As sort of a follow-up to my last post, I’d like to defend something else that’s under attack these days: men’s ministries. I actually worked in this field during my time with Church of God Lay Ministries, from when I started in 1996 until the department was abolished in 2010. So I can speak with some authority on the subject. When the department ended, I created a legacy web site from the site we had, so you and everyone else can see what was going on.
So what were we trying to accomplish? The best way to start is to reproduce our own introduction to the topic and ourselves, from this page:
Sunday after Sunday, pastors and ministers in the Church of God go up to their pulpits and frequently preach to a congregation of mostly…women and children (assuming there’s no children’s church.) This is so common that we take it for granted. It is not something that is restricted to our denomination; it is the rule in many evangelical churches. Beyond the doors of the church—on the golf course, at the football game or bowling alley, or in the backyard—men absent themselves from the house of God. Today in the U.S. men represent the fastest growing portion of the population to abandon meaningful belief in God. They frequently embrace secularism, a “religion” in its own right whose growth threatens both the eternities of those who embrace it and the ability of everyone else to freely live for Christ. Why is this? One reason is that there is no organization in many local churches for men to find fellowship, to learn who God is and how they might live for Him, and how they might then serve Him in a meaningful way. By “organization” we don’t mean a quasi-governmental structure as has been common in churches. Our goal is to facilitate ministry teams, men bonded together in love for Jesus and each other, discipled in the essentials of Christianity, instructed to interact with people around them in a Christian way, and sent forth in service to the lost and hurting world around them. LifeBuilders Men’s Ministries—and the Church of God Men’s Fellowship that preceded it—have been ministering to men before such organizations as Promise Keepers and the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries. We have a long-standing alliance with both. But our world is changing, and we must change with it even as we serve “the Maker of the Lights in the heavens, who is himself never subject to change or to eclipse.” (James 1:17b) Men’s ministries must become more relational if it is to be meaningful both to men newly saved or for those who have walked with the Lord for many years.
To that I’d like to make some comments and explanation:
- Our Executive Director, Leonard Albert, is first and foremost a trainer of lay people for soul winning. The LifeBuilders Men’s Ministries was deeply affected by that. Our desire was for men to share the good news both in what they said and the way they lived.
- The Church of God, unlike some other churches, does not have a socio-economically privileged demographic. Our men’s interests ran along those lines and we tailored our activity recommendations to that reality. We had to promote the idea that men should read books. We are also a multi-ethnic church; our men come from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, something that made working for the Department a real joy.
- On the other hand, neither Leonard Albert nor I were into the “he-man” ethic that some find so off-putting with men’s ministries. When Wild at Heart was released, he was unenthusiastic about it, it took some time before we included it in our book store. As I mentioned in the last post, the society we live in was militarised by World War II and the Cold War, but we never really pushed that nor pushed for men’s ministries to be organised in that fashion.
- In our last years we shifted our emphasis to a more discipleship/relational model for men’s ministries. This was not only a more Biblical way to do it; it was also driven by the realisation that the “pre-discipleship” the culture may have given in the past was fading away. To be honest a discipleship model was a hard sell in some places, but we partnered with Patrick Morley and Man in the Mirror Ministries in order to promote it.
- We never got pushback from the women of our church about men’s ministries. To encourage men to be saved and responsible husbands and fathers resonated positively with many women. The big pushback–and this included our entire agenda–came from some of our pastors, who were content with the model described at the start of the piece above. They felt the presence of strong men in their congregation was a power challenge to them, so they resisted it.
More about how our idea of men’s ministries worked is here. The Department came to an end in the wake of the church’s budgetary crisis caused by the cutback in remissions from local churches. Today the legacy website is most frequently visited by Hispanics from all parts of the hemisphere, so men’s ministries is anything but a “white supremacy” project, at least in a Pentecostal context.
I was blessed to be able to be a part of such a ministry and also to explain and defend what we did.