· Ministry to Men

Why we need a band of brothers

By Derek Maul

Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. – Exodus 17:11-12


I first met Steve in a long Starbucks line during a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Obviously stressed, he responded eagerly to my friendly, “What’s up, you look a little frazzled?” He spilled his guts waiting for his triple espresso, and continued his lament as we walked to the gate.

A 37-year-old father of two, Steve is struggling in his marriage; he is stressed at work, and he is unsure of where his life is going. His family attends a mid-sized UM congregation, but he said he is losing interest.

“Sounds like you need some encouragement,” I said. “Are you involved with UM Men?”

“Really good people,” Steve said, “but I couldn’t connect. We had breakfast, a devotional, and a church workday. There was no one my age, and it reminded me of my dad’s Rotary Club.”

“I’ll pray for you,” I said. “Find a covenant group; you need some brothers to hold your arms up.”

He pocketed my card and darted down the jet way; I wondered if I’d ever hear from him again.

When your arms get tired

Moses was a great leader, deeply spiritual, and close to God, but he still needed friends when he couldn’t hold his arms up any longer.

Why? Because we were created with the innate need for community. We can’t be disciples without support and accountability, that’s just the way we are made.

So I’ll ask you, “Who are the guys you could count on to hold your arms up? Think for a moment and see if you can come up with at least two or three: men you can confess to, cry with, and ask for prayer.”

I ask because most guys who reflect honestly are likely going to come up empty.

Our church needs men who are willing to hold one another’s arms up. We need men who know us intimately, men who know our story and are invested in it. We need accountability. We need brothers willing to pray with us at the drop of a hat.

Contagious change

I’ve been involved with covenant groups for years. These are small gatherings of men who make firm promises regarding confidentiality, prayer, honesty, mutual support, participation, and accountability.

Groups ranging in size from 5 to 15 have been transformational when it comes to personal growth, strengthening men’s ministry, and adding life to the church.

When men move away from the traditional “Did-you-see-the-fumble-in-overtime-on-Saturday” model into in-depth accountability discussions, then the “disciples-make-disciples” principle will soon effect contagious change.

At my church, one men’s accountability group has now grown to five groups, each one spinning off another one as guys catch the vision and accept responsibility for reaching out to their brothers.

Our latest incarnation is a strong set of younger guys who call themselves, “Fathers who aren’t in heaven.”  They meet Wednesday evenings while their children attend kids’ ministry, and, boy, do they ever hold one another’s arms up.

When my children were teens the guys prayed me through some tough situations, and it was the support I received between weekly meetings that made all the difference. These men knew me, they knew my struggles, and they knew my needs; it’s something you can’t get in large groups.

A possible resource

My latest book (In God’s Image: What the New Testament Teaches About Being a Man) is designed as an 8-week study, written for men looking for encouragement in their journey as disciples, and direction when it comes to honoring God’s image in the way that we live.

We need one another! Not because we are weak, but so we can become stronger. Not because we are insufficient, but because we are exceptional when we stand together. Not because of what we can do, but because of what Jesus will do through us.

The last word from Steve

Steve from the Starbucks line emailed me soon after his flight landed. We talked some more, and he asked me to put him in touch with a band of brothers to help hold his arms up.

Look around your church; I guarantee you have enough men like Steve to launch your first group.


Author and men’s ministry advocate Derek Maul lives in Wake Forest, N.C., where he divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged Christian life. You can reach him at derekmaul@gmail.com, and find his books at Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4

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