This past week a small group of people from my church went to help a church start in another town. They were bridge-building in the community by volunteering at a school event. After a very long day watching kids ride a bungee/trampoline amusement ride, I wanted to try it. I was surprised how easy it was, so I was encouraged to do more. A back flip went over relatively easy, but when I came down the bungee twisted my left arm around and something inside popped.
It was painful, but only for a few seconds. In addition the arm still had a full range of motion. These two facts convinced me that nothing was seriously wrong. But when it came time for clean up, I couldn’t do anything with that arm. The real clincher was when wife pointed out that my arm had a brand new shape. There was a ball up by the shoulder and a visible hollow down by the elbow.
My wife did a little research. This shape is descriptive of a broken tendon on the elbow end of the bicep. This injury is relatively painless. The bicep has other muscles that compensate when it is missing, explaining why I have full movement. Unfortunately this injury also leaves the person with only nominal strength. Until the bicep is surgically reattached the arm will not be right. Because of this, when testing myself, I can do everything I try. But when I attempt real life work, I can’t.
Why would I tell you all of this on a website discussing men’s ministry? Well, I’m glad you asked.
My arm with the bicep detached reminds me of churches where men are absent or inactive. They can do all the things that other churches do. The women of the church will step up and do the planning, leading and working when the men do not. But the activities and events will be missing something. At the very least they will be missing men; both working the events, and responding to the events. The rest of what they are missing will be intangible. The people may feel at a deep level something is wrong, or at least not all it could be, but it would be difficult to say why. These congregations are missing the strengths men bring to a leadership team.
I believe God has designed men to be leaders. This begins by men being the leaders in their own households, but should continue under the leadership of God in the church. This isn’t to say that women cannot take on leadership in the church, because God will call whomever He chooses. Yet when a vast majority of a church’s lay workers are female, it is more likely because of the absence of men than the choices of God’s call.
I have watched God change my church. We have more men in attendance than we have had in years. The men’s fellowship generally has more present than the ladies. And although we still have a majority of women leading ministry teams, the scales are slowly moving. We even have deacons serving again. I will admit that the changes are scary. Leading men is different than leading women. Conflict arises from the men rising up to work who previously remained in the shadows. Furthermore these men seem more likely to hold me accountable as pastor, than the women had been inclined to do. But through it all I trust God, and His design. Through it all we have been richly blessed.
If you want to see similar sorts of changes take place in your church then please consider bringing a group of guys to the men’s retreat. Invest your time as pastor directly into these men. The church will survive without you for that week. The church will survive without them for that week. When you all return, you will have started building the camaraderie that is the foundation for men’s fellowship. That fellowship will empower some of them to seek discipleship. Then that discipleship will turn some of them into leaders. It is a long road, but the best response to a long road is to start as soon as possible.
Today I had imaging done on my arm. Tomorrow I will see an orthopedic surgeon, whom I expect will confirm my suspicions, and I hope will schedule a surgery to fix it. You can pray for me in this process. I will pray for you too. I will pray that you see how important men are to God’s kingdom and why men’s ministry requires the pastor’s special attention.