.  What do I mean by men “on the fringe?”  These are men who are connected with the church but are not involved in any discipleship ministry or any ministry for that matter.  Men who come because their children or wife are involved, or they come to “punch the clock.”  You know them, every church has men like this.  You can probably think of two or three right now.  These are men who need another man to come along side of them and encourage them.  The best way to do that is to have times when men can just “hang-out” and get to know each other – opportunities that interest them and when invited will have a common interest with other men.

We must provide a balance in our approach and offer entry points on the “wide end” of the discipleship continuum for those men.  We want to develop relationships with the men talked about above and help them take the next right step toward a relationship in Christ.

God has worked uniquely in the lives of men through these times of men just “hanging-out.”  Some examples you can use are;

  • College / High School Ballgames: If you can’t attend the games think about having viewing parties for the big games.
  • Hiking trips, Wilderness outings and/or Camping Trips
  • Motorcycle or Bicycle rides
  • Racing events: Think about a viewing party for this also if you cannot attend.
  • Fishing adventures: Maybe attend a boat show.
  • Hunting: Maybe attend an outdoor exposition held in your area.
  • Golf Outings/Tournaments: consider hosting one.
  • Attend a Classic Car Show or even host one.

One many don’t think about is Drive Time Fellowship.  There may be many events or activities you participate that requires drive time.  I used to take a group of men to Atlanta once a year for a men’s conference and they would tell me the most enjoyable time of the trip was the fellowship during the drive.

These suggestions are a part of “The Ministry of Hanging Out.”  Now that I got you thinking you could probably think of more activities.  In our Ministry to Men we need to learn and understand the importance of just hanging-out with other men.  You want men to get into discipling relationships, you first need to develop relationships.  And you develop relationships by “hanging-out.”

My life verse is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when Paul writes;

“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.”

We need to be in the habit of sharing our lives with other men.  Meeting them where they are at and not where we want them to be and letting them see we really do care for them and desire to share life with them.  This will help in developing those opportunities to share the gospel and encourage men to come to Christ or grow deeper in their walk with Christ and move them to that place they need to be.

Start practicing “The Ministry of Hanging Out” as you minister to men and encourage your men to start seeing this as an opportunity to reach men.  As you do, you will begin to see changes in the lives of men you encounter.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike