From Old Testament times to today, men gather to discuss their faith journeys and find meaning, hope and healing. Small-group ministry was an essential element of the Wesleyan movement in England and in “the Colonies.” Men’s ministry at a local church level was formally endorsed in the 1908 General Conference. With the introduction of the General Commission on United Methodist Men in 1996, the United Methodist Men became a separate agency of the UMC. The United Methodist Men’s ministry program is nationally recognized as the largest and most organized in the U.S.
The purpose of the United Methodist Men is to declare the centrality of Christ in every man’s life. This is expressed as all men engage in daily Bible study, witness to Christ in daily work and relationships, and perform intentional Christian service to others. We want men to know Christ so others may know Christ. In fact, the mission statement of the United Methodist Men is, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Enabling spiritual growth is an important part of what we do. We believe in Wesleyan discipleship and that one essential element is an ongoing, on-growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The other essential element of Wesleyan discipleship involves intentional Christian action through acts of mercy, peace and justice in our community and around the world. Our staff and our members are resources for creating opportunities for an individual or group to engage the world in Christian action.
From Gathering for Something Greater (UMM)
It is important for us to remember that the point of each and every United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make more disciples of Jesus Christ.
In many churches, “men’s ministry” is viewed only as a monthly meeting where there is a meal, a report from the last meeting, a report on how much money the group has in the bank, followed by a “program” which usually relates to a mission of the church. This traditional style of meeting works for many men, and the interesting presentations and the fellowship serve a purpose for those men who attend.
But many men want more. Men have told us (the UMM) that, “I am more moved and challenged at a Rotary or Kiwanis meeting than at my UMM meeting.” Add into this mix that many of the times for these meetings don’t match the schedule of young families, and many of these meals are not exactly “health foods,” and it is no wonder these groups are experiencing shrinking numbers. For many men, these “meet and eat” meetings have no value. Many churches put great energy into getting men to come to these monthly meetings. The fact is, everyone who wants to come to these meetings is already coming.
Men’s ministry within the United Methodist Church must be a life-enhancing, life-changing experience that impacts every man in the congregation and the men of their community.
In some churches, men are attempting to break this monthly meeting stereotype by forming affinity groups. These may be softball teams for church league play, fly fishing clubs, classic car clubs or motorcycle riders. These are great “back door” ministries because they welcome men from the community who may not want to attend worship at this time, but might venture in that direction because of the relationships formed with church members. These groups also serve a purpose, and through those relationships men are moved into a deeper relationship with the church and with Christ.
For generations, we have depended on curriculum-based programing to make disciples and to grow our churches. These programs have made us smarter on social issues and more knowledgeable about the Bible, but for most of us it does not increase our disciple-making behaviors.
So what is the new way of doing men’s ministry that really makes disciples and that reaches men of all ages? Actually, it is the way Wesley and his followers created a movement in England that spread like wildfire here in “the Colonies.” As you may know, Wesley had three simple, general rules for this movement: “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God by practicing the ordinances of God.” Wesley broke congregations into “classes” that each had a leader. The leader initially was to visit each member of the class to make sure he or she was following the ordinances of God: daily prayer, searching the scriptures, tithing, taking communion. It quickly became clear that they were failing. And so the “class meetings” began for members to sit face-to-face and answer questions about their relationships with God during the last week. This relationship with God is a prerequisite for following the ordinances of God.
Today, the United Methodist Men recommend weekly meetings of 8-10 men where each person is asked, “Where have you and God intersected this week?” or “How is it with your soul?” or “Where did you respond to the Holy Spirit this week?” The best way to learn how this works is to get a group of men to agree on a meeting time, and have the group do an 8-week study in the book, The Class Meeting, by Dr. Kevin Watson. We also suggest that the meetings be done electronically, using Skype, Google+, Zoom or any other platform that allows everyone to see and hear each participant. These meetings are usually an hour, depending on the size of the group.