Equipping men to be leaders in the church and home is challenging. Just ask any men’s ministry leader! But by changing four things about men’s ministry, we can better meet the challenge. Here’s how.
First, change the name from “Men’s Ministry” to “Head of Household Ministry”.
The problem with much men’s ministry is that it focuses too much on, well, the men and their individual walk with God. You might think, “AND WHAT is wrong with that?” Let’s step back.
The ultimate goal of all ministry is the recreation of God’s glory in the hearts of His people. Said another way, the goal is making Christians true worshippers of God which in practical terms means that we increasingly defeat idolatry in our hearts by finding our ultimate joy and satisfaction in him alone at all times. This is the result of our hearts being continually transformed by the gospel which is sanctification. Helping men do this is of course an excellent and necessary goal. But there’s more.
“Men” have been singled out by God to have a vital leadership role in the home (and the church) in accomplishing this goal. Fulfilling this responsibility requires much more than the typical fare that is dished out in men’s ministry.
Men are heads of household. This is a covenantal role which in part means that God holds men accountable for a specific task: to oversee the transformation work in their wives and children extending out into the church and through the church to the community and world.
The original version of the Westminster Confession of Faith included an introduction that was written not to “men” or “ordained preachers”, but to “Heads of Families” imploring the fathers to teach these things to their wives and children. Why? Because the Westminster Divines knew how vital this covenantal role really was in God’s redemptive plan.
Consider further that single men are heads of their own household even though it may only be a household of one. Perhaps they have a child -not all that unusual anymore? Perhaps they envision marriage? If so, they are heads of household in training and are/should be involved in relationships where this equipping can help them. Even teen boys, as future heads of household need the opportunity to learn and aspire to the examples of godly heads of household. Single Moms, as spiritual heads of household, need equipping as well, except their equipping and accountability will look a bit different. (That, though, is a topic for another day.)
Changing the name from “Men’s Ministry” to “Head of Household Ministry”, and actually beginning to refer to men as heