Why is it so challenging to get men involved in the church, discover the problems and potential answers.

Why is it so challenging to get men involved? In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller is joined by the pastor and author Roger Thompson from Man In The Mirror Ministries. Today they discuss how to attract and engage men and what we need to do to welcome them into the church.



Vince: This is Resolute and The Resolute Leadership Podcast. I am Vince Miller, your founder, and host. And today we’re in a series looking at men’s ministry. Today, discussing the topic of the challenges with engaging men in the church.

Welcome to the program. If this is your first time tuning in, well thank you for joining us. Our mission at Resolute is to disciple and develop men to lead. And if you’re looking for content for your men’s group or men’s ministry – then you need to go to our website today at beresolute.org. We have a number of great tools for men who are leading other men.

Also, if you want to follow us – you can find us on Facebook or LinkedIn. And if you prefer to listen, you can find us on every major feed – including iTunes and Soundcloud. You can follow along right there, or also in our app. But now gentlemen, let’s dive in.

Well, guys, I’m excited to introduce to you today, Roger Thompson. Roger is a good friend and a Pastor who’s worked in ministry over 40 years. He brings with him a lot of wisdom, and he is the author of a fantastic book called, “Do the Next Right Thing.” He currently works with Man in the Mirror Ministries, which works to equip men in churches to develop their men’s ministry. Roger, thanks so much for being with us again today.

Roger: Great to be with you again, Vince.

Vince: Yeah, yeah it’s awesome to sit with you again. Today I just kinda want to hear from you. I know that you’ve been a Pastor for a long time. I know that you have also engaged in men’s ministry for all your life. I want to talk about the problems with men and the church, specifically around the difficulty that we have sometimes to maintain a men’s ministry – or even build it. And I’m kinda wondering from you today, why is it so difficult for churches to maintain or build a men’s ministry?

Roger: Well I think there are many ways we can look at that. I’ll take a couple of glancing blows at it. When I enter a church, especially when I’m preaching at a church. I’m always thinking about the guy who is uncomfortable in that setting. And he’s the go-to guy all year. All week long in his job – he’s the expert, he’s got the domain expertise in IT or sales or engineering or whatever. So all week long he’s answering questions. People come to him, and he has the answer. He helps them solve them.

But something happens when he walks into the church. Because he’s afraid. I think many men are concerned with how they look, how they’re going to come across. And they are – they’re afraid that somebody might ask me to look up the book of Leviticus. Or pray out loud. Or say something about theology. And men, I think are deathly afraid of appearing unschooled or incompetent. I have a big heart for these guys. ‘Cause I would feel the same way at a software convention.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: After 5 seconds of showing you how to turn the machine on, I’m done. I don’t know anything else. I have nothing else to say. I’d like to learn. But I want to learn in a safe place. So I really have empathy that – whether the church is projecting it or not, we – perhaps we never intended. But I think many men feel unsafe in the church at that level.

Vince: Yes.

Roger: And so in that sense, they come in. And what do men do when they don’t feel competent? They just hide.

Vince: Yeah, yeah.

Roger: They don’t want to be picked to be the short stop. Because they don’t want to handle that hard grounder coming at them. And so I have high empathy. That’s one of the issues for men. I think – the other issue is that many men have had negative experiences with so-called men’s ministry.

They’ve maybe been invited to join a small group that wasn’t well led? Or it disappointed them in some way. And so they’re hesitant to join in again. But I think the biggest issue demographically and societally – is that 4 letter word called “time.” Men just don’t have much discretionary time. And we can bemoan that. We can lament that. We can try to guilt them through that. But I think that’s a huge issue in many homes and in many men’s lives, is the issue of time.

Vince: Okay so those are some pretty significant factors. Like one of them comes from personal confidence or competence. Just kind of says, “I don’t feel comfortable leading, or I don’t feel equipped.” Some of it is the busyness of life, and some of it is due to poorly handled or poorly run ministry events or happenings. So there are factors all around these guys that seem to prohibit engagement, is what I hear you saying. Is that right?

Roger: Yeah. And there’s potentially much more.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: But depending on the individual guy.

Vince: Yeah. But I really like how you said – the personal competence thing. Because there is this world that they live in all the time, where they have a high level of competence. They get trained, they feel strong. And then they enter this church, and they do sometimes feel weak. And I’ve bumped up against those issues as well in my time. Now, Roger, we know that – there were times though when men’s ministry was big. Do you remember those years at all? It seemed like there were some big years for men’s ministry.

