This morning, I experienced my first men-only ministry.
My father-in-law invited me to attend the early morning men’s group at his church. The meet weekly at 7 am. I was then told that there would be food. I said “I’ll be there.”
We drove up and I entered into the massive complex of buildings and was directed into a fellowship room. The breakfast was catered by a local restaurant. There was bacon, sausages, biscuits, gravy, eggs, pastries, pancakes, coffee, and orange juice. And it wasn’t half bad. I met a few of the men (I was the youngest guy there I think), sat down, and ate. It seems that the group has been working through a book about being a man but today was all about having some food and some fellowship. The conversation at the table my father-in-law and I sat at circled around food (I feel that some of those men are more weight conscious than me), gentle ribbing at each other’s expense, and when the head pastor sat down, we chatted about feet and minor surgeries. And by “we chatted”, I mean I kinda sat there and listened. I was asked some questions about seminary (they seemed to already know who I was) and I talked about the weather quite a bit. All in all, it was very normal.
After a very very very brief devotional, each table began a prayer circle. People shared prayer requests for healing, and then each man said a brief prayer. Then we ended the breakfast with a chat about Glen Beck and his Mormon faith. My favorite comment was “he seems so well read and researched – you think he would know better.”
It’s interesting finally seeing men’s ministry in action, to some degree. I know that the idea of men’s ministry is trendy right now – it seems quite a few churches are shocked that more women go to church than men and I can see how church traditions that emphasize male leadership would need to get men back into church – and I have never been a church where men’s ministry was actively promoted (again, if the church is androcentric then male ministry is always implicitly promoted). And I can see that this type of male ministry is designed to ground relationships into the community and it probably is working. They told me that it seemed, overnight, they tripled their active members in the group. But I would be curious to see how this male ministry tackles theological issues and questions and how/if the ministry brings the men into worship. Basically, how does this ministry integrate the men into the church community or is it really working on forming the men in their relationship with God? Basically, it would take me many more visits, time, and theological study to figure it out. Why theological study? Because I don’t speak their traditions language.
One thing that I did notice, however, was that – while I did not feel uncomfortable while there – if my father-in-law had not been there, I wouldn’t have know what to do. I never seen a prayer circle like that before. Was it because people just assumed I already spoke the language, was it because people just assumed my father-in-law would fill in that role, or is there a wider issue of connecting new folks into the ministries that already exist in the church? One thing I have learned while at my time is Advent is the power of intentionally including folks, pushing them into new ministries while at the same time not abandoning those people and letting them flail about. And that intentionality is something that is on my mind right now. I am wondering how to create that intentionality, or latch onto it, in a brand new ministry area. This is the type of thing they don’t teach you in Christian History sadly.