By: Kris Dolberry– Ministry to men is not for the faint of heart. But often we place the burden of blame in the wrong place like on the shoulders of a “lazy” pastor, uninterested men, or non-committal millennials. Those are all spiritual problems. But could it be that many of the problems with men’s ministries (or any ministries for that matter) are not spiritual problems. Often they are not spiritual problems, they are strategy problems– problems with the trellis not the vine. Think about this– your discipleship strategy is perfectly designed to produce the results it is currently getting. If it is not getting results, you have the wrong strategy. So what is the right strategy?
I wish it were that simple. There is no silver bullet strategy. At LifeWay, we serve more than 80,000 churches all over the world. In no two of those churches does ministry to men look the same. Ministry to men in some churches is what I would call formalized. Formalized ministries are often in churches with a wide range of available ministries. They have their own brand like God’s Guys or Man Up. They have their own vision statement and usually have a vocational or volunteer Men’s Pastor. Saddleback Church in southern California would fall in this category.
Then there are churches that do not have a formalized men’s ministry, but do believe in reaching, discipling, and mobilizing men. These churches often do not have a designated Men’s Pastor. They follow a more strategically simple model. In these churches, ministry to men usually happens within their existing groups network (Sunday school, community groups, Bible study fellowships, etc.) They may not have a formalized “men’s ministry,” but reaching men is no less important than in churches that do. It’s just approached differently. This is the category that my church falls into.
Both categories of churches can be effective at reaching, discipling, and mobilizing men. They simply take different strategic approaches. No matter which approach is taken, we find that those churches that do the best job of reaching discipling, and mobilizing men have developed an intentional pathway that involves discipling men in 4 domains. Here they are:
The first domain is what I call the crowd domain. The crowd domain usually happens between 1 and 3 times per year.Churches who think strategically about the crowd domain will use it as an opportunity to capture guys who are curious about God and church. This domain also serves as a catalyst to move men into the next three domains. At LifeWay, we provide a tailor-made Crowd event called The Main Event.
Next are communities. Churches often offer the once per quarter to once per month. They are designed to sustain the momentum captured in the Crowd domain. I mentioned Saddleback Church earlier. My friend Tom Kang is the Men’s Pastor there. He does a quarterly all-men gathering called Man Up. Man Up includes worship, manly message, and of course red meat. But Pastor Tom is savvy. He knows that those things alone do not make for a healthy community domain. What makes it effective is leveraging the opportunity this creates to connect with the next domain- Groups. They are intentional and strategic about do so.
The next domain is Groups. Groups meet between once per month and once per week. The focus is Bible study, community, and shepherding. Churches who do the best job at this have a clear content map that involves something like 33 The Series or Disciples’ Path. One caution here… A struggle I often hear from pastors is something like, “Our men are just so busy already, asking them to be in yet another group is too much.” Honestly, as husband of a career wife and dad of 3, all of whom are involved in sports, I can relate to this. What I often tell churches is, “if your guys are like many at my church, worship for 1 hour, serve for 1 hour, and spend 1 hour in small group with their wives, it would be exhausting and possibly foolish to create something new just for the men.” Don’t do it. Rather change the way you coach your leaders. Train them to create intentional opportunities for the men in that group to gather with just the men and women with women.
The final domain is the huddle. Remember in Jesus’ ministry, he of course had the 12 with whom He spent 90% of his time. But within the 12, Jesus had his inner circle, Peter, James, and John. He would often pull them aside and spend even more dedicated time discipling them. You too need an inner-circle. A huddle of men with whom there are no secrets. My huddle consists of Chris and Jason. We meet together several times per month. Our conversations strike a balance of structure and informality. Those guys know the best and worst of me and I them. Times with these men nourish my soul and push me toward Jesus as much as anything in my life.
Huddles are invitation-only groups of 3-5 men for discipleship, accountability, and iron-sharpening. This is the domain where the heart of “men’s ministry” beats. Your strategy is incomplete without it. Yet in many churches it is the missing link.
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Pancake breakfasts and game dinners are well and good. But, how do they fit into your strategy? Which domain would the breakfast fall into? What is your plan to move men from one domain to the next? As my friend Pat Hood says, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it will be a fog in the pew.” His point is, if you don’t clearly know what your strategy is, you can forget creating a scalable and sustainable system for discipling men. Evaluate your church. How are you doing in each of these 4? What are you doing well? What opportunities do you have for improvement? If I can help, let me know.
Kris Dolberry is a pastor, speaker, writer, and trainer of leaders. After serving in pastoral leadership for 17 years, Kris now leads Ministry to Men at LifeWay and serves as Executive Editor of Stand Firm, a daily devotional magazine for men. Kris is husband to Vanessa and dad to Konnor, Emma, and Brady. They live outside Nashville, Tennessee.