· Scouting, Ministry to Men, Global Health, NACP


A bi-monthly e-letter from agency officers and staff

of the General Commission on UM Men


April 2020


Encouraging men to have conversations

By Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.

I ran across an online resource called “The Good Men Project.” I’m assuming (as usual) that I’m way behind on accessing this resource.

Please do not read this as an endorsement of this project, but, I do endorse the strong belief that men need to engage in conversations about a variety of issues that influence how they live and interact with this world directly and indirectly.

There is no place where that is more needed than in the church.

Men should be involved in a wide range of topics that have the church’s attention today.

When I say “men,” I’m including a wide audience of men who have been left out of these conversations.

The Good Men Project claims to have begun by simply asking men to tell their stories without prejudging the merits of their lives or their stories.

That’s where we should begin.

We should listen to a person’s stories without attaching our biases and without adding our personal stances or opinions.

Before we attempt to engage in conversations with others, we need to listen to the wise counsel of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead doctor in our struggle with the COVID-19 coronavirus. He said, “You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.”

We can help set the climate for meaningful and informative conversations with men by following some principles:

  • Listen.
  • Don’t prejudge their statements, comments or even their body language.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Invite men from outside normal circles to be a part of these conversations.
  • Find ways to share what you heard even if you didn’t agree or you downright disliked what they said.
  • Ask yourself this question, “Do I really want to listen and learn?”

This pandemic has reinforced for me the fact that we’re inextricably tied together and we can’t escape the commonality of our faith.

Men need to be encouraged to talk about that.

If not now, when?

Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., president

General Commission on UM Men








A paper-mache church

By Bishop Gary Mueller

Art classes were still an important part of the elementary school curriculum when I was in the first grade. I remember venturing into the world of paper mache and discovering what fun it was to put treated wet newspaper strips on a wire frame to bring to life an animal or globe or cowboy. When dried and painted, it was a masterpiece I could take home to my mother, who would ‘ooh and ahh’ over my talent.

When you paper mache, you need to add enough strips to cover the wire form and give the piece its shape, but be careful not to add so many that you end up with an unrecognizable blob. Yet I wonder if this is exactly what we are doing to Jesus’ Church. We’ve been so busy adding strips that it has become a blob that fails to resemble the Gospel frame we have been given in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No wonder we are fracturing, treating brothers and sisters in Christ like enemies, and failing to reach people with the Gospel.

So what strips are we adding to the Gospel frame that have turned Jesus’ Church into a blob? Here are a few:

  • Our own political perspectives.
  • Our desire to make the church in our image.
  • Our excitement about embracing the latest cultural fad.
  • Our haste in making God small enough to fit in our pockets.
  • Our racism.
  • Our desire to be comfortable.

It’s time to get serious about peeling off some of the strips we have added.

While I’m not sure what the Church will be like when we finish, I’m incredibly hopeful we will become a Church that more closely resembles the Body of Christ.

Come Holy Spirit, come!

Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president

General Commission on UM Men




A meeting of hope within the body of Christ

By Gil Hanke

On March 10-11, 2020, the Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministry, and I attended a remarkable meeting.

Since joining the staff of the General Commission on UM Men ten years ago, this annual meeting with men who have a position in other denominations similar to mine, is one of my favorites.

At this March meeting, each denominational leader shared materials that work best for men and scouting. We heard about efforts to engage youth to remain active in church in high school, in college, and beyond, and each leader shared successful efforts to bring men and youth to Christ.

We heard a presentation about sex trafficking and reviewed statistics from a “Growing Young” study by the Fuller Institute. We heard from Teen Challenge, a drug rehab program. The Society of St. Andrew told how it feeds thousands of hungry families in the U.S. with food that is about to be wasted.

We had prayer for all our efforts and, at the group’s request, the group offered prayers for Rick and me and for the UMC.

Denominations represented at this meeting included: Disciples of Christ, Episcopal/Anglican, Assemblies of God, International Holiness Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical Lutheran, Free Will Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, Lutheran Men in Mission, and the UMC.

I have served as the shepherd of this group for several years which has been a real joy. A few of these men hold one responsibility for men’s and scouting ministries. Others guide their denomination in several ways. Some are paid with benefits. Others do this work in retirement, or part time. Some are well funded, others, like us, raise a majority of their budgets.

We’ve had many honest and challenging conversations over the last decade, and we have each gained new methods and new materials which are now present within our ministries because we listened and learned during these annual events.

We have never had an argument because we have a shared focus greater than ourselves.

This event was hosted by the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Mo. Our March 9-10, 2021 will be hosted by the Seventh Day Adventists in Columbia, Md.

Gil Hanke, chief executive officer

General Commission on UM Men





By Steven Scheid

In an emergency, we look for the “right response”.

I was nine-years-old when I was unprepared with the right response.

That moment changed my life.

I liked to clock myself running the mile home. I would often pass kindergarteners who were let out of school five minutes earlier. One day I ran past a child on a crosswalk. He dropped something in the road and ran back out to get it.

He was hit by an SUV.

Immediately his aunt, who was walking toward him, screamed. I turned to see her pulling him onto the sidewalk. She laid him down as his blood-covered her.

I stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity. It still does.

I finally ran home as fast as possible. When I arrived, I could not breathe enough to get the word “help” out. We finally called 9-1-1.

Help was already on the way.

That kindergartener I had run past day after day, died that day.

I vowed never to be unable to respond again. As soon as I was able, I took first-aid training.

I maintain that training.

What training have you received?

Do you have a plan in mind for emergencies?

If you are not prepared the moment of impact will hold you like a vise.

