Starting a men’s movement. How the ministry of Resolute began and the lessons I learned.

How it all started

My call to disciple and mentor men began when I was 21 years old, but like most, it took me decades to realize how to live in this call.

I grew up in the California Bay Area and a fatherless home. Like many children, I was the kid who was the product of a home that plagued with divorces and ongoing drama in the home. Fortunately, when I was about 14 years old, my grandfather asked permission of my mother if he could start spending more time with me. Since I had little male influence in my life, this was a lifeline for my manhood and also my path to a relationship with Christ. You see my grandfather was a devout Christian man.

From age 14-20, he made a real effort to mentor me as a man. From short but meaning conversation I learned about life, leadership, and the truth about God. I watched this man rise early every day to read God’s Word, pray, and live out service to other people. He was remarkably patient with me, unconditionally loving, and willing as a mentor to answer the big questions of life I had during those years. Sadly, in my late teens I listened much less to his ways due to the many negatives influences in my life, but gradually I discovered that grandfather was right about this man named Jesus. In a moment of clarity and repentance, I made my way back home at the age of 20. And this was a spiritual pivot point for me, and God would now take center stage in my life because of his influence.

The next year was perhaps one of the most amazing years I had with my grandfather because of this newfound relationship with Jesus Christ, and my spiritual growth during this was fantastic. But it was only one year later he cancer took his life which was a devastating moment in my life. My “father” and spiritual mentor was gone. In fact, it was those moments in the hospital with him that I discovered my calling. As I sat next to his bedside, watching him painfully die, I remember saying out loud to God, “For the rest of my life I want to do for other men, what my grandfather did for me – mentor men.” But  in the same breath asked God to “replace him with another man in my life.” And I did not take this commitment and request lightly. Immediately, I started pursuing ministry as a career, and at the same time, I engaged in asking men to mentor me.

The only hitch in my story was that no one stepped in to mentor me. While I sought it out faithfully year after year, no one stepped up to the challenge. Some years I would ask a couple of men, and other years I can remember asking up to five men. All the men I invited had slight differences, but no one was up to the task. The two excuses I consistently heard were, “I don’t have the time” and, “I don’t know what to do.” While these were valid reasons, they became so routine that I just stopped asking.

And so devoid of mentorship in my life, I began developing a resolution to the problem. The concept of Resolute started with my greatest learnings in my life as a Christian man. Things I had learned over the years about Jesus, and myself that were pivotal learnings. And each of the learnings became a lesson that I passed on to someone else. While I was just toying with a concept at this point, I wanted to share these with others. So for years, I developed these lessons and shared them with friends, men, staff, and my men’s groups. But I had no idea that I was developing content that I would one day pass through a non-profit organization that I would build.

After 20 years of ministry, I discovered my passion and calling

Now fast forward two decades. I have worked with notable organizations like Young Life, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and a couple of churches, one being one of the largest churches in America based in the Twin Cities. I often tell people that I felt at this point like ministry had become a job and ceased being the passion it once was, which left me feeling vocationally empty. Being in my 40’s this seemed like a crisis of purpose, and I did not know what to do. So I defaulted to that same invitation I had made a hundred times before, I asked a senior leader to mentor me. While I was nervous about this invite, I felt God calling me to do it, and his response was “I have been thinking about you and talking with others about you, let us get back to you,” and guess what, he never did. Again perhaps the most frustrating and yet second most important moment of my life.

This moment created enough unrest in me that it birthed a new passion. Well, maybe an old one, which God seeded 20 years before at the bedside of my grandfather. I gained new passion and a strong vision for mentorship and discipleship and discovered that this was the linchpin to the future of the kingdom. So impassioned by my prayer at my grandfather’s bedside, I started to attempt to resolve the problem and realize my calling.

It was a just a couple of small groups

It began with a pair of men’s small groups Bible studies. Now I had led small group experiences for years, but nothing using my content exclusively. In the first stage, these were simply discussion- based groups that used a combination of Inductive Bible Study around important men’s topics and issues. And I found that the men enjoyed the time. But it was hard to figure out what exactly they just so much about the time. Was it my leadership? Was it the content? Was it the process? These were hard to differentiate, but I ran this first group for well over a year.

