7 Small Changes That Produce Big Results For The Discipleship Of Men In Your Church.
Men’s Discipleship Since Promise Keepers
Over 25 years I have watched as the landscape of men’s ministry has changed. Many leaders will reflect on the season in the 90's that Promise Keepers led the way in mobilizing men through a movement of stadium events. And PK left a lasting impact on the souls of men – millions of them. Like Promise Keepers, the church has always faced obstacles when engaging men and we must not ignore these if we are going to continue to impact the engagement, discipleship, and mobilization of men for the kingdom. But today the overwhelming truth is that men are absent or unengaged in their church.
Statistics across the board say that only about 1 in 8 churchgoing men are involved in a small group in their church. This means 87% are missing an opportunity for true discipleship, and I feel we can do better, and make better men.
No one would disagree that when men get better, everyone gets better. Men who grow in their faith and leadership skill become better husbands, fathers, and leaders who impact t he church, home, and the world. And what church does not want this or need this?
So, as a church, we must continue to ask the question…
“What is the best way to engage men?”
In my years of ministry and experience in working with men, I have found that maybe our approach in today’s culture might need a little bit of adjustment. And as I talk to churches, pastors, and their leaders daily, I have noticed a few possible changes that have the potential to yield big results.
7 Small Changes And The Principles That Drive Big Results
Small Change #1 | Stop Comparing Men’s Ministry To Women’s Ministry
Too often leaders want the same results, in the same way, as the women’s ministry in the church. But women and their ministry efforts tend to work strategically differently than those of men. Here is my recommendation.
Want Big Results | Think small groups of men.
Men tend to cluster in smaller groups, and they prefer this strategy for a variety of reasons. This approach is less risky for them, and it’s a more viable environment for discipleship and development. While we want to gather men in large capacities, a big event strategy for men tends to require extensive time and energy and yields less than desirable results in almost every situation. Most of the time big events lacks a solid follow-up plan, which they require. A longer-term strategy is a slow building men’s small group strategy. And trust me, it works. While this approach takes more time, it fosters longer term relationships and more productive discipleship environments.
Principle: Smaller and slower is better with men.
Small Change #2 | Stop Being Overly Creative In Your Marketing
For some reason, when we gather a few men in a room for men’s ministry planning, we suddenly get creative with how we are going to attract men. While the energy and enthusiasm are fun and humorous, this can hijack the real purpose for which we gathered. Now don't underestimate my passion for expensive shotguns, hand-crafted muscle cars, competitive football, and smoked brisket, but these are only smaller tactics in a larger strategy for engaging men.
Want Big Results | Stay on a mission with your marketing.
I would strongly recommend marketing to men around their real needs. Men have needs for community, mission, leadership, discipleship, and spiritual growth. Don’t waste so much time on creative marketing, go after the “real need.” Men need Jesus, not another catchy title or cutting edge tactic. Lift your vision from “how are we going to reach men,” to “why are we going to reach men,” and then market to that need. Being straightforward will attract more men than you think because what you win them with is what you will win them to!
Principle: What you win men with is what you win them to.
Small Change #3 | Stop Talking Down to Men
For some reason, I find that a common approach we take when trying to motivate or engage is through a pulpit “talk down.” I have witnessed a few leaders do this from the platform in a last-ditch emotional effort to get men to do something. Case in point Mark Driscoll’s famous address to men to “stop being a boy and grow up.” But I wonder if we do this out of frustration? And while we may have a strong passion for men's engagement, I wonder if most men find the approach less than engaging.
Here is why I think we need to back up from the talk down. Men already feel guilty about their lack of spiritual growth and the mistakes they have made in their family, life, and career. Talking down to men can work for a select few, yet for others, the drill sergeant approach leaves them feeling burdened with guilt. This may have the opposite effect that as a result drives men away.
Want Big Results | Challenge men appropriately.
But men do need to be challenged appropriately and even better individually. You need to push men, but not wound them. I believe men that attend our churches want to produce bigger spiritual outcomes, and they just struggle to understand how to do it. A trusted mentorship relationship or within a men’s small group bible study is the right environment.
But how do we do it? I would start with focusing each interaction with men on actionable behaviors. As you concentrate on these over time, you will incite transformation for the right reasons. I have found that challenging men to immediate small weekly action that they can quickly apply in their everyday life are critical for producing small change over a longer period. It requires men to implement behaviors immediately, but it is useful for swaying the motive. When we lead them to see the need and even set their own goals, we invite deep ownership. And supporting this with weekly accountability drives lasting change. Each man should set his goals, and following up is crucial.
