From your partners in men’s ministry
A bi-monthly e-mail letter from agency officers and staff
to leaders of United Methodist Men
October 15, 2015
Who you be?
By Bishop James Swanson, Sr.
I want you to think with me for a few minutes about how satisfied you are with your life and how many male friends you have.
If you asked your friends the same question, how would they answer?
I don’t ask you this question to send you on a guilt trip or to make you feel uncomfortable. But, if you have a difficult time answering this question, I want you to consider if it might be because you believe you have not done well enough.
Our response to this question is rooted in what we do or don’t do, rather than rooted in who we are becoming. This is of particular importance as we attempt to enter into ministry with men. As men, we are highly infected with a need to justify our existence based upon what we do.
We find it difficult to accept the teaching about being a disciple of Jesus based––not on what we do––but, based upon grace––a grace that is forgiving and patient and yet pushes and pulls us forward into a deeper relationship with God who will not let us go despite our behavior.
I believe what propelled the Wesleyan movement forward and made it so attractive to men was its clear understanding of the process of sanctification––a sanctification that was lived out and practiced with the help of the Wesley classes and bands.
It was in these classes and bands that men found full acceptance. If they failed, they were encouraged to faithfully confess their failings, shortcomings, stumbling, mistakes, growing edges, and, yes, their sins. In the company of others they found support and not condemnation. They were encouraged––not shown. They learned instead of being taken advantage of.
In these classes and bands, they developed life-long friendships rather than fleeting relationships.
It buoys my spirit when I witness men admitting their hunger and thirst for groups that will help them go deep in God.
Many men are tired of the shallow church experiences where very little is demanded of them and little or no accountability is offered.
We have a golden opportunity to change the customary question from “What do you do?” to “Who you be?”
With so much coming at us today, we need something to help us become strong in Jesus and to feel confident in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.
While there are many resources, I offer one to get you started: The Class Meeting: Reclaiming A Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience by Dr. Kevin Watson.
Following Christ has always been about becoming and not doing. It is out of our being that we do. If it is only doing, it is, at best charity. It is in our being that transformation takes place.
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Inside or outside?
By Gil Hanke
At a September 11 meeting of the Texas Conference delegation to General Conference and the South Central Jurisdictional Conferences, a friend of mine told me about book he attempted to read.
The meeting fell on the 14th anniversary of the horrific day when the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell.
The book he was talking about that day was written from two perspectives: one section was written by those who were inside the buildings and escaped, and the other written by people who were outside watching this happen.
In each case, people were doing what they do on a typical Tuesday morning. No one was doing anything unusual. They were simply going to work inside one of the towers or they were on their way to another destination.
The “inside” section was exciting to read because, against all odds, these persons survived. The stories were filled with bravery and selfless care.
But, my friend said he could not finish reading the “outside” section. Those people could only helplessly stand and watch; they were powerless to act.
As we look at this church and the world we love, all of us can see broken parts causing pain.
But, unlike 9/11, we have a choice of where we stand.
If we decide we are on the outside, we will believe we are helpless to do anything about the brokenness. We will have decided “this is not about me or my role in the church, it is their fault.” In many of the media reports, our church and world are always painted in pictures of hopeless despair, because that is what sells. And the more fear or anger they can generate the more money they raise…for themselves.
If we decide that we are inside the church and the world, we have the opportunity to be part of remarkable stories of redemption and instruments of God’s grace.
As members inside the church and the world, we become part of the stories that reveal God’s hand moving us “insiders” to do wonderful acts that bring hope, healing and wholeness.
Stories of God’s action are all around us. We may have seen redemptive acts during a Cub pack meeting, in a visit with a homeless person, in a greeting to a church visitor, in growing a garden to give food away, in a diverse community building a Habitat home for someone they don’t know, in a compelling story on UMC.org, and in taking a lower paying job to better serve the Kingdom. In all of these acts we find hope that is renewed in glorious worship.
So where do you choose to stand?
Join me in a “fast” this week: choosing not to partake in negative comments on any subject. Instead, let us “feast” on the good news of redemption and the transformations that occur all around us.
God IS good, all the time.
Are you taking the time today to see where your day intersects with God?
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Why Strength for Service matters
By Dan Ramsey
A few weeks ago we were confronted with a terrible evil event that has affected the lives of many. It seems that throughout this country we have seen too many lives taken too often.
Having been a Houston police officer for 30 years, I have had the unfortunate experience of being part of many Houston police officer funerals.
It is said in the law enforcement community that police officers and families bleed blue.
We spent more time with our partners and other officers than we did with our own families.
Many long hours and confrontation with evil challenges our communities.
Whether it is confronting bad events or trying to comfort families, police officers see too much of the hurt in the world.