Then in the second group, which I look back on as the second phase of development, I was a little more strategic. I went after 12 younger men that I could pour wisdom into over a 12-18-month experience. Most of them I didn’t know, but they were great guys, and eager to be mentored. I developed conversations and studies that were a little more formal and formatted for discussions, but still, it was just a concept, and I had no intention of turning this into a formal men’s program with a supporting organization. Again, I discovered the guys loved it, and with some tweaks, it became a little more polished and developed.

It was at the end of this second group that my career and calling started coming together. Through a series of events, and with the complete support of my wife, I launched a non-profit organization for men, that exclusively provided discipleship and leadership development to men that wanted it. Like myself, I just believed there were other men out there who wanted mentorship and could not provide it, and in March of 2014, we founded an organization that was the culmination of a commitment I made to God 20-years before at my grandfather’s dying bedside.

At this point, many men were a part of these two early groups that came around me and partnered with me. Men like, Jeremy Juergens, who became my board chair. Sam Pederson, who had long time passion for men’s ministry and served on my board. Ryan Hedwall, who was a man with incredible administrative skill who also served on my board. There were also a few others who were willing and challenged, encouraged, and supported me in the early phases of development.

An incredible response from men

So, in March of 2014, I started a new job. And this was the scariest experience of my life since I had never run a nonprofit organization before. But I experienced an unbelievable response from men who heard the mission. And to make it work, I had to get out there and do something I had never done before in ministry – in the business world, they call it sales. With a simple sales sheet and a lot of vision, I just went out and met with men who were looking for mentorship and invited them to participate in a low-cost mentorship program. And after meeting guys individually for six weeks straight, I looked up to realize that I had recruited 59 of the 60 men I had met. Each willing to pay a small fee for regular mentorship in a group setting. This was an adrenaline rush for a 20-year pastor with only a good idea, and I can say with confidence now, it was only a good idea, not a proven business concept.

Building the content, experience, and process

So over the next 6-months, all I did was focus on developing the process. With the encouragement of the board, we focused on content quality, providing a solid experience for the men, and building a group process that was unique to men. And we discovered the men loved it. I ran five groups, one a day which gave me the time to tweak and perfect the lessons five days a week. At this point, the program was 2-years in length with meetings every week which equated to around 100 individual lessons I had written tackling major discipleship and leadership topics. This was grueling, but also spiritually invigorating for everyone involved.

Obstacles in the first two years

But there were lots of unexpected lessons, and here are two I faced in the first two years.

First, it was troubling to learn that some churches felt threatened by our work with men. This was not my aim, but I came to learn, often through the quiet conversations I had with people who attended particular churches, that a few local pastors felt threatened by our ministry. While most men were very excited to participate, their enthusiasm was often not shared by their leaders, who realized their men were turning elsewhere for discipleship. This was a little discouraging to me since it has never been my desire to compete with others in the kingdom, but rather to find ways to build the kingdom together. So, I knew it would take time for the church to embrace us, which required us to position our mission carefully to church leaders.

Second, we found that traditional non-profit staffing models were not sustainable. With all my non-profit experience in parachurch ministry, I assumed that importing a parachurch model would work for us, but I was wrong. Some aspects worked, but the dual role of fundraiser and teacher was a struggle for almost all the staff we hired. The first men we hired loved ministry, had ministry credentials, and were even excellent group leaders and teachers but failed at two business requirements – recruiting men and raising money. Even though I brought experts in to train them, it is hard to teach a natural born teacher to go after these practices. This was a hard reality to face that required an entirely new approach for us. And keep in mind, I too am a pastor and teacher, who was now learning what most men who in the marketplace already know, and that is you must provide value that sells.

Incredible learnings in our 3rd year.

Here were my learnings by year three. And they were big. But to the business people out there, this is will appear to be the ignorance of a career pastor.

Lesson One | Become Scalable and Sustainable

One of my greatest desires from the start was to become scalable and sustainable. My problem was that I just did not know how. While I kept asking these questions of the board and continued to try adaptations, it was hard to find answers, and some days I was more than perplexed. But these those two words drove me, just as much as the mission of discipling and developing men to lead. For me, this required a whole new mindset and one that required me to lay down old ministry business approaches while retaining the fundamentals of ministry itself.