Principle: Lead men to set weekly behavior-based goals and check back in.
Small Change #4 | Stop Being Uncommitted To The Text
This is a touchy one to address, but I would be cautious when using men’s content. I have seen men use a material in a small group or mentor relationship that is devoid of biblical te xt. While men do want to discuss relevant material, they also want and need the truth.
Want Big Results | Read the Bible and teach men how to study the Bible.
I believe men want to know, read, discuss, and understand the Bible and not just someone’s opinion on the Bible. Years ago, I started digging into the Bible with the Inductive Bible Study Method, which was perhaps one of the greatest discoveries in the early years of my faith. I learned how to explore the truth in the Bible and dig it out in community with other believers. If you are not reading the Bible with your men, then you are missing a tremendous opportunity for God to move through your men. I believe reading, studying, understanding, and being able to explain the Bible is by far the greatest gift I will give men during my lifetime. When they develop the skill of studying the Bible and gain the confidence of discussing it with other men, they become equipped to teach others this skill as well.
Principle: Focus on teaching men to discover the truth so they can find it on their own.
Small Change #5 | Stop Waiting for Men to Show Up
Too often we wait for men to come. For some reason, we default to thinking that if we publish a time and a location men will just find their way there. This is not true.
Want Big Results | Recruit men.
Just resort to simple face to face invites, and go after the men you want. I am not sure much is needed other than some courage. And I would recruit men that can help you build other men and give them the freedom to lead.
Principle: Recruit your best men.
Small Change #6 | Stop Focusing on Traditional Outreach
Yep, I said it. But what I specifically mean is stop trying large scale event outreach that attempts to gather hundreds of men. This rarely works unless you are good at entertaining people and have a large budget to support it. I think there is a more scalable and sustainable approach.
Want Big Results | Focus on mentoring men into disciples that engage in outreach.
I would recommend starting with new believers and mature them with a men’s bible study that then sends them as equipped men to reach out to their circles of influence. This is far more efficient, scalable, and sustainable than trying to gather men in one location for an event. And men are too busy, so deploy them as outreach agents into their busy world. This is just another way to think about outreach versus a traditional outreach gathering. Plus, if you attend a church with a strong outreach focus at weekend services, then just let the church focus on large scale outreach, and you mentor the men into disciples that reach out from the ground up.
Principle: Men are far too busy so deploy them with mentorship into outreach.
Small Change #6 | Stop Being Directionally Aimless
Men will sniff out a poorly thought program from a long way off. And with little time on their hands, they will want to know that you have a directional plan. And, why shouldn’t they? They expect us to be leaders that deliver our best, in a world full of choices. Men do not have time to waste.
Want Big Results | Develop an intentional long-term plan for men.
Men will almost always participate in programs that boast of an intentional personal development process. After all, discipleship is not a random process or aimless meeting. Jesus did not disciple men by accident. He intentionally discipled twelve men acutely aware that his time was short on the earth. And we should do the same.
And this is more than just coming up with content. It is thinking through the outcomes of what you hope men will do and become as they experience your program. This requires a lot of thinking, planning, testing, and learning, but working with the end in mind is where you should begin.
Principle: Develop a long-range plan for your men and who you want them to become.
Small Change #7 | Stop Talking At Men
I have sat through many men’s groups that watch long sermon-like videos. While this is easy for the leader, it fails to get men talking and building relationships with one another.
Want Big Results | Let men talk to each other.
We need to let men spend more time talking and getting to know each other through conversation. With proper direction, discussions time that surpasses teaching time will produce men who feel heard and empowered. One way to do this is to ensure that men are in conversations in pairs in a group time. This will afford them the opportunity to open-up and have discussions that they won’t have in the larger context. It will also naturally spawn mentoring discussions.
Principle: Make a small group smaller with pairings for discussion with each other.
These are seven changes I have implemented into our ministry. And over the last few years, these minor changes have produced big results and have been a big part of our success with men. And I pray that they will bless your men, and men’s ministry as you lead because we need men to get off the bench and into the game.
Vince Miller is the founder of Resolute and is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to men and has a deep passion for God’s Word. He has authored ten books and small group bible studies exclusively for men.