Photo credit: Snapwire Snaps / Zak Suhar
By Jeremy Steele
It's time to get creative with your United Methodist Men's ministry. A Pew study has confirmed what churches have seen for years. "In the United States, for example, women are more likely than men to say religion is 'very important' in their lives (60% of women vs. 47% of men), according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. American women also are more likely than American men to say they pray daily (64% vs. 47%) and attend religious services at least once a week (40% vs. 32%)"
Reaching out to men in your community is important, and, while an early-morning devotion over eggs is nice, we need to think out-of-the-box. Here are some ideas to move your men's ministry beyond the traditional breakfast Bible study.
Expenses for a traditional conference with guest speakers can pile up quickly. What's more, they ignore the wealth of wisdom within your congregation. That's where the un-conference comes in. Rather than finding outside experts, you leverage the wisdom of the participants.
Though an un-conference can be structured in many ways, the goal is to connect people and spread knowledge through those connections. You might begin the day by having people write topics they'd like to discuss or in which they feel they have particular expertise. Then, allow participants to vote silently, maybe by adding hash marks next to the topics listed on a white board. Once the voting is complete, have a couple of leaders decide how to group the participants to discuss the most popular topics.
United Methodist Men offers ongoing webinars and videos on various topics of concern to men's ministry. These webinars are available live-feed at various time throughout the year, and are archived for later use. They are about an hour in length and would be excellent discussion starters for a larger men's gathering. Since the webinars are free, they offer a great opportunity to bring national experts to your group in a cost effective way.
The cost is low, and the return on investment is high as participants get the reward of being both teachers and learners. In addition, the format helps nurture relationships and open lines of communication in ways not possible in a typical top-down conference.
Sometimes we get stuck thinking that every meeting must be focused around teaching. Instead of offering a parenting seminar, try planning an event or two that helps fathers and grandfathers have fun with kids in a safe environment. This could be a dance party, a field game day or an outdoor adventure in a local park. Men could attend and support youth sporting events or volunteer to be badge counselors or adult support for scouting groups. United Methodist Men have several resources on scouting and mentoring programs.
As you plan these fun times, be creative and think through ways to enable the father figures to have spiritual conversations with the children. You might give them a card with questions about God and nature to talk about while your group is hiking. Children love to move to music, so find a good segue to talk about the time David danced in front of everyone in a very unhindered, dad-dancing sort of way.
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When many men invite their friends to church or to a breakfast Bible study they hear excuses like, "I've got to take my kids to school" or "That's the day I need to be at work earlier." What if instead of asking men to come to the church, you took the church to them?
Talk with men in your church to find a conference room, coffee shop or home near where many of them work. Consider rotating sites to accommodate job locations in other areas. Then, design a short creative Bible study with a solid icebreaker to which men can invite coworkers. Make certain you allow plenty of time for them to get there and back within their lunch hour. You might even offer a free lunch to attendees to encourage participation.
Here's another option for bringing the church to a place it is not often seen: the movie theater. Instead of showing the newest Christian DVD at your church, consider going to see the latest blockbuster in the theater together. Thinking about movies as powerful modern parables can transform them into faith-forming material.
Every movie has themes that can prompt interesting spiritual discussions. You could either watch the film in advance to identify key topics or save time and money by tapping into online reviews from Christian movie critics. Plugged In provides great movie reviews, synopses and outlines of all the spiritual themes. They also have a great search tool and a handy app for Android and iOS devices.
Write an outline of the themes in advance, watch the movie with your group and then use the outline to spark discussion at the closest restaurant or coffee shop. Talk about how the movie helps participants understand life and faith. Urge attendees to spread what they've learned, to influence the culture positively and to live out the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
Many churches offer sports leagues for kids with parents as volunteer coaches. What about the dads who are more artsy or have kids that are more creative than athletic? Consider offering seasonal art courses from painting to dance with volunteer leaders and groups of kids in the same way a typical sports ministry would operate. This is a way to reach out to the personality types who don't connect with the sporty side of life. Learn how to how to create artisan communities for more ideas.
Whether it's painting or un-conferencing, creativity in planning men's ministry is a must. Take this article to your next meeting and start a conversation about how you might think out-of-the-box to help the men in your community see the importance of faith and engage with your church.
The General Commission on United Methodist Men is also available to resource church men's ministry groups to do out-of-the-box ministry and activities. Find them at www.gcumm.org.
When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Ala. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!