Lesson Two | Clarify Market Audience

When we started, we were just ministering to men. As I look back, we were unintentionally building a men’s ministry, which is not what I wanted to do. My goal was always to deploy men into the church, not remove them from their church experience, but unfortunately, some participants did see us as their men’s ministry. Because of this, we confused our market audience, which is easy to do when you want to appeal to the masses. I came to discover that this nuance is what communicated a competitive edge to the leaders of the church. From this, we tighten up our market audience by directing our focus toward pastors and leaders in churches for the benefit of their men. And while this market clarity was a change we needed to make, it was a hard mental shift for me to make, particularly since I am a trained pastor who always done ministry that appealed to the masses in hopes of gaining a few.

Lesson Three | The Need For Expertise From Business Professionals

Pastors are notorious for not asking for help, and I know because I am one too. In fact, I have watched numerous great pastors fail in their career from not seeking wisdom or accountability outside of themselves from great men around them. And I have had to learn the hard way that just because I am ministry trained and know a few leadership principles, this does not mean that I know everything and thus do not need help and advice. I realized after I started running into business obstacles that I had a huge need for sharp business men who could emotionally, financially, and technically support me with business wisdom. I had to learn to lay down my ego and ask for help. And if it were not for the knowledge of key leaders in the field of sales, marketing, strategy, process, administration, leadership, process, and training, I am not sure I would have made the shifts we made in the first three years. I am so thankful for those men.

Today we provide the same mission with clarity and focus.

Today we continue to live out our mission of “discipling and developing men to lead,” nevertheless the ministry has taken a little different shape than I expected. And this is not meant to disqualify all the great ministry that took place in the first few years. I often look back over the last few years and all the great lessons learned along with strategic pivots that we made with great satisfaction.

So today we do a few things differently.

ONE | We provide a video format for groups of men

First, we offer the same discipleship experiences that we provided in small groups but now in small group video formats through a variety of series’ that men’s leaders in the church use for equipping their men. While we had a phase of hiring staff to lead our groups we found that empowering the men in the church to lead the curriculum had reached further and was more supportive of the local church.

TWO | Handbooks for men participating

Second, we offer handbooks for the participant that go with each series. In the past, we offered printed sheets but found that men stayed engaged better with their guides for the time. This is how people in the church connect with the content and discussion, by following along with a handbook for that particular series.

THREE | Web portal targeted to leaders of men

Third, we provide a web portal for accessing great content target exclusively to leaders. This includes video lessons, assessments, training, podcasts, articles, and other resources for a men’s leader.

FOUR | Support for men’s leaders

Fourth, we provide support directly to leaders either by phone or email that helps men lead successfully. We do not just want to give men with content, but we want to support them so that they can be successful in mentoring and discipling the men around them. And we are committed to helping them with any issue.

FIVE | Discussion based bible study format for men

Fifth, we have refined a process for engaging men, that has gone unchanged. This process provides a simple yet rich study in God’s Word using Inductive Bible Study as a basis for lots of discussion with other men.

SIX | We are adding new series and content all the time

Sixth, since we have invested so much time in this platform, we can now create new content that we add more than a few times a year. This has been an exciting phase for me and men who have been through our content. We now have enough content that we can pivot toward specializing and focus content toward particular men’s needs. And we are always looking to develop the next series that speaks to the needs men so that they can become the men God wants them to be.

These are just some of the changes we have made over the last few years and as you can see we moved from being a ministry directly to men to allowing the church to become a ministry to their men. And we feel we can make a bigger dent in the discipleship needs of men by re-engaging them in their church, family, and workplace with tools we provide to pastors and leaders.

If you are looking for material for your men’s group or are looking for help with your small group leadership, reach out to us a www.beresolute.org

Vince Miller is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to speak to men’s audiences and has a deep passion for mentorship and God’s Word. He has authored ten books and small group content for men. He is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Reach out to him today if you need a men’s speaker or content for your men’s small groups.

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