The Culture We Live in Today: What Happen?

When I began in the ministry of ministering to men I came across two statistics that has directed me in many of my conversations.

answering todays cultureThe first is that out of 10 men in the church, nine will have children that will leave the church when they are grown. This was noted in the North American Mission Board magazine article “Swim with the Sharks (and Survive)” in 2004.  The other is that out of 10 men in the church, only one man will have a biblical worldview. This was from the survey through The Barna Research “Most Adults Feel Accepted by God but Lack a Biblical Worldview in 2005.”

Though both of these were written over a decade ago, there is no reason to believe this has improved. In fact, it has probably worsen.

As I gave consideration to these statistics, I had to ask myself how did this happen?

When I look back on my life I was raised in the church. I knew nothing but the church while growing up.  I thought everyone – at least in the United States – went to church.  I am one who can say I was in church nine months before I was born.

When I started having children of my own I made sure they were in church.  They attended all the children and youth activities and ministries the church had to offer.  I did exactly what my parents did – I made sure my children were in church.

As I continued to give consideration to these statistics I was reminded of Deuteronomy 6:5-7,

“Love the LORD your God with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

I had to ask myself.  Did I do this?  The answer is NO!  I did not.  Not one time did I gather my children and wife around the table and read from the Bible.  Never did I speak spiritual insight or wisdom into my children.  It is only by the grace of God my children came to know Christ as their Savior and are active in their respective churches today.

parents reading bibleAs I continued with this thought, it occurred to me this is why today we see so many who identify themselves as ‘Dones.’  Those who are done with church.  If I was to do a survey and the men were totally honest, I believe we would find I was not the exception but rather the rule.

So, I am submitting to you we the parents, going back many decades even centuries, are to blame for the falling away we see in church attendance today; thereby, the cultural that is manifesting itself within the public today.  Both in the young and old.

If you are not spending time with your family reading the Bible together and praying together, I want to encourage you to start.  For our children need to see that the Word of God and spending time with the Father is an important part of our life.

And maybe – just maybe – with God’s help – we can begin to turn the hearts of our children back to God  (Joshua 24:23).

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Spiritual Stop Signs

As we begin a New Year, I was reminded of an event a few years ago.

It had been a busy Saturday as I had been in a meeting most of the day and I was ready to get home.  The drive home was about three and half-hours.

After traveling about a hour the female voice on my GPS, my wife in a box as my wife calls her, informed me there was an accident on I-40.  This would cause about a 20 minutes delay if I stayed on the current route.  However, another route was found that would route me around the accident – if I wanted to take it press ‘Accept.’  Well, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so I pressed ‘Accept.’

After traveling the new route for a few minutes, the lady on the GPS stated she had found a faster route, did I want to accept.  Well, what do you think!  I want to get home, so why wouldn’t I take a route that is faster, so once again I pressed ‘Accept’ for the faster route.

The GPS lady then proceeded to instruct me to turn down a road that went into the country in areas I probably have never been in the state – beautiful farm country.  Then she wanted me to turn on another country road.  Then another.  Then another.

stop-signAfter several miles of turning down these country roads I started to get a little frustrated and I said aloud, “Where are you taking me!”  It was then I notice this big red octagonal sign that said STOP! that seemed to pop up out of the ground like in one of those video games.  I was so close I didn’t have time to react.  I did one of those quick left-to-right looks to see if another car was coming as I blew right through the stop sign at about 50 miles per hour.  As I looked in the review mirror to see if the local Deputy Sheriff was watching, I thanked God He had not allowed someone to be coming through the intersection at the same time.

That’s when God reminded me, He puts Stop Signs in our lives from time to time.  A familiar passage to many of us came to mind, Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Sometimes in life when we are on a path that may seem strange and uncertain maybe that is a warning to us that we need to slow down and possibly even stop and listen to God.

I was reminded that God is constantly changing our visions and direction in the different seasons of our lives just like the GPS did that day on my trip home.  Sometimes we are in such a rush to get to the next adventure, like I was to get home that day, we fail to see the warnings signs that God is giving us to STOP, “Be still and know that I am God.”

If we rush through those spiritual stop signs it could lead to disastrous consequences, just like that physical stop sign I ran through on that country road.  Fortunately, the only consequence for me was the quickening of the pitter-patter of my heartbeat for a few moments.  But it could have been much worse.  Not only for myself, but for my family and the individual and their family if I had hit someone.

When we run through God’s spiritual stop signs the consequences could also affect those around us, not just us.

god-stop-signIf you feel uncertain or flustered with events in your life maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.  If decisions are hard and you cannot get a sense of direction maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.  Maybe there has been a change in life, loss of a job, new job, sickness, death of a love one, even retirement, maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.

