Three principles to build a healthy men’s ministry
Men’s ministries is a vital component of building God’s Kingdom. Traditionally consisting of Bible study, prayer, service opportunities and activities around shared interests such as fishing, gaming or sports, men’s ministries has long been a way for men to connect.
Intent on providing opportunities for leaders to engage men more purposefully in growth, discipleship and accountability through fellowship, service and brotherhood, this year the territorial corps and community mission department introduced an expanded Salvation Army resource called The Forge.
“In doing a lot of research on men’s ministry what has been found is that churches that are healthy and growing tend to have a strong core group of men who are committed to the mission,” said Phil Hull, director of mission and spiritual development in the Indiana Division. “Yet there is a big hole in the universal church in reaching men with the gospel. The more we can create opportunities for men, the more we’re going to see Kingdom results and see spiritual growth among the men of our corps.”
Born out of Phil’s desire to better equip corps officers and leaders to include intentional spiritual development in ministry to men, The Forge was first rolled out in the Indiana Division in 2019, when Phil, then newly charged with leading men’s ministries, decided to develop materials after struggling to find resources to distribute in his division.
Inspired in part by the women’s ministries Embrace program format, The Forge focuses on a new theme and scripture each month and includes a short introductory video, group discussion questions and additional program ideas for leaders to utilize. The discussion questions encourage men to engage with openness and vulnerability, which leads to strong bonds of friendship and support, while the program and service ideas serve as starting points to engage and challenge men to give of their time and talents to the Lord.
“The idea of The Forge is one that conveys what happens when a blacksmith takes a bar of iron and
uses heat and tools to shape it,” explained Phil. “We want men to be purified and for God to change and strengthen them the same way that heat and cooling strengthens the iron. We want men to become what God wants them to be.”
The Forge materials are designed to be used across all types of Salvation Army ministries, including in corps, adult rehabilitation centers, harbor light centers, and even shelters, with the goal of connecting men with Christ and one another. The materials are adaptable so that they can be used alone, as a supplemental activity or as a first step toward building a new men’s ministries group.
“We see The Forge materials as a unifier that will connect men to one another and their corps,” said Captain Ross Anderson, Northern men’s ministries secretary. “There is also the potential for starting up new groups across the division, which is exciting.”
The development of the new materials and the enthusiastic response from officers and leaders highlights the importance of engaging men in the church and providing opportunities for growth through discipleship. Leaders of men’s ministries across the territory agree, this is a vital resource that will make a difference in families, corps and communities.
“When a man is being discipled and is accountable to other men in his group, and when he has men he knows he can go to who will pray for him and encourage him and lift him up, he’s a stronger soldier,” said Major Bob Gauthier, Midland divisional men’s ministries secretary. “Our corps need ways to be inviting to men, to help them develop a relationship with Christ, and The Forge is a great way to start.”
In its first few months, The Forge has been eagerly adopted by men’s ministries groups, including Michigan City, Ind., where Major Dale Simmons leads a monthly men’s fellowship over breakfast. He said, “The material is perfect. It’s real. Not wordy or trite. When we did the unit on grief, the floodgates opened, and we bonded over shared experiences of loss. We are keeping on with using it.”
In Michigan City and other corps which have started using The Forge, men are coming together in fellowship, service and brotherhood, growing in Christ individually and together.
“It’s encouraging to hear that throughout the territory men are again meeting on a regular basis with a desire to strengthen their personal faith and communities,” said Captain Michael Sjogren, territorial men’s ministries secretary. “Our Territorial Men’s Conference theme last March was ‘Momentum’. The Forge assists in keeping this men’s ministries momentum headed in the right direction.”
Themes have included such topics as grief, spiritual gifts, and worship. This year’s expanded materials are focused on men in the Bible, with each divisional men’s ministries secretary contributing one month’s resources, including creating the introductory video and providing discussion questions and ideas for activities or service opportunities. Characters to be studied include Nehemiah, Joshua and Gideon, among others.
“I love the fact that officers from across the territory can contribute to a project that will be a great
blessing to our men,” said Captain Xavier Montenegro, men’s ministries secretary in the Kansas and Western Missouri Division. “The opportunity to hear from a diverse group of Salvationist voices is invaluable.”
Visit theforgesa.org for more information and to access monthly resources.