Roger: Oh yes, yes, yes.

Vince: Of course the Promise Keepers days were probably some that we all look back on. And I often hear older guys talk about the experiences they had. I went to Promise Keepers for a number of years and would say that those events were excellently run. That they were – they really impassioned men. That men really engaged. And yet, sometimes when men came home they kinda disengaged. So, but there was something that happened during those Promise Keepers years. Maybe for a decade or so, that was very inspiring for men. What do you think that Promise Keepers had going for it, that we could really learn from?

Roger: Wow. I’m not really sure. I’m going to throw this into the clouds. And whether you would define it that way, or others would define it that way. I saw the Promise Keepers Years as kind of a revival type of situation. Where God in his sovereignty simply put Coach Mac and others – and put together some things that the spirit of God just used in an amazing way to bring revival across the country to many men in the Promise Keepers dimension. Just kind of like the Jesus People days when–

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: Some things happened that we can’t explain, and we’ve never been able to replicate.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: So on the one hand, I don’t want to look back with longing saying, “Where did we go wrong? We don’t have that anymore.” I want to look back and say, “What did God accomplish?” And we – of course we still long for that. But here’s the way I would put it in my own language. That was a period of revival – where God was stirring up the Body of Christ, and bringing many people into the kingdom. And now I think we are doing the work of renewal.

Vince: Yeah, that’s good.

Roger: And I think renewal is – by nature – slower–

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: Less spectacular. It’s more grassroots.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And maybe I’m just trying to console myself, I don’t know? But that’s how I deal with it.

Vince: You know what? I actually like that. Because I’ve always thought of Promise Keepers as a movement.

Roger: Yes.

Vince: Of God, rather than necessarily a specific in church ministry. Which was somewhat challenging for them, as we know. But I wonder if today – looking back at those Promise Keepers years, and attempting less to compare today to then. That we live in our own day, with our own problems. And you’ve spoken into this a little bit. But I kinda wonder if we’re not dealing in men’s ministry today, with cultural issues that are preventing men more than they have in the past with really engaging.

You mentioned lack of feeling of competence. You mentioned busyness. You’ve even mentioned the lack of excellence, maybe in men’s ministry or at a men’s ministry event or a men’s happening. How can we speak into some of these things, Roger? What would you say would be the right voice and the right way to speak into some of these cultural issues, to help men reengage?

Roger: Well I think – to start with, I think we just have to acknowledge that – at least in my world, I think the pressure on men has escalated. Even since 2008 and the financial crisis that we went through.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: I notice that men are much less willing to push the margins of their personal time off, or they’re much less– They’re much more reticent to refuse travel or a new assignment. Because so many more men are thinking now, “Well wait a minute, at least I have a job. I’m not going to risk that. So like there’s a societal pressure there that the economy has put on men. Travel has increased. Mobility amongst trades and different corporate structures has increased. And I think we – first of all, just need to acknowledge to men that we see the pressure. We know that you’re not just being flaky.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: Because you’re not involved. And then I think we have to– And this has been the genius of the living church throughout its history. Is I think we need to change the wineskin, and not assume that guys can come for 52 weeks a year.

Vince: Yeah, yeah.

Roger: To something. But we have to build in the margin that says, “You are welcome for whatever you can engage in. And we are going to design something that you can feel good about, even if you miss 20% of the times together.”

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: So some practical things. We often design small groups and say, “This group will meet 8 times.”

Vince: Right.

Roger: And then we’re done. Then you can reassess. Or, “We’re going to meet every week, but every week is self-contained. So come when you can. Come all the time if you can, come anytime that you can.” I think we need to take the pressure off men right away, cause–

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: I’m a man, and I think – I always feel like – if I’m not going to complete it, I don’t want to start it.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And so whether that’s a new thing or not, I think that’s part of our culture.

