By: Robert Noland
It was early on a Friday morning. I was in a large city to lead a statewide men’s retreat that night. A ministry leader had asked me to speak at a church’s weekly men’s breakfast.
As I walked in and took a seat, one man was at the podium discussing prayer requests. I scanned the group and there they were … once again … pancakes … the official icon of men’s ministry for the past 50+ years.
As I listened to the guys’ dialogue, I quickly saw the dynamic. In this large, metropolitan church, the men’s ministry meeting was all retired gentlemen gathering to eat pancakes and pray. Now, to be clear, I have no problem with guys eating and praying. But this was just a duplicate among all denominations and sizes of churches all over this country. I’ve been in this same room many times. It’s the men’s ministry model we still believe is suitable to reach guys in the 21st century. And it’s also why we’re losing them every day.
And God is inviting you to invest all He has placed in you for all these years into the life of another man.
As the leader was introducing me, I heard that still, small Voice whisper, “That talk you had planned here? We’re canning that. (He does this to me a lot, by the way.) Here’s what I want you to say …”
As I’m walking to the front, I’m informing God as to why I cannot share His message with these men that I do not know. (I do that to Him a lot, by the way.) He then assures me that He knows them and what they need to hear. Through experience, I knew He had me there, so I agreed.
I then said, “Gentlemen, I’m sure you enjoy this time every week. But I also see there isn’t a man here under 40 and I know this church has many men who show up here every Sunday in that category. There is a wealth of wisdom, life experience, and godly counsel in this room. Your input into the lives of the younger men in this church is invaluable. So, here’s what I am daring you to do. This next Sunday when you go in to find your familiar seat, look around, and spot a younger man that you’ve seen many times but don’t know. Muster all your courage, walk over to him, introduce yourself, and say, ‘I’m a little older than you and been down the road a little longer. My kids are raised and I have time now. If I can ever be of help to you for listening or advice or prayer, I’m here to help you any way I can.’ Gentlemen, what might God do in the lives of those men, in your lives, and in this church, if every one of you began to mentor and love on one of these younger guys, who are struggling every single day to just keep their heads above water? They desperately need you, but don’t know it yet. But you also need them. And God is inviting you to invest all He has placed in you for all these years into the life of another man.”
I then sat down. It got real quiet. Then one man in the middle of the room stood and said, “Guys, he’s right. I say we take that challenge and do more to reach out to the men of this church.” I looked over at the leader who was grinning ear to ear, because I had said the thing he’d been wanting to say, but might get in hot water over. And I learned once again, I’m only a messenger and it’s not my message anyway.
Haven’t we had enough pancakes? Let’s take those two words found in men’s ministry—men and ministry—and meet each other, engage, learn, grow, challenge, inspire, and love one another. Walk out of isolation into interaction. That plan certainly worked well for the original men’s group in Christianity called the disciples and, you know … I bet they never ate a pancake in their lives.
After 30+ years in ministry—10 years in Christian music, 20 years in para-church ministry, including being a lay-pastor and church planter for nine of those years, since 2009, Robert Noland has operated his own ministry—517 Resources, Inc. He is also a free-lance writer and author of The Knight’s Code. Robert and his wife of 30+ years live in Franklin, Tennessee and have two adult sons.