God desires for us to sometimes STOP so we can reflect on where he has taken us, review what He has taught us, what we have learned while on that path, and hear clearly what God has for us as we continue in His will.

So, as we begin this New Year of 2019, we need to beware of the spiritual Stop Signs God places in our lives where we need to be still and know that God is God.  Don’t blow past those Spiritual Stop Signs in your haste to get something accomplished like I did on that country road that day.  God may be trying to talk to you and if you don’t stop, the consequences could be disastrous.

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

Lessons For Men from the Christmas Story: The Boldness of Joseph

Joseph of Bethlehem“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife.”  – Matthew 1:18-24

Culturally, Joseph did not have to take Mary as his wife after he discovered she was pregnant.  In fact, the scriptures tell us he was a just man and was thinking of divorcing her quietly.  However, an angel of the Lord met him in his dreams and told him what was happening and instructed him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.  Joseph did what the Lord directed him to do.

How many of us are afraid and neglect to do what God is instructing us to do?  As we approach the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, think about the boldness Joseph displayed in his culture.  He didn’t have to take Mary according to his culture – but he did.  How many of us men will have the boldness of Joseph to do what God is instructing us to do in His Word regardless of what our culture says.?

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

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

Where Are The Men?

20180407_120229[1]If you have a hundred men in your church, how big is your men’s ministry?  Sometimes our assumptions and paradigms limit us from seeing the bigger picture.  This is true with men’s ministry.  We need to understand how to maximize the kingdom impact of every interaction your church has with every man.

The second most asked question I hear is, “How can I keep the men involved?”  You are concern because the men are not coming to the monthly breakfasts or men only events and you are not sure why.  The most asked question is, “How can I get the younger men involved?”  Well, unlike a few decades ago when men seemed eager to gather together on a Saturday morning, men, especially younger men, are busier than they have ever been.  So, to answer both questions we must change our approach on how to reach the men to develop relationships thereby encouraging discipleship.

To do this we need to shift our thinking from the concept that only the men who attend the monthly breakfasts or a men’s only event is a part of your men’s ministry.  Start thinking of men’s ministry as an ‘all-inclusive’ men’s ministry; in other words, that every man connected with the church is part of the men’s ministry.  Begin by thinking and making a list of everything your church does that touches any man.  This will be a major paradigm shift for most churches.  But by doing this it will help to understand that anything a church does that touches a man’s life also impacts a man’s life.  When you begin to understand this, you will also begin to understand that everything the church does that touches men, is a part of men’s ministry or ministering to men.

To reach the men and help them grow in Christ we must go to where they are at.  I don’t remember reading in the word where Jesus said, “We’ll disciple you if you come to our activities or events.”  He said, “Go and make disciples.”  God is calling us to go to where our men are and disciple them there.  Jesus went to where the people were at and said, “Follow me.”

Disciple MakingPut on your thinking caps and begin to think of all the areas your men are involved.  Here are a few to get your thinking juices flowing;

  • Sunday School Teachers
  • Community projects
  • Youth Workers
  • Choir, Praise Team, or band members
  • Ushers or Greeters
  • Disaster Relief

Are there other areas men are involved in your church that we didn’t list?  You should be able to add to this this.

After you have compiled this list begin to think how can you minister to these men?  We need to be reaching every man that has any connection to the church.  Your surveys we discussed in the last article should include these men.

Next time we will talk about some ideas that you can do to reach these men once you discover where they are at.  From the man on the fringes to the man who is actively involved in the ministries of the church.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Men’s Ministry Leadership Team

Discipleship Group

If a church desires to have a vibrant Men’s Ministry one of the most important attributes of the ministry is to have a leadership team that creates the foundation of the ministry. By ensuring a solid foundation is laid when developing a men’s ministry will result in the continued growth of the ministry even when there is turnover in leadership.

I have observed three types of Men’s Ministry leadership within the churches;

  1. The Event-Driven Leadership: The Men’s Ministry revolves around having various events – usually the same ones every year.
  2. The Leader-Driven Leadership: Centered around one person who make all the calls on the direction of the ministry. Generally, involves only those activities that interest him and that he is most familiar with.
  3. The Discipleship-Driven: This is where the team is focused on getting men into discipling relationships to grow them in Christ. Event activities are used to create a next right step for men to take into these relationships.

In most cases, types 1 and 2 usually morph into an Event/Leader-Driven type of Men’s Ministry. The concern with these Men’s Ministry types is that when the leader moves on, and is no longer in charge, the ministry dies.

