Pay attention to men’s ministry, says bishop
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––“The Church is at a crossroad” and it needs to address the “gender gap.” That’s what Mississippi Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., president of the General Commission on UM Men, told a Feb. 21-25 meeting of conference presidents of UM Men and conference prayer advocates.
“The fact that since the 1950s men show increasingly less interest in the church has led a few pastors to a logical conclusion: men's ministry needs bolstering,” said Swanson. ”But, when a LEADERSHIP survey asked where churches should place their ministry emphasis on reaching men, on reaching women, or on reaching both men and women, 80 percent of the respondents suggested putting equal emphasis on reaching both men and women.
Eighty-five percent of pastors have an aversion to controversy,” said Swanson, “and when we discover that we will need to spend more time with men in order to cultivate them, we will probably shy away from this.”
We must intentionally build ministries that reach out to men.
The needs of men
The bishop said, men have three basic needs: 1. A genuine faith journey; 2. Relationships with others that are real; and 3. Knowledge of how this faith helps them in their work-a-day world.
In addition, men have an aversion to phony relationships. They prefer genuine honest relationships with persons with whom they have developed a strong trust.
“Men are turned off by the phony,” said the bishop, and “far too often our words do not match our actions.”
“We have to learn to be honest,” he said. “When we were young we all did some things we shouldn’t have done, and that’s something we can only say in the company of other men.”
“An insight from C. S. Lewis, helps us here,” said Swanson. “Lewis felt English men visit pubs regularly not because they long to drink, but simply because they want to be with other men as men.
“Men need to be with other men in the same way women need to be with other women.”
In other actions the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men:
- learned UM Men have supported the Upper Room Living Prayer Center for 40 years. In 2017, the men gave $25,245 to the center. There are now 172 remote prayer line partners who answer prayer requests and 494 Covenant Prayer Groups who continue in prayer for those who call in;
- heard Wade Mays, director of the Meals for Millions program of the Society of St. Andrew, report UM Men gave the program $150,000, an amount that provided 7.6 million servings of food;
- honored Larry Coppock, United Methodist director of scouting, for 21 years of service;
- changed the name of the “Life Membership Award” to the “Life Achievement Award”;
- approved a United Methodist Men Foundation 2018 budget of $198,734. That budget includes $114,500 for the Office of Scouting Ministries and $41,000 for Men’s Ministries;
- learned 822 people have been inducted into the John Wesley Society since it was created in 1991. Inductees include 47 bishops and 2 U.S. presidents.