How do officers deal with these difficult times?
We all became so numb to the hurt and pain that sometimes it appears as if we let it pass over our heads. That was not and is not true.
We have to find a way to draw our strength to continue moving forward.
As I looked at this last funeral for Deputy Goforth of the Harris County Sherriff’s department, I asked my wife if I still had “blue blood.”
I remember singing with our Houston Police Gospel Quartet at many funerals and feeling the pain that thousands of officers and their families and friends have as they entered Second Baptist Church in Houston for the funeral of a brother or sister officer.
Sometimes this was the only time many of these people came to a church. I knew that they came to gain strength from God to make it through difficult events.
This is why Strength for Service to God and Community devotionals make a difference. The devotions come from first responders for first responders and their families and friends.
These devotions are about our communities and events that change people’s hearts. God makes a difference in the way we face our challenges, whether they are good or evil. Strength for service to God, is what we all should strive for. I hope you draw your strength from a risen savior. It makes a big difference.
Oh by the way, the pain of the funerals is still real, and I still bleed blue.
Because He Lives!
Dan Ramsey, president
National Association of Conference Presidents
Leadership in Scouting Ministry
By Larry Coppock
The Office of Scouting Ministries is responsible for training leaders of various youth-serving organizations and coordinating scouting activities.
The Scouting Ministry Committee, a standing committee of the commission, establishes strategic and tactical plans that give guidance to membership, training, adult and youth recognition, chaplaincy and communication.
In the midst of this planning, Christ––through the Holy Spirit––makes us aware of new ways of doing ministry. That is how scouting ministry specialists (SMS) came into existence over six years ago.
Currently, more than 300 SMS have registered with the scouting office, which is responsible for recruiting, training and resourcing these volunteers.
These specialists fulfill many important roles including the servicing of existing Cub Scout packs, Boy and Girl Scout troops, Venture crews, and other community youth-serving organizations; they may also help other churches in the neighborhood start new units.
The scouting office defines the roles and responsibilities of these leaders, but flexibility is at the core of the program. These specialists may focus on Scout Sunday promotion, PRAY (Programs of Religious Activities with Youth) awards, adult and youth recognition or starting new troops. They fill a void that is often left at the district level.
The scouting office is also responsible for training annual conference and district scouting coordinators and linking scouting ministry specialists to the official structures of the denomination and the goal of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
We are thankful to all these servant leaders as they continue to define a new and exciting discipleship-making “adaptive challenge” in scouting ministry.
Please contact our office for a copy of the 2013-16 Strategic Plan or other information on scouting ministry.
Larry W. Coppock
National director of Scouting Ministries and director
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Everybody worships something
By Jim Boesch
Everybody, everyday worships something or someone!
The people who visited our church campuses or some other form of church community last Sunday were given the opportunity to worship our living God.
But, do not be mistaken, the people who did not attend any church community on Sunday did worship something or someone, just not our Creator God. There is still something or someone at the center of their lives that drives their behavior; in most cases, that someone is themselves.
The major determinant of a person’s activities lies in who or what is the object of their focus. Who or what do they worship? Who or what is their source of security, self-worth and wisdom? Who or what is their audience and judge of their life decisions?
Our culture today consistently tells men “make it all about you.” “Find happiness and self-worth by collecting wealth, power and status. Take care of yourself first and satisfy your wants and needs above all else.”
While anyone can see this is surely a self-serving way of life, the you-deserve-it attitude is the culture in which men spend most of their waking hours.
The problem with men not having God as the object of their worship and focus is that the bulk of their behavior is manifested in self-destructive pride and fear.
Prideful behavior can be witnessed in men who promote themselves, boast, take all the credit, show off, do all the talking, and demand all the attention.
Pride can be defined as an over-high opinion of yourself––an exaggerated esteem of self, arrogance. And in scripture a warning can be read as: “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought” (Romans 12:3).
Fearful behavior will show up as men who protect themselves, hide behind their titles/positions, withhold information, intimidate others, hoard control and discourage honest feedback on their behavior.
Fear can be defined as an insecure view of the future producing self-protection. And in scripture can be found “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:15).
The major consequences of men behaving with damaging pride and fear is that it always separates them from God, other people, and themselves.
Pride and fear always causes men to compare themselves with others, make them unsatisfied with their lives, and distort the truth into a false sense of security.
But there is hope! There is a tremendous opportunity for effective ministry through these men if, as servant leaders, we influence them to focus on God as the object of their worship, their source of security and self-worth and the audience and judge of their life decisions.
If we can help these men focus on God and His kingdom instead of themselves, we will be able to provide the antidote to the pride and fear that is consuming them. In doing this, God becomes the only object of their worship, He becomes their only source of security and self-worth and their only audience and judge.
