Revamped Men’s Retreat Brings Guys Back

For years the Salvation Army in the Southern California division held an annual men’s retreat weekend. We followed a traditional script: men getting together for “fellowship” with sessions on “How to be a happy Christian husband for your happy Christian wife in your happy Christian home.” These were valuable sessions with good speakers, but attendance at the camps was dwindling every year. It became so bad that the church was ready to discontinue the men’s retreats.

Women’s Ministry for Men

Women’s and children’s ministries flourish in practically every U.S. congregation, but few churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry. For example, there are 35,000 United Methodist congregations in the U.S.  but only 6,000 offer a chapter of the United Methodist Men’s Organization.

Furthermore, most attempts to start a men’s ministry end in failure. Why is this?  Here’s an example of a typical men’s small group. See if you can figure out why it’s not growing:

Tony went to men’s small group at his church—once. First, the men sat in a circle and sang praise songs for about ten minutes. Tony was asked to introduce himself and share about his life. Next, he was paired with a stranger and asked to share one of his deepest fears. Then, everyone was asked to share a prayer need or a praise report. The men read from the Bible, taking turns around the circle. Finally, the men stood in a circle and held hands for what seemed like hours, while one by one they bared their souls to God. One man was quietly weeping. The guy next to Tony prayed for ten minutes straight, and his palms were sweaty. Once the meeting was over, Tony didn’t stay for cookies. He hasn’t been back.

Men’s ministry so often falters for this simple reason: it’s actually women’s ministry for men. When Christian men gather, they’re expected to relate like women and to enjoy the things women enjoy.