She asked if she could help us set up. “Thanks, but I think we are all set,” was my reply. “Could I help put on the table cloths?” “We don’t use them.” “How about the centerpieces?” “None needed.” “What about putting the condiments in bowls?” “We just squirt them out of the containers.” She walked off shaking her head, and I smiled, thinking, “I sure am glad I’m in charge of men’s ministry!”
When God created male and female, He made them “like,” but “like opposite” [David Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1–11, InterVarsity Press]. They are “like” in that they both are equal as image bearers of God, but “opposite” in that they are very distinct in how they think and act.
In my opinion, spirituality in the church is often characterized in more feminine terms. We men can feel we are spiritual failures because we are not emotional enough, or we’re not expressive enough in worship, or we don’t enjoy sharing our feelings in small groups, or our prayers are not lofty and lengthy enough, or we don’t enjoy just sitting and enjoying the presence of the Lord, etc. In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge says, “Femininity can never bestow masculinity.” I think that is true of spiritually as well. In the same way that older men need to teach younger men about life, we desperately need older men to teach young men how to be men of God.
So what are men called to be and do, and how are they to encourage each other to more fully be mature men of God?
Men are generally going to be initially drawn to and challenged spiritually in larger, less intimate gatherings. I was the pastor of men’s ministry at a church of 2,500. Every first Monday of the month, 400 men gathered to worship and be taught God’s word. A meal preceded the meeting, and there were over 200 men gathering and connecting around tables for an hour before the meeting. The leadership of the church decided to end the gathering in favor of small groups where men would “truly find community.” Years later, a look at the church’s website reveals three men’s groups meeting with less than 30 men involved.
One of my good friends, Greg Weisman, runs the Men’s Adventure Sports program at his church. They feature trips for hiking, scuba diving, fishing, and dirt biking, to name a few. Men tend to connect while doing something; deeper sharing is then a byproduct of the relationships that are built. This can be found in men who join basketball leagues, cycling groups, or who get together for BBQs. Male bonding takes place while tackling a project together, whether the food on the grill or going on a hike together.
We pay respect to men who have more experience than we do. We grow by hanging around more mature men. As young boys, we often have favorite teachers, sports heroes, or movie stars. Hearing their stories and learning from them is critical. Men often learn by example, and these men we come into contact with help shape our values. This principle is something that scripture acknowledges as well. The apostle Paul writes Titus advising him to encourage the young men to be self-controlled. He continues: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” (Titus 2:6–7)
A “Denny’s group” is a group of men that meet for breakfast every Monday morning at 6 am. The conversations go like this: “How did your week go?” “Pretty good.” “How are you doing in the area of sexual purity?” “Better.” “That’s wonderful. Anyone had the pancakes here?” In a real accountability group, questions are asked specific to your area or struggle: “Did you look at anything sexually explicit this week?” “Did you drink any alcohol?” “What did you do to strengthen your marriage?” “How many days did you have a time with the Lord in His word?” The questions are tailored to you and they are very specific. Make sure your group of men are not just empathetic, but are prophetic as they speak God’s truth into your life and hold you accountable in a way that will bring about change. Effective men’s groups are not about feeling good, but about being who God has called you to be. When the Apostle Paul writes Timothy he doesn’t tell him how to feel but what to do, using two action words: Flee (that which is harmful) and pursue (that which is honoring to God). “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Remember that the goal is to BE a man of God. We are not called to simply go through the motions others may wish that make us appear to be a man of God. We are called to actually experience growth. That growth cannot take place in a vacuum. Many men learn by imitation and having a person who can encourage growth and acknowledge it when it happens.
Dr. Paul Friesen and his wife, Virginia, are the co-founders of Home Improvement Ministries (www.HIMweb.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to equipping individuals and churches to better encourage marriages and families in living out God’s design for healthy relationships. Together they regularly speak at marriage, men’s, and women’s conferences across the country, as well as at family and parenting seminars.
Paul has a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy and a master’s degree in Family Ministry, both from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has also authored and co-authored over ten books and curriculums on parenting and marriage, including Letters to My Daughters, In Our Image, So You Want to Marry My Daughter, Before You Save the Date, and most recently, The Marriage App.
Paul and Virginia have been married since 1976 and live in the greater Boston area. They are the proud parents of three young adult women, two of whom are now married to wonderful, Godly men.