God has encapsulated what will be needed in Matthew 28:20. We think of it as the great commission. It really is more than just a call to serve but how to live.

Preparation, self-care, and other care:

“…obey all the commands I have given you.”

Confidence in God

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Stay in a relationship with God. Prepare your heart for challenges. Exercise your grasp on God’s hand so that your grip is strong when you need it most. Do the basics for self-care so that you can care for others.

Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministries

General Commission on UM Men



Prayer and technology provide answers

By Dr. Rick Vance

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

––Philippians 4:6

This passage has been used many times over the last several weeks, but I must confess that there have been times when I am anxious and struggling to find an answer, only to find the answer is “pray!”

First, know that the Center for Men’s Ministries is open and available to assist you with your ministry needs.

Many of you continue to be anxious about General Conference 2020. First, the conference has been postponed. While we are waiting answers to the many questions about next steps, would you join me in praying for God’s wisdom and will to be done in the life of the church?

Many of our men have found that the social distancing that has been in effect has interrupted their gatherings. Jim Boesch reminded us that God created us for relationships. May I challenge you to think of that in a new way?

In Matthew 18:20 (NIV), Jesus reminds us that “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Jesus did not say that we had to be gathered in one place. We need to look at new ways to gather in this time of distancing.

Computer video conferencing platforms allow men to gather for prayer, accountability, and learning.

I have already heard of a men’s unit that gathers for a “virtual breakfast.” Other men continue to use conference calls, facetime, and other means to support and pray for each other.

While this technology is available, some older men say they can’t learn it or the technology is too expensive. This could be not further from the truth.

The Center for Men’s Ministries is available to offer training and to suggest platforms that will meet the needs of your men’s organization.

If you would like additional information, please email me (rvance@gcumm.org) or call the center (615) 620-7277.

You are in our prayers, please let us know how we can help you “coach men to THRIVE through Christ . . .”

Your brother on the journey,

The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries

General Commission on UM Men




Keep the light on

By Steve Nailor

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

––Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

In January, I was blessed to be invited to lead a worship service at the beginning of Epiphany, one of the oldest festival days of the Christian church.

Imagine the wise men following the light through the darkness to deliver their gifts.

We are in a dark time now with the coronavirus. Schools are taught online. Department stores are closed and only essential services are available.

I see this virus as a darkness in our lives, but Jesus tells his disciples to not put their light under a bowl. He says we are the light of the world, we light our light and put it on a lamp stand for all to see.

Yes, we are to keep our distance, wash our hands regularly, and sanitize often, but we must let our light shine so others can see it.

Darkness is not an upbeat topic, but God assures us that we will come out on the other side.

 Engage daily in Bible study and pray.

Continue relating to others. Call someone and brighten their day, as well as yours.

As Tom Bodett used to say in his commercials, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

O Lord, as I look for two sets of footprints in the sand, one mine and the other yours, assure me that when I can only see one set, it’s because my vision is limited. Amen

Steve Nailor, president

National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men




Men will come for the fellowship

By Mark Lubbock

“Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.”

–– Exodus 23:17

Men’s ministry can be tough––particularly if you are working to establish a new group, and even more so if you are trying to expand an existing organization, ministry or group. The most frequently asked question is “How can we get men interested?”

Jesus modeled the best way to connect with men. He didn’t just post a “volunteers wanted” notice in the Galilean Gazette and wait at the synagogue to see who showed up. He went to the seaside and talked with men as they unloaded their boats.

In practical terms, this means providing opportunities that are aligned with men’s interests or needs. Men like to gather together if they feel like they are part of something that truly matters.

Business meetings do not fit this criterion.

Men who are already on board and committed will feel a sense of duty and come to a business meeting; others will shun this like the coronavirus.

A successful ministry plans events and activities that fill a man’s need for fellowship and significance. Dynamic speakers are fine, but only if the event itself has a greater purpose or mission. Men are made to answer challenges and to fix things on a grand scale.

The mission of your men’s organization must be clear, worthy, doable and include a call to a man’s heart.

What will keep men involved and will grow the group is when men have meaningful relationships with others. This is why personal invitations are important.

When men are offered a compelling reason to gather, and when they know some of the other men who also plan to attend, they are likely to show up, and they will bring a friend.

Men will share things they enjoy.

Have a worthy reason for your next gathering. Offer a compelling challenge, and personally invite the men (Hint: food is always helpful).

Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men



Find new ways of meeting

By Jim Boesch

 “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

––Hebrews 10:24-25

Our purposeful God created each man to be in an ongoing, on-growing relationship with other men.

While all men are built to engage with other men on a regular basis we are now living in uncertain times.

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated men’s ministry as brothers in Christ with leaders of the General Commission on UM Men and the National Association of Conference Presidents.

Now, with a mandated nationwide social distancing policy in effect, we need to find new ways to sustain our transformational relationships with other men.

While we once served side by side with other men on Sundays in local churches, we are now (at least temporarily) relegated to participate in worship services via Facebook Live or podcasts.

 Where we previously gathered weekly to share of our awareness of Jesus’s activity and influence in our lives, we are now prohibited from meeting with 10 or more men.

These transformational relationships must take new forms, but they must not cease if we are to continue to coach and be coached by other men to thrive through Christ so others will know Him.

Zoom video conferencing is one way for your men to continue meeting with each other.

Download software at Zoom.us.com and hold 40-minute meetings free of charge while we are prohibited from sharing physical space for our equipping for God’s glory.

Jim Boesch, a certified men’s ministry specialist and deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men




Back to News Articles