Relationships: Key to an Effective Men's Ministry

Consider this ... 

But you already knew that, didn’t you? What you want to know is how to encourage your men to develop relationships.

II am writing this on Monday following our second men’s breakfast this year. We had a great speaker. We sold 26 tickets, but only 14 men showed up. There was a core group of 11 plus three men who came because of a relationship with other men. We approached nearly all of the men who attend church. The ones who had no interest were men who do not have a relationship with men in the church – they warm the pew on Sunday. That is their connection. It is a matter of relationships.

First, let me lay a guilt trip on you: encouraging relationships among your men is a leadership issue, i.e., relationships are the result of connections based on affinity – a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something. Men develop relationships when they share common interests (type of work, hobbies, sports, family, etc.). The leadership team must hold relationship-building events.

Consider Rick Warren’s five “Cs” (community, crowd, congregation, committed, and core). These are usually presented in terms of one’s level of commitment to a church. On the other hand, they can also be seen in terms of degrees of connection with other men in the church.

If we want men to come to something with spiritual value, like a breakfast with a man sharing his testimony, we need to build a foundation with relationship-building events, events with low-spiritual-content – events that resonate with our men. These events can include sports activities (as a participant or spectator); work parties where a man can feel like he is making a contribution. These can be around the church or for widows/widowers, single ladies or the community.

Some men’s ministries have tried organizing small groups around the day of the week, time of day, geographic location, or a particular book, topic, or Bible study. Unless there is affinity within these groups, the glue does not hold.

Jesus’ Model in Building Relationships. Jesus began His ministry by enlisting a group of fisherman – men who had a common bond around their work and life style. While Jesus was not a fisherman, He was not far removed from them in the social order. He went to where they were to call them. He did not call them to where He was. He enlarged the group later by adding a tax collector; again, someone with similar social status. More significantly, Jesus made the effort to connect, to bond with these men. Note that there was a progression from common background to a common friend, Jesus. Men often need to move from affinity with other men to affinity with Christ.

Back to our breakfast: Was it a success? Yes! We made connections with three men who have not participated with us before. Second, the speaker made a significant impression on at least two of our men. Third, we learned that we need o select speakers who can connect with our men (there it is again, affinity). Finally, in men’s ministry, progress is often measured in inches instead of miles.

Brian Doyle, director of Iron Sharpens Iron Men Conferences, reports on his efforts to move men into small groups as quickly as possible. He invited enthusiastic men to participate in small groups after returning from a Promise Keeper Conference. The groups got off to a great start but fizzled after a few months. He assumed that men would make a relational commitment to men that they really did not know. Large conferences such as Promise Keepers may help in developing relationships, but we need to develop a variety of safe entry points for men where men could get to know one another. As men get acquainted with one another at these events, they could then receive a personal invitation from an emerging friend who would invite them on the basis of relationship and not convenience. When inviting men to be part of a small group he suggests doing six things:

1.    invite them to be part of the start of a new small group
2.    let them know date or time has been decided
3.    let them know that no meeting location has been decided
4.    let them know that no book or topic has been decided
5.    affirm them as a friend
6.    let them know when the group will end (a clear exit point)

He states that when his men do an entry point for men, they now run the event through a grid of questions that include: "Will this event help men get to know one another so that they might accept an invitation to be part of a small group."

Doyle reminds us that the #1 goal when putting on an entry level event for men is relationships.


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