My colleagues and I have spent more than 25 years studying why and how some churches disciple men effectively while others languish or fail. Of all the insights we’ve gained, none is more important than this: Successful churches have a vision to disciple "all" their men, not just those willing to join “men's only” activities. We call this the “all-inclusive mindset.”
The "old wineskin" men's ministry model was a small group of six men meeting for Bible study at zero dark thirty on Wednesday mornings and twelve guys eating burned pancakes once a month on a Saturday morning. In the old way of thinking, if you had that much going, you had men's ministry covered. You could check that box.
But what about the men who are part of the worship team, teach middle school boys, park cars, usher, only attend the weekly worship service, or attend on holidays? How do they become strong disciples?
Where did we ever get the idea that any more than a small fraction of men would be interested in joining a “men's only” ministry? Perfectly executed, you might involve 25% of your men, tops.* The more you think about it, the more the old way of reaching men sounds like a design flaw on par with the Hindenburg (a small gondola strapped to a highly flammable balloon).
For this reason, we believe the term "men's ministry" is a spoiled term – in some places even toxic.
So broaden your thinking. Any activity or event where men are involved can also, at least in part, help you reach men. For example, the graduation ceremony for vacation Bible school, a tour of the local food bank, the annual fall festival, or the annual Easter egg hunt that draws families from the community to the church grounds.
So what's the "new wineskin" for reaching men? Simply, however many men you have in your church, that's the size of your ministry to men. Again, we call it the "all-inclusive mindset.” Building an “all-inclusive disciple-making ministry to men” is the “new wineskin” for reaching men. In fact, we suggest you use the term "men's discipleship" or “ministry to men” – it can help you shed the baggage of the old way that reaches only “some” of your men.
So help your leaders see that everything your church does that touches men is “ministry to men,” from the worship service to ushering to kitchen helper. An “all-inclusive ministry to men” disciples men right where they are. For example, you don’t need your male Sunday school teachers to join a separate ministry to men. Instead, have them gather thirty minutes early once a month to discuss “the challenges of being a male Sunday school teacher.”
Why is this so important? Anything less than a plan to disciple all your men is a moral failure of catastrophic proportion. We are not responsible for how men respond, but we are most certainly responsible that all of them have the opportunity to become disciples and disciple-makers.
Until every church disciples every man…
* Estimate based on results after eight years of intense effort by Rev. Jeff Kisiah, a dedicated “men’s” pastor at Harvest Community Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. Other anecdotal reports corroborate.