When I was a kid, I remember going to men’s prayer breakfasts at my church. Often, my dad would take me and my three brothers. I think these events started around 3am Saturdays. At least that’s how 7am felt on a Saturday morning. We’d all go into a room, kneel, then men would start praying aloud.
Even though I was dead-tired early in the morning, I remember being deeply encouraged by these times. Here we were, a group of men or boys –praying, interceding, pleading, and praising God. Each time I attended that hour of prayer on an early Saturday morning, I was so glad that I had gone. Usually, the prayer time was followed by a huge breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes.
The potential power of a men’s prayer breakfast is incredible. The same can be said for most men’s ministries. As men meet for accountability, mentorship, prayer, encouragement, and fellowship, lives are changed for the better. Marriages are saved. Addictions are shattered. Friendships are forged. Faith is strengthened. Leadership is developed. A force for change in your church, in your community and in the world at large is developed by means of a men’s ministry.
But how do you start? Where do you begin? If your church doesn’t yet have one, here is some advice for launching a men’s ministry.
1. Start with the right philosophy.
Even good endeavors will perish on the platform of good intentions. Before you even print the first flyer or prepare your first barbecue, determine why you want to start a men’s ministry and what you want to accomplish. Only the compass of a solid philosophy will start you off on the right direction. Here are four questions to ask and answer as you consider a men’s ministry.
- Why do we want a men’s ministry?
- What needs are we trying to meet?
- What goals are we trying to accomplish?
- What outcomes do we want to see?
This first step — philosophy — may sound unnecessary. I mean, come on, let’s buy some bratwursts and get the party started, right? Let’s book the paintball place or purchase some flag football equipment!
These are all great things, but true ministry is founded upon greater things than merely excitement, trends, or good desires. Plan your path with a philosophy, then you will be ready to roll.
2. Recruit the right volunteers.
The most important move you’ll make after deciding to start a men’s ministry is figuring out who’s going to help with it. Here are three tips:
- Choose someone to run it entirely. This article is not the place to discuss the details of volunteer team management, or the pros and cons of recruiting volunteer help. Instead, the important thing is to appoint someone besides a pastor who can manage the whole program. Oversight by a church staff member is important, but keep the pastor’s involvement confined to oversight, not complete management. Shift the whole program to a team of volunteers.
- Spread the responsibility widely. Obviously, no single person is going to manage the men’s ministry by himself. The more people you have involved in leadership, coordinating, planning, and preparing, the better. The point of recruiting volunteers isn’t just efficiency, excellence, and pulling off a great program. The point of recruiting volunteers is also the impact that the work has upon those volunteers as individuals. When you ask Martin to help you drive to the picnic shelter and fire up the grills, you gain a chance to get to know Martin and to encourage him. You may find out Martin has been wanting to get involved in the ministry in some way, but he didn’t know how. Martin is encouraged now that he is able to minister in some small way. By involving more people in the ministry, you not only achieve efficiency, but you also gain a tool for edification.
- Recruit growing Christians, not perfect Christians. As you consider who to choose for your men’s ministry leadership, the names of several men will come to mind. Likely, these are men who are capable, outspoken, outgoing, and have great leadership abilities. You will want to put them to work in some volunteer ministry capacity, of course. At the same time, choose men who may not have polished leadership skills, or who aren’t as adept at hiding their faults. In other words, they don’t have to have it all together in order to be involved in ministry.
Someone just needs to be growing in Christ. Maybe a guy is struggling with addiction, a difficult marriage, or a rebellious child. This doesn’t disqualify him from helping in ministry. In fact, being part of the ministry and leadership can dramatically change a man for the better.
3. Do the right stuff.
When most people think of men’s ministry, their minds immediately go to the stuff — all the things that a men’s ministry supposedly does. Typically, this revolves around activities that we’re culturally conditioned to think of as “manly” — barbecuing, hunting, paintball, flag football, softball, basketball, four-wheeling, hiking, etc. .
Most likely, the issue of what to do is a central feature of planning a men’s ministry. After all, it’s not exactly a men’s ministry unless you’re doing something, right?
So, what are you going to do? This is where your philosophy comes into play. Remember, we asked at the beginning what goals you are trying to accomplish? What need are you trying to meet?
Answering these questions gets you halfway to answering the “What do we do?” issue. So, for example, maybe you jotted down notes similar to these while you were thinking about philosophy:
- Our goal is to encourage men to become better dads.
- Our goal is to teach men to become loving husbands.
- Our goal is to challenge men to witness in their workplace.
- Our goal is to edify men through regular fellowship.
- Our goal is to teach men to be faithful in prayer.
Now that you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you’re well on your way to choosing activities that will facilitate those goals. Don’t simply pull random activities from the bag of things-that-men-typically-do-for-a-men’s-ministry activity. Choose with discretion.
Let’s say your goal is to teach men to be faithful in prayer. Based on this goal, you decide
To do the following:
- Kick off your men’s ministry with a prayer breakfast.
- Coordinate groups of 2-3 men to meet for prayer each week.
- Start a small group men’s Bible study on prayer.
- Have a men’s camping trip in which you take special time for prayer.
See how it works? Come up with your goals, and then figure out what to do based on those goals. First things first.
There’s nothing at all wrong with having men get together for good food and fellowship, paintball included. This kind of fellowship can be encouraging, edifying, and sustaining for the men in your church. Whether or not you have a formal men’s ministry, by all means, just do something with the guys. Keep in mind, however, that the more strategic you are about what you do, the better you will be able to achieve your goals.
4. Maintain a Godward vision.
This final point sounds like jargony Christian-speak. Yeah, yeah, keep a “Godward vision,” –of course. But what does this actually mean? Let me explain.
It’s like this with any ministry, you start to focus more on the ministry than you do on the person and goal for which you started the ministry. There are administrative details to tend to, a budget to worry about, an interpersonal relationship strain on the staff, an illness, a crisis, or a major activity to plan. All this ministry stuff, whether mundane or major, can distract us from the main point of the ministry. What are we actually trying to do? Why?
Every once in a while, it helps to step back and realize that it’s all about God. This whole complex, unwieldy, distressing-yet-rewarding ministry is for God’s glory. Nothing brings clarity to a task like a Godward vision. As you plan the camping trip, think “this is for God’s glory”. As you book the picnic pavilion, think “we’re doing this because of God.” As you sip coffee at Panera Bread for your accountability meeting, think “Our goal is to magnify God”.
You will find that your men’s ministry is a work in progress. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or cool, just focus on the basics — God-focused fellowship and edification. As you start with the right philosophy, recruit volunteers, plan the right stuff, and keep your eyes fixed on the God, you’ll begin to see men grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more ten years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks his coffee with no cream and no sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.