The Discipleship-Driven Men’s Ministry is the type of Men’s Ministry every church should be striving to achieve. The concern is many men’s ministry leaders believe events is the means to the end. When our goal is to get men into discipling relationships by using the events to begin those relationships by giving the men a next right step.

The Leadership Team of a Discipleship-Driven Men’s Ministry (which actually becomes Ministering to Men) looks like this.

  1. Pastor: The pastor must have an enthusiastic involvement. This does not mean he leads or attends the leadership meetings, but he speaks into the lives of his men regularly from the pulpit encouraging them to be in a discipling relationship. He supports the leadership team giving them the resources to be successful. In everything the church does he evaluates how it connects with the men.
  2. Primary Leader: Rather you call him the Men’s Ministry Director or Coordinator or some other name this person needs to have a burden and passion to reach the men of the church and community. He should be a man who loves God, has a heart for men, and has the right set of gifts to lead other leaders.
  3. Leadership Team: Surrounding the primary leader with a team of men who shares many of the attributes of the primary leader. This is essential because one day the Primary Leader will move on to other ministry opportunities as God leads. Then one of the members of the Leadership Team can take the role of Primary Leader and the ministry to men will continue with a solid leadership foundation in place.

Man in the Mirror refers to this as the Three-Strands of Leadership for Ministering to Men; an involved Pastor, a leader with a heart for men, and leadership team members who displays the same attributes of the leader. The leadership team of a Discipleship-Driven Ministry is the foundation for any successful Ministry to Men.

Be Intentional With Relationships

Rocket ScienceRemember when you taught someone how to perform a task and you would tell them, “This is not rocket science?”  Well, after working in men’s ministry, coordinating events for men, discipling men, facilitating men small groups, and meeting one on one with men, let me tell you – ministering to men IS ROCKET SCIENCE!  I don’t say that to discourage you put to let you know that I know the frustration many of you may have as you seek to get your men involved in the ministries designed to bring men into a deeper walk with Christ.

Recently I was talking to someone who had, a few weeks earlier, started a small group and I could tell in his voice there was a little frustration.  This was the first time he had ever attempted to lead a group of men.  I encouraged him to just be obedient to the calling God had placed on his life and let God do the work.  Continue to pour his life into these men, praying for them and being there for them.  Even if only one man shows up, that would be who God would want you to share life with at that moment.  Paul said it best to the people of Thessalonica when he wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2 Thess. 2:8).

Discipleship GroupSo often we think we need to have a deep bible study when we get our men together but sometimes we need to just do life and allow God to open the opportunities for us to share the gospel or a word of encouragement.  I meet with a group of men once a month to have breakfast just to talk and let them share what is happening in their life, getting to know them, and opening myself up to them; not really having any agenda.  There is another group I meet with once a week as we study through the disciplines of a godly man.  All for the purpose to develop relationships and to impact the Gospel of Christ in their lives by either just sharing life or speaking the Word directly into their life.

When I first began to work in Men’s Ministry I thought we had to have big events and get as many men to attend as possible.  My reasoning was if we had these events and if we could get men to attend, men’s lives would begin to change.  However, I quickly learned this is only a small piece of the puzzle.  There is nothing wrong with big events and they do have a place; but, these events should be used to begin connecting with men.  From these events you should always be looking for ways to encourage men to take the next step; to become involved in a intentional discipling relationship.

Working with men is all about developing those relationships for the purpose to disciple.  Even putting yourself out there to share some of your life’s successes and failures.  Men need to see you as being just as fallible as they are.  They need to see that you have overcome situations in your life and your trust is rooted in your relationship with Christ.  When men see you as one of them, then they will begin to open-up.  It doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time.

Often we use Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” in our respective men’s ministries.  There is truth here, but the only way this can be applied in our lives is to spend time with other men who have a passion to grow deeper in a relationship with God.  Other men, who we will give permission to challenge us when they see us missing the mark; holding us accountable in our walk with Christ.  This can only occur if we are intentional about developing discipling relationships.

Let me encourage you, if you do not have such a man in your life; find one.  You will be blessed to have that man who will challenge you, be a listening ear when you need to talk, and more importantly, pray for you.  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  To have someone in your life that will sharpen you, to knock off those rough edges and smooth the edge so you can be ready to fight the battle that lays before us every day.

There is a battle for men’s souls happening all around us.  And we need men who will stand shoulder to shoulder with us every day.  Will you be a man who will stand shoulder to shoulder with another man in this battle?  Will you pour your life into other men?  Do you want to change families in your church?  Do you want to change your church to be more of an impact to your community?  Then start by sharing life with other men – the Gospel of Christ – developing intentional relationships that will sharpen each of us to be the man God desires for us all.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike