Recently, a group of Women’s Ministry leaders sat around a table in a Panera Bread. We were talking about some of the difficulties that Women’s Ministry faces in the pursuit of ministry work. Several of the women identified that they didn’t feel Women’s Ministry was supported in their church. In the course of discussion we realized that all of those churches shared something in common, they also didn’t have a Men’s Ministry. Could it be as simple as that? Could it be that the reason Women’s Ministry is not being supported in some churches, simply be because the church doesn’t see gender based ministry important?
That began a quest. I reached out to women all over the country who are Women’s Ministry leaders, and began asking two straight forward questions:
Do you feel your Women’s Ministry is well supported by your church?
Does your church have a Men’s Ministry?
The results were confirming my suspicions. In the churches where Women’s Ministry was thriving and growing, there was also a SOLID Men’s Ministry that was doing the same. In the churches where the Women’s Ministry was struggling, there was either no Men’s Ministry or the ministry was not functioning well.
Then I reached out to a few women who were involved in Women’s Ministry on a higher level. These are women who are running websites that are resources for Women’s Ministry, involved in planning conferences for women in ministry, etc. And the response was overwhelmingly in agreement. In fact, many of the women shared that they were just talking about this within their own ministry/organization.
Ladies, this is a LIGHT BULB moment for Women’s Ministry. In most churches in the United States the staff members of the church are going to be predominantly men. If the men who are leading the church do not see a necessity for a Men’s Ministry, it will be very difficult for them to fully comprehend why Women’s Ministry is important.
In speaking with a group of men, I have learned that some of them have a notion that men are not interested in a formal “Men’s Ministry” program. They believe that men are not wanting to gather up with other men the same way women do. Lunches, Conferences, and other types of events are just too mushy, touchy, feely for men. Others like to have men’s activities, but that usually revolves around doing man type things, a church basketball team, going to a shooting range, or doing community service projects like Habitat for Humanity where they are building together.
To an extent this is true. Men can bond as brothers in Christ through manual labor, shared interests, etc. A group of guys can sit in a room together, watching sports, speaking less than 10 words to each other… and yet that will be the best night of their week. They are wired differently than women.
Or, are they? I spoke to my husband about this and was quite surprised by his response. He actually disagreed with this mentality altogether. He said that he can watch sports, or work with other men any time he wants. Simply go out in your driveway and start working on your car and the neighborhood men start showing up. Call up any group of guys to come over and watch the game, and they will usually show up. However, having intentional opportunities to bond with his brothers in Christ…. in a gospel centered, Christ centered way is something much harder for him to do on his own.
In many churches, if you look at the menu of small groups / bible studies / peer groups, you will find that the women’s groups outnumber the men’s groups. Of the men’s groups (and I am specifically not including couples groups), they are often planned around the average work schedule. There may be one or two in the morning, for the pre-work group. There may be one or two around lunch time, where you can plug in during your lunch break. And, then you may have one or two in the post-work hour where the guys stop in before they head home for the evening.
While these are great options, none of these fit for the guy who has to commute to work. He leaves long before the first group meets, and gets home after the last group is done. He’s not in town to plug into the lunch group. Week to week, he is pushing through life without that support of his brothers in Christ. None of these fit for the guy who is in town, but his work schedule varies… and he never knows when his lunch hour will come. Because he can’t commit to the regular meeting schedule, he doesn’t join in. Week to week, he is disconnected from his church brotherhood.
These men, they are the ones who thrive on a Men’s Ministry that is more than just a few bible study or accountability groups. They can make a workshop on a Saturday, or sit through a Men’s Luncheon. They won’t even mind chipping in for Pizza or having Chik-fil-a cater the event versus having to bring a dish from home (like the ladies do). These are the men who utilize conferences and men’s retreats as a way to connect with the other men in the church in away that goes deeper than the Sunday morning meet and greets in the pews. When they can’t connect in small groups, they can connect here.
I believe the greatest thing we can do for our Women’s Ministry is to encourage the development of a Men’s Ministry in our church. However, it may be a big task ahead of us. We are going to be challenging the thought processes of our male leadership on how men see ministry in the church. We may be breaking molds. We can’t plan and lead it ourselves, we have to find the man within the body that sees this as valuable and has the willingness to lead the ministry.
As Women’s Ministry leaders, we can start with our own husbands. Perhaps, this can be a ministry co-led by couples…. where the wife leads the women’s ministry and the husband leads the men’s ministry. Approaching the Pastor and staff in this manner, will lend credibility to the plan if you are already seen in good favor as the Women’s Ministry Leader. They know you will be a help and support to your husband as he begins to lead.
You may find him as the husband of one of your Women’s Ministry team members or a woman in the church. Start planting seeds in the women you are regularly invested in Women’s Ministry events, that a Men’s Ministry would be a blessing to the men of the church.
As a Men’s Ministry develops, have the Women’s Ministry take a strong stand publically in support of it. If they are having a lunch, get women from your team or in the church to volunteer to provide the food for the lunch. Or, if you have the funds in your budget, sponsor their first luncheon by catering in the food. We want the men to know that we support their ministry, we want to help intentionally funnel the men toward it by helping their wives to see the value in it.
You may have to start smaller. It might not be realistic in your church to step right up to the staff and present a full fledged Men’s Ministry program. Start with a simple step, like having your husband (or the guy in the church you have recruited to lead) present a men’s conference that he would be willing to spearhead the planning. If the Pastor’s see that men really are interested in these types of events, it may change their view of Men’s Ministry.
Most importantly, during this process with promoting a Men’s Ministry (or Women’s Ministry) remember that your Pastors are responsible for shepherding the church. They are running every decision they make through the responsibility the Lord put upon their shoulders when they stepped in to lead our churches. They are not our enemy, they just have a different vision than we do at times. Any ministry should be a blessing to the church. It should support the overall vision of the church. It should not be a ministry unto itself, isolated from the church and doing it’s own thing.
Before presenting the Men’s Ministry to the church, really spend some time identifying the blessings that the ministry would bring to the church. Look at your church’s mission statement or vision, identify the ways in which this ministry will support that vision or mission. There are many Pastors and staff members that do not see the need for gender based ministry, because they see both sexes as equally capable of learning and serving. We need to be able to identify to the staff the reasons why gender based ministry can be a blessing not only to the church, but to the men and women who are a part of it. Next Friday, we are going to explore the benefits of gender based ministry in more depth.