By CAROL SMITH
For years, Alpharetta First United Methodist Church had been light on programs and ministries for men. Despite occasional discussions on the need to do something for "men only," the primary opportunity remained the Retired Men’s Group,
However, given that new member growth had been primarily young families, there had been a growing gap in ministry options for men.
In 2009, Senior Pastor Dr. Don Martin decided to offer a Thursday morning Bible Study for "Men Only". The study focused on "the simple teaching of Jesus" and the promise was to be done at 8 a.m. sharp. His verbal invite on Sunday mornings ended with the humorous tag line "A sausage biscuit and cup of coffee is waiting for you. Sorry ladies, you can’t come!"
Expecting 20 men, it was a great surprise when 75 men showed up on the first day. A year and half later, more than 170 men come out one morning a week for straight-talk, mixed with humor, prayer, and fellowship with other men.
The Thursday morning Bible study has also provided a new point of entry to the church, as men are inviting neighbors and colleagues who, in turn, have begun bringing their families to church. One recent visitor to the church remarked, "I really felt a connection with Dr. Martin, and so I asked my wife if she wanted to attend church this Christmas Eve. That’s how we began coming."
From this weekly study, the awareness that men like to gather together has birthed a new ministry called Journey Men. The ministry, organized by retired member Paul Norfleet, provides opportunity for study, but also time to gather for fellowship and fraternity. A Thursday Pizza night, with the game on the TV, and a night with the Gwinnett Braves each brought out 80 men, and 150-plus men attended Ribfest with live Blue Grass Music.
In 2010 the Journey Men decide to move beyond Bible study and fellowship and have now branched out into service. They have organized mission trips, support other church ministries, have worked on the construction of a new United Methodist Church plant and have adopted a stretch of Ga. 400 that they keep clean for the DOT.
What’s ahead? More Thursday morning studies, this spring focusing on The Courage of Christ, a mission trip to the Gulf Coast and a Men’s weekend retreat.
This article appeared in the North Georgia Advocate and is reprinted with permission
By CAROL SMITH