Nine Things You Need to Know to "Pastor" Men Effectively
by Pat Morley
Much has been made about the “men problem.” You can hear about it on Oprah. You can read about it in USA Today. You can watch the destruction it creates with Dr. Phil.
School teachers can barely educate on the heels of it. Social services are overwhelmed as a result of it. Divorce courts are at capacity because of it.
Everyone is concerned about it. Many address the consequences of it. Yet very few people are doing anything that will change the root of it. “It” is among the most pervasive social, economic, political, and spiritual problems of all time.
Men have become one our largest neglected people groups.
Most church leaders we talk to are profoundly dissatisfied with the number of men in their churches who are effective disciples. But the majority of churches that have tried to implement men’s discipleship initiatives have not been able to sustain them.
Here are nine concepts to help you more effectively “pastor” men from Pastoring Men—a book I have written to help “demystify” and solve the men problem.
1. We have created a culture that requires more energy than men have to give. Men are tired, their lives are often not turning out like they planned, they sense something isn’t quite right, their lives are coming unglued, and most feel like nobody, with the possible exception of family, really cares about them personally.
2. Most men only know enough about God to be disappointed with Him. As Denzel Washington said in Man on Fire, “You’re either trained or you’re not trained.” Spiritually, most men are not. Because they have not been discipled, a lot of men are Christian in spirit but secular in practice.
3. What men “want” are a cause, a companion, and a conviction. The essence of manhood is finding….
A Cause we can give our lives to that will make a difference—a mission, significance, meaning, purpose A Companion to share it with—relationships, love, family, acceptance A Conviction that gives a reasonable explanation for why #1 and #2 are so difficult—a belief system, worldview, philosophy, religion.
Of course, when men find the wrong cause, the wrong woman, or the wrong god everything falls apart, though slowly—and rarely detected until the damage is done.
4. A lot of men get exactly what they want, only to find out it doesn’t really matter. Failure, of course, means to not get what you want. But we could also say: failure means to succeed in a way that doesn’t really matter. When men choose to believe a lie or make an idol, failure is inevitable. All men either live by the truth or a good lie. A “good” lie will work—for as many as 20 or 30 years. But inevitably a lie is still a lie, and it will betray a man, and usually at the worst possible moment. Also, the average American Christian male has made an idol of something that competes with his full surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
As a result, men tend to catch a disease we might call “success sickness.” Success sickness is the disease of always wanting more, but never being happy when you get it. Three symptoms of success sickness are that:
Men get caught up in the rat race. Men lead unexamined lives. Men become cultural rather than biblical Christians.
5. What men “need” is to become disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and all that this implies. Discipleship is the process by which men become civilized. The central mission of the church—the overarching goal—is to “make disciples.” Discipleship is the “portal” priority through which all the other desired outcomes of the ecclesia are achieved. The key to success at every point is, “Go and make disciples.” Here’s a good working definition:
A disciple is someone called to live “in” Christ, equipped to live “like” Christ, and sent to live “for” Christ.
First, a disciple is someone called to profess faith in Jesus Christ (this is the “evangelism” piece). Second, they are equipped in an ongoing process of spiritual growth and transformation (this is the “teaching” piece). Third, they are sent to love, serve, and abide in Christ (this is the “go” piece).
6. The senior pastor is the key to everything. For my Ph.D., I conducted multiple-case study research to find out, “Why do some churches succeed in men’s discipleship ministry while others languish or fail?” The three main factors I found in the highly effective churches were:
a. A senior pastor with the vision to disciple every man in the church. b. A senior pastor with the determination to succeed. c. A senior pastor who found a sustainable strategy to make disciples
I cannot overstate this enough: No one has more influence with your men than the senior pastor!
7. Success hinges on having a vision to disciple “every” man in your church. In the effective churches, the senior pastors had a clear vision and a passionate commitment to disciple every man in their churches. And the pastors “sold” their visions hard, yet were patient about giving people time to get on board. At Man in the Mirror, we call this “all-inclusive men’s ministry”—however many men you have in your church, that’s the size of your men’s ministry. By the way: the research revealed it is clearly not enough for a layman or even an associate pastor to have this vision. That’s not to say men won’t be discipled if the senior pastor is not on board, but the results will be a fraction of what they could have been.
8. You must be “determined” to make men’s discipleship work. The most striking finding was the level of personal involvement by the successful senior pastors. This is not to say that the senior pastor has to do everything. In the successful churches other pastors or laymen often did the work—but the senior pastor never fully let go. They viewed themselves as the ongoing champions for men’s discipleship. That stood in sharp contrast to their counterparts in the ineffective and failed programs. The word that best captures the will of the pastor to see it through is “determination.” But, as we will see next, determination is not a strategy.
9. Successful men’s discipleship depends on having a “sustainable” strategy. “Sustainability” easily ranks as the number one problem in men’s discipleship ministry. In the effective churches, the senior pastors had a planning model, method, or process they employed to not only create discipleship momentum, but also to sustain it. They discovered a way to sustain discipleship—their determination was not in vain. However, the ineffective and failed churches created a lot of momentum from time to time, but had no strategy to keep it going.
In business we say, “Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.” For example, if you manufacture cars and every third car that rolls off the assembly line is missing a front right fender, your system is perfectly designed to produce that result. Your church has a “men’s discipleship system” that is perfectly designed to produce the kind of men you have sitting in your pews!
What does men’s discipleship look like in your church? Check out the “system” we’ve developed—the No Man Left Behind Model—in No Man Left Behind. Or pre-order Pastoring Men which has a summarized version.
The “men problem” will never get any better until the church makes “it” better. It is, at root, a spiritual problem. May God give us the grace and wisdom to disciple a new generation of men—kingdom men—who are spiritually mature, morally excellent, and socially responsible.