In this transformation of objects of worship, the pride that was manifest earlier is replaced by humility. Humility can be described as something hoped for, lived but never claimed and as the act of looking out the window rather than in the mirror to praise.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Next, the fear that was consuming men can be replaced by God-grounded confidence. This confidence is experienced when one is able to rest assured they can abide in God’s love, goodness, purpose, plan and provision which allows them to live and grow with others in transparent, transforming relationships. It’s about trust and proceeding in faith one step at a time.
So we can say with confidence, “the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7
When we help men replace pride with humility and fear with God-grounded confidence, men move from the initial act of separation back to relational community, from acts of self-serving comparison back to contentment of being who God created them to be, and from seeing an unreal distortion of life back to the truth that through Jesus we are unconditionally loved children of God.
Remember, everybody worships something so let’s be servant leaders who guide our men to the living, loving God who created us to worship only him!
Jim Boesch, deployed staff member
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Jim is a master trainer in facilitating workshops for “Lead Like Jesus,” servant leadership training; “Understanding Men's Ministry,” discipling leadership training; and “Equipping Equippers” learning-facilitation training. You may host any of these workshops in your area by calling him (407-721-0416) or by e-mail.
Is this in your plan to revitalize the church?
By Mark Lubbock
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The annual conference in which I serve is improving the way we do church.
There are assessments of church activities along with assessments of clergy gifts and effectiveness. These assessments help churches look at themselves objectively and encourage them to focus on outcomes.
Pastors report that 40 to 60 percent of their church members do not attend church regularly.
Why not start with men who are church members, but seldom attend? Meet them right where they are in life and offer viable alternatives to the challenges they face.
What would happen if the absent men began regularly participating, and brought along their families? INSTANT GROWTH!
Let’s look at how your church is connecting men to Jesus Christ. (Making disciples, or true imitators of Christ.) A survey tool will help you gather detailed information of where you stand, but for now just look around. What do you see?
- How many men attend worship services?
- How many participate in learning or fellowship opportunities like Sunday school, studies and small groups?
- How many read their Bible on a daily or weekly basis?
- How many men have a personal prayer life?
- What is the general state of men’s souls in your church? Are they content and joyful? Do they have happy family relationships?
Again, we are just gaining a general perception right now. My personal observation as a pastor and as a certified men’s ministry specialist is that, in general, men are not turning to the church for answers to life’s challenges. This presents a tremendous opportunity for churches that provide programs and activities that address these challenges.
There are important elements in the process of reaching men for Christ that should be considered:
- Mission––Men will come together to serve/work so long as they know the WHY. Be clear by stating the NEED, the MISSION, and the OUTCOME.
- Work teams––Consider the men you want to be a part of the work team. Schedule events according to availability. For example, early Saturday morning might make sense for young fathers whereas weekdays might work for retired men or men with flexible schedules.
- After the work team completes a project, conduct a family dinner to recognize and celebrate their work.
- Capture the momentum by creating a sign-up sheet for the next series of men’s activities.
- Fellowship––Build in regular opportunities for men to get to know one another. Relationships provide the glue that holds men’s ministry together.
- MEALS – It’s good to have meals together. It’s also good to provide opportunities for men to prepare meals together.
- FUN – Look for common interests and build activity around these like auto racing/car shows, fishing, hunting, attending sports events, camping, bowling, golfing, and hiking.
Points of entry
Use the Interest Finder Survey on the GCUMM website to determine when men would like to meet and what they would like to do.
Young fathers––Create regular activities for father/child bonding that are fun and that fit in with the school year and spiritual season.
- Manger Build – A great idea offered by www.themangerbuild.org where the dad helps the children construct a manger for Christmas. They build the wooden manger together, display it by the family Christmas tree, and each night before Christmas the father reads a short family devotion. Kids learn the true meaning of Christmas and a new family memory and tradition is born!
Married Career Builders––Make the husband a hero by holding a quaterly date night with a dinner and a movie. Provide baby sitters and sign up couples all year round.
Retired, but still active––Schedule “Grandfather Days” where the church offers activities for granddads and grandkids. The parents get a day by themselves and granddads can host a great adventure for the grandkids.
Obviously there are many other ways to group men, and a huge range of possible activities. This very short list is designed as a “fire-starter” to get creative juices flowing.
Following the survey, personally invite men from each age group to be part of a planning committee to develop a series of activities for men. Committee members who plan the events will not only attend, they will invite their friends.
“Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting”––
Dr. Pat Morley, founder of Man in The Mirror
If it doesn’t work, change it.
The Rev. Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member
General Commission on United Methodist Men
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