Come One, Come Anyone?

Why it’s hard to mobilize men—and how you can change that

One of the biggest mysteries in church ministry is why it’s often so difficult to get men to sign up for events. Compared to the typically eager reaction among church women and youth, leading a men’s ministry can sometimes feel like trying to herd a group of elephants. The consensus among many leaders is that men are just apathetic and not hungry to grow in Christ.

I beg to differ. In fact, I think the problem lies more in how we communicate to men.

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My wife, Barbara, was helping to host an upcoming women’s tea at our church. We arrived at church early on Sunday morning so she could post some details to promote the event on a white board in the church lobby. She wrote that it was a ladies’ tea, the date of the event, when it started, what women could bring, and to please bring a friend. Then she began to draw a few flowers on the board. I love my wife and I want her to succeed in her ministry endeavors, so after reviewing the board, I offered what I believed to be some thoughtful insight. I asked her: “When does the event end? Is there a theme for the tea? Will you have guest speaker? What else will there be to eat? What about ...” Before I could pose another question, Barb stopped me short and graciously said, “This isn’t a men’s ministry meeting—we like to get together!”

Ouch! She hit the nail on the head. I was running her promotion through my men’s ministry grid. I know that men need all the facts of an event and numerous reasons why they should attend. Barb, on the other hand, was thinking of her audience, knowing that most women have a propensity to gather and just need to know the time and place.

Let’s face it: A high percentage of adult men in or out of the church don’t have a tendency to gather. They operate in isolation and don’t network often. Few men will pick up the phone and call a buddy just to see how he’s doing.

Knowing this, many men’s ministry leaders will blitz guys with a ton of camaraderie-forcing activities: hunting retreats, football games, skiing trips, softball leagues, etc. And typically, the same guys who show up for those 6 a.m. prayer breakfasts are the sole respondents. Clearly, men don’t need more events—they need a better reason to connect.

Most men’s leaders agree that it takes five to seven “touches” to get a man to an event. One reason for this is because the event may not show up on the family schedule since wives typically manage the social calendar. Another major reason is that men don’t easily invite one another to join them at an event. We often keep our options open and wait until the last moment to commit to an event. Others don’t jump at the chance of attending an event because we put the needs of those close to us above our need to gather with other men. Time with our families can be limited, so the felt need for fellowship is low.

My encouragement to fellow church leaders is to understand and embrace the differences in mobilizing men compared to other groups. Men’s ministry should be about doing less and doing it better. Create a compelling reason for guys to leave their families, work and to-do lists at home and join other men at a guys-only event. This typically takes a team of men forming a game plan that’s purposeful and intentional. If you’re depending on guys coming together to an event to primarily experience the joys of Christian brotherhood, you’ll likely end up with some time alone with God!

Leader of national men’s ministry Iron Sharpens Iron, Brian Doyle is also a consultant to churches throughout the Northeast regarding men’s ministry.

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