Five Types of Men: Why "One Size Fits All" Doesn't Work

The mission is, “Go and make disciples.” Jesus said it in the form of a command, which makes it a moral imperative. And experience shows why. Because anything less than a plan to disciple every willing man will become, for all concerned, a moral failure of catastrophic proportion. Of course, we are not responsible for how our men respond, but we are responsible that all of them hear the call in a compelling way.

But here’s the rub. Not all men are the same.

Early in our research it became clear that many leaders were using a “one size fits all” approach to reach their men. But as every car manufacturer knows, they can’t offer only one model in one color and expect much success. That only worked in the very early days of the industry. In the same way, "one size fits all" ministry to men may have worked fifty years ago, but those days are long gone.

Here’s an example of how once size fits all plays out today. David Delk, our President and Co-CEO, who has been at this full-time since 1994, tells about the time his church put on a men’s weekend retreat with speakers on topics like marriage and family with lots of recreation and free time sprinkled in. Eighty men went to the event, including 14 men on the fringe of the church who might not ordinarily attend. Several men received Jesus or renewed their faith, 11 of those 14 men signed up for six week follow up groups, and many new relationships were formed with the potential for ongoing impact.

David and several other leaders were so excited and pleased. However, during the leadership team debrief, some of the men expressed deep disappointment about the weekend. David was shocked. One man, whose passion is developing deep relationships, thought that they should have formed groups of four men for the weekend, and after each speaker, they should have sent the men back to their cabins for discussion, ending in a time of group prayer. Another man thought they should have had more time for worship, since the men went to all the trouble to get away at the event. Another man thought they should not have had as much free time, but perhaps provided some personal bible study and devotional material to go along with the messaged.

What happened, of course, was that different leaders had different ministry callings and passions for different types of men. We all have our favorites, don’t we? Once a group of leaders understand this propensity, everyone can relax, celebrate God’s different gifts and callings, and know they’ll be able to plan ministries to reach their favorite “size” of men on another occasion.

Since you want to be "all-inclusive" and “intentional,” you're going to need more than one "size." There's no one right way to do this, but every man is on a spiritual journey. Taking a cue from the journey idea, in the field we find five types of men at various stages on their journeys. These five "sizes" of men fit along what we call "the wide-deep continuum" illustrated here...

On the wide side to the far left are Men Who Need Christ. Next are Cultural Christians, the men who lead lukewarm lives. Then Biblical Christians, men who are disciples, or want to be.  And on the deep side of the continuum to the far right are Servant Leaders, men who are disciple-makers and candidates for leadership roles in the church, such as leading groups, elder, deacon, leading a serve team.

Hurting Men, those with "broken wings," span across the whole spectrum of the other four types. It's likely that 50-70% of your men are going through a major marriage, children, work, money, health, self-destructive behavior, loss of meaning, or other crisis at a given time--without respect to spiritual maturity.

You can immediately see the value of knowing to which group a man belongs.  Obviously, a man well versed in the Bible with a gift for leadership and administration has different needs that an unsaved man or nominal Christian whose wife has just issued an ultimatum to get straight or get out. 

As noted above, you probably feel especially drawn to one of these five types of men. Maybe it’s evangelizing lost men. Maybe it’s working with homeless men. Possibly it’s getting men into small groups. Perhaps you prefer mobilizing men who are already strong Christians. Here’s the point. Unless you have an intentional process to reach all five types of men, you may end up stunting the growth and ministry of your men and, as a result, your whole church. One size fits all just doesn't work.

Want more? Watch a 55 minute Webinar of "The Five Types of Men" presented by David Delk, our President, and Brett, Clemmer, our Vice President, at

Until every church disciples every man...