At Radical Mentoring, we’re passionate about helping churches create environments for men to grow . . . in their relationships, in their spiritual journeys, in their leadership capacities.
Before I jump into how, let’s talk about why. Churches need leaders . . . strong leaders. Male and female. But especially male because when a man goes all-in for Jesus, his influence reverberates to his wife, his kids, his workplace, his community, and his church. He becomes a disciple-maker and draws other men to Jesus. He becomes a more generous giver, both of his time and treasure. Over time, his friends are attracted to how he lives.
But here’s the problem, hardly any pastors I talk to are totally satisfied when it comes to their men. They have a sense there could be more. More participation, more depth, more passion, more commitment.
Here’s what I know. Men’s ministries tend to be event-driven. There’s usually one guy spearheading everything. He organizes an ad-hoc team to make events happen. Outsiders are welcome but rarely come. There’s fellowship, food, and a speaker or program. When it’s over, the room is cleaned up and everyone goes on their way until the next event. Some churches also have curriculum-based studies that tend to draw only the most faithful or ongoing group environments that are more relational, but light on intentionality. So, most men’s ministries are bifurcated . . . events for the masses, intensive Bible study and groups for the few, and no system for consistently producing the leaders your church needs.
I believe the best way to start (or restart) a men’s ministry is through small group mentoring. Why? Because that’s how Jesus did it . . .
- Jesus was on purpose – Jesus was kingdom-focused and He invites us into his mission by giving us the job of making disciples. Only through caring for others can we have the “life to the full” Jesus came to offer. God must raise up someone in your church to lead here. Maybe it’s you . . . maybe it’s someone you know.
- Jesus handpicked a few guys – Jesus had more than twelve followers, but He picked a few to be his inner circle, praying intensely about His choices. Our event mentality is numbers-focused. Bigger numbers equal more success, right? No. Jesus started small. He poured into twelve guys and they multiplied.
- They walked through life together – Rarely did He sit them in rows and teach them stuff. They learned “along the way,” from real-time situations and people. A core men’s ministry leadership has to “do life together” for real bonding to happen. It can’t be a canned curriculum. It has to be authentic and relevant to their lives.
- Jesus explained and lived Scripture – Jesus knew the Law. He brought it alive and made it relevant through His words and His deeds. His guys watched Him live it out through all kinds of circumstances. In a mentoring group, guys memorize key Scripture verses, apply them to their lives, and talk about them regularly.
- Jesus prayed and taught them to pray – Jesus prayed with and for His guys, He modeled prayer, and gave them a glimpse of His intimate relationship with the Father by going off to pray alone. Guys who are in community with each other learn how to pray for each other . . . and they will.
- A high level of commitment was required – Jesus’ disciples made huge time commitments. They left everything to follow Jesus. A strong men’s ministry begins with guys who are committed to growing in their walk. If they spend a year of intense effort under the guidance of a mentor, they’ll emerge understanding how important Jesus is to them and how important the church is to Jesus.
- It was a community – Jesus was there as their leader, but the disciples intimately knew each other because they spent time together, worked together, and challenged each other. Just as the disciples created “ecclesias,” small gatherings of Jesus followers who became the church, when you establish a committed community of men, they’ll replicate that community with others. This is the secret sauce of building a men’s ministry because men feel like they belong.
- There was a defined period of time – Jesus poured into His guys for three and a half years. Then He graduated them . . . sending them out to do the work of the Gospel. We’ve found that nine to twelve months is about the right amount of time for a group to be intensely connected. After that, it’s time to send them out . . . to lead, love, serve, and give.
- It was about multiplication, not addition – Jesus told them upfront, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” From the very beginning, it was His stated intention to pass the baton. We’ve seen how men who experience Jesus through a mentoring group are chomping at the bit to pay it forward to others.
Since every one of Jesus’ guys had been taught the Law from birth, this was not about information transfer or content. It was about practical application. Jesus modeled a small group process that led to total commitment, and from that group, the church began.
Launching a vibrant men’s ministry through small group mentoring begins with you . . . the pastor. It begins with your commitment to seeing the men of your church go all-in for Jesus. You don’t have to personally mentor (although some pastors say that making disciples this way brought them new energy), but you must be committed to the process, leveraging your leadership and influence to help it launch.
Here’s a fly-by of our system, distilled from Jesus’ model, and adapted to our culture today, using tools that didn’t exist 2,000 years ago.
It begins with one leader. One spiritually, emotionally, and relationally mature man, handpicked by you. It can be a staff person or even yourself, but it has to be someone the men of your church look up to and respect. He has to be an on-purpose guy who loves Jesus and takes seriously “this way of life.” He is signing up to spend three hours with a group of guys in his home once a month. He must be willing to share his faith story . . . not just the Sunday school version, but “the good, the bad, and the ugly version.”
Once you’ve got his commitment, then it’s working together to create a list of younger guys from your church who are believers but have the potential to do more . . . to be sold-out for Jesus and assume leadership roles later on when they’re ready. They’re invited by you, on behalf of the church, to apply for the group. This is huge because it communicates the importance and rarity of the opportunity. These guys make a covenant commitment to attend every monthly session, to do the homework, and to pay it forward.
At the beginning of the year (following the mentor’s lead), each man shares his full-on story with the group. And then, month-by-month they cover a topic that is important from a spiritual formation perspective but also relevant to these men. Things like who God is, who they are in Christ, how to be good husbands, or how to create priorities. Each month, they read a book on the topic, memorize relevant Scripture, do a related homework assignment, pray, and connect one-on-one with another member of the group. At the end of the season, there’s a Commencement Retreat where the guys are sent out to love and lead. Some will move immediately into leading their first group. Some will pay it forward by using their gifting in other ways in the church. But all will grow through the process, including the mentor.
Do this a few times, through a few generations, and you’ll have that core group of men God will use, not only to build a vibrant men’s ministry but to grow and deepen your church and your community.