Vince: Yeah, so – what I hear you saying is, we’re in a new cultural time, a new cultural season. We have new issues to address. We need to find new ways to address them. That may be the big event of the Promise Keepers day has come and gone for that season. And that we have new challenges to face, and new ways to deliver ministry. New opportunities that are before us. And we need to find new ways to engage these men without shaming or embarrassing them, or defeating them more. And yet, still providing an excellent opportunity for them to grow in their faith. And saying, “Look, come when you can. Like we want you here. But come when you can.” I would assume that over the years that you’ve done ministry just as a Senior Pastor, you’ve watched the changing of seasons. Is this part of the challenge of leading a ministry, Roger? I mean is it just approaching it in a different and a new way? And does this happen about every decade from your perspective?

Roger: Well yeah, it sure does. I mean there’s many – there are many hot seasons for different topics. There are hot fads that go through the church. And sometimes things really catch on, and then they fade. And I think we just have to be ready for the fact that we cannot stop the process of discipleship no matter what the landscape looks like.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And God in his providence, and with his Holy Spirit and his word – has said, “I have provided you everything you need for life in Godliness, including the life of your ministry.” And so there’s a way to do this if we just find out how. And I think – you kind of touched on it. I think there’s always a voice, and there’s a voice in me that does this too. “Hey, I’m tired of messing around with you guys, let’s just – let’s just call out the marines. And if you don’t have the guts to show up every week on time, early, with your knapsack packed and–”

Vince: Yeah

Roger: “Just don’t even, don’t even worry about–”

Vince: Right.

Roger: You’re not serious about Jesus.

Vince: Right.

Roger: That – it comes up to me once in a while too. But I think what that really is saying – more about my ego and my frustration than it is about the needs of the men.

Vince: Okay, so that – let’s talk about that for a second. Because that is – there are probably men’s leaders listening to this. And there’s probably some Pastor’s listening to us, Roger. I know, and I can agree with you that sometimes you just want to call it out. You want to say to guys, “Look, do something. Because you’re not doing anything.” And I would say that apathy is one of the predominant issues among men. Men can become apathetic or have excuses.

Roger: Sure.

Vince: For sure. But then there’s the – the other end of the spectrum when we go Mark Driscoll on people if you know what I’m talking about. We kind of get in their face, and we say, “Look, you need to move out of mamma’s house. You need to get a job. You need to lead your family spiritually.” And we as men, I know that I sometimes – I need that Mark Driscoll in your face approach. And then sometimes I need the softer approach. Going, “Yeah, I already feel guilty enough.” How do we handle this as leaders? Because as leaders we have to lean into these problems. And we don’t want to give up on our men. And we don’t want to push too hard. How do you navigate that?

Roger: Well I’ve always viewed myself as standing inside a swinging door of a kitchen.

Vince: Okay.

Roger: Like a restaurant.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And the waiters are coming and going, and the door swings both ways. And I want to swing the door open and invite men in. And they have every opportunity to let that door close. But then when life gets hard, when the stress gets up, when something fails, when he’s really scared – I want him to see that that door swings open, and I’m still standing there.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: The invitation’s still there. So I think it’s long-term, low pressure. Constantly inviting.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: We can’t force, we can’t disciple guys who aren’t willing.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: So I lean on the side of – some people might say this is soft. But I don’t think it’s soft. I think it’s simply dignified. I lean on the side of invitation. Invitation, invitation. And if a guy needs to be confronted about something, I will do that individually.

Vince: That’s good. That’s good wisdom.

Roger: And even in my latest Resolute course.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: I went to 3 or 4 guys, and I handed them the card and I said, “I think you need to do this.”

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And I’m convinced they wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t done that.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: But it wasn’t a guilt trip. It was more, “I want you there. Would you join me? I believe in you.” I was using more that leverage of relationship, than of guiltiness or pressure.

Vince: Yeah, shaming or whatever it might be.

Roger: Right.

Vince: I really like that. So – okay so – I want to think about one other thing before we close off this podcast. And that would be this. It’s – there are all kinds of men to engage in the church, for sure. But I know definitely if you’re really wanting to engage men of the church and move people past some of the issues, you’ve got to have some different audiences engaged. I can think of 3 specifically that you guys talk about in Man in the Mirror, that have to be engaged for you to have an effective men’s ministry that can push through some of these challenges. Who are those 3 audiences, and how do you engage them?

