Evangelical men’s ministries face downsizing and stress community-building

The massive evangelical men’s gatherings of the 1990s have largely disbanded while women’s ministries have since flourished, but new forms of ministry to men have emerged that stress community-building and activities based on a common purpose, reports Christianity Today magazine (June). Large-scale men’s ministries and gatherings, such as Promise Keepers, have disappeared and congregation-based men’s groups have been less popular than women’s groups. Ministries targeting women “have grown into a national network of tightly connected events, books, and celebrity bloggers-speakers…And these events seem not to have taken the place of the local Bible studies, prayer meetings, and meal gatherings—if anything the big women’s events have only augmented the smaller ones,” writes Bob Smietana. Meanwhile, small-scale men’s ministries have emerged that tend to focus on loneliness and the building of strong friendships. The men’s ministry F3, short for Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith, blends exercise with fellowship, growing to about 1,300 “workouts” in 25 states, with 15,000 regular participants.

A sidebar article by Nate Pyle notes that as large movements like Promise Keepers waned, the so-called masculinity movement took their place in many churches in the 2000s. This movement preached that men were being “feminized” by their churches and tried to instill “manliness” among participants. “It became all about tattoos and motorcycles and cigars,” according to author Stephen Mansfield. Now the #MeToo movement and the growth of “male self-consciousness” is creating a new climate that can be seen in the ministries, such as in Man in the Mirror, which battles “toxic masculinity” by focusing on community-building (without the exercise) and helping men rediscover their place in the community and in their families. Another article in the issue looks at churches that have been adept at drawing men to their services. Michael Zigarelli notes that in his research on man-friendly churches his most striking finding was that none of them had a formal “men’s ministry.” Rather, men were drawn to these churches because they found that they were fully integrated into the congregation. These churches included one pastored by a woman, who suggested that “plugging” men into the congregation by encouraging their particular gifts and talents worked best.

(Christianity Today, 365 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188)