Roger: Well I think there’s always the pre-Christian or nominal Christian on the – if we put it on a chart, it would be on the far left side. Our churches have a huge – let’s call it a fringe of guys who show up.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And man, I think that’s a – that’s a huge harvest field. And those guys need a long-term, low-pressure approach. To say, “Hey, we like to have you here.” We’ve got to engage them. And I think what we need to first of all do, is change their perspective of how they view other church men. And so we play golf, we do Frisbee golf.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: We take them fishing. We have a great barbecue dinner. We do all kinds of things to just create in them an expectancy that – hey, being around Christ honoring men is really some of the best relational time I’ve ever had in my life. So we’ve – that’s the way we go about those guys.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: I think that the next notch over would be, what I would call the growing Christian or the biblical Christian. The guy who does show up. Who does come? He knows his Bible, or he’s learning it. And he’s one of those faithful guys. And I think what we need to do with those guys, is challenge them to take the next step. Which is stop sitting and soaking.

Vince: Right.

Roger: Now let’s send you out to lead something. So we need to create opportunities for them to have a ministry. And it’s not always going to be Bible study.

Vince: That’s right.

Roger: We had this – don’t get me started here but–

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: We have this tendency to say – we think all discipleship has to center around being a scholar.

Vince: Right.

Roger: And obviously I want my men to know the Bible. But many of my men are going to thrive if they can bring their skid steer to the camp, and knock down trees and lift boulders and serve Jesus.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: In a way that he knows why he’s doing it. And in doing that, he grows. And he engages other people in that.

Vince: Oh that’s good.

Roger: Other guys can do service ministries and things like that. So it’s not always going to be a Bible study that we’re going to ask guys to step up to.

Vince: Yeah, exactly.

Roger: And then I think the – let’s go to the far right, and there may be some other gradients here.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: But then you’ve got the guy that says, “Hey listen, what we need to do is – we need to have guys in a 15 year study of The Book of Romans.”

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And I’m all for those guys. I love those guys.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: They’re the guys that really know the word. We’ve got to find ways for them to mentor other young men.

Vince: Yes, correct.

Roger: And it could be in a small group. It could be 1 on 1.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: But guys who have it, need to graduate from sitting themselves – and they need to be engaged. And we need to help create structures where they can. Because I’ve done this myself. I freeze up when somebody says, “Will you mentor me?” And I think most men freeze up.

Vince: Yeah.

Roger: And this is the story of your life.

Vince: Right, exactly.

Roger: They freeze up when they say, “You’re mature enough, you ought to be able to mentor someone.” They just don’t know how to do that. So we need to create a platform where they can do that. And I think that engages men across the spectrum, in ways that–

Vince: Yeah

Roger: Really helps them engage their own discipleship.

Vince: I think just you talking that through, Roger – is a great example of the challenge that we have in men’s ministry, really to engage men in the church. Is that there’s a variety of different types of guys. A variety of different types of issues. We’re trying to bring all these guys together and engage them at different levels and put them to work. And this is not a new problem.

This is just an ongoing problem. But it’s worth the time. Because we’re engaging in discipleship in a variety of different ways. Using different methods – through different challenges, different changing of seasons and guards. And so Roger, with that we’re just going to close off our podcast today and give guys – maybe a little bit more direction on how they can engage with you, as we look forward. So thank you so much for being with us today.

Well that’s the show. Thanks for listening. As we close, I want to remind you of 2 things. First, Roger Thompson is hosting a “No Man Left Behind” seminar in the Minneapolis, St Paul area. So if you live around here, and you’re looking for a tool to equip you to lead the men of your church – you have to go to this event. It’s called, “No Man Left Behind.”

It’s a one and a half day seminar that will train you, and give you time to plan, discuss and consult with your leadership team. And it will leave you with a game plan to reach all of the men of your church with powerful vision and a sustainable strategy. There’s nothing like this on the face of the planet. It is fantastic. It’s like drinking from a fire hose of leadership. It’s going to equip you and inspire you to lead the men around you. You need to attend it. If you want to find out details about this event that Roger’s hosting, just go to beresolute.org/nomanleftbehind. It’s /nomanleftbehind. Go there today to get tickets, or to register. And I would highly encourage you to bring a man or 2 with you to this event.

Also, if you’re looking for men’s content, we have great content for men on our website for you. Excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead. Go to our website today – beresolute.org, and find out more. And with that, I hope you enjoyed this podcast. But please know – that the time that we spent together today is worthless unless you choose to act on it. So do something today. By getting off the bench and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time for another edition of The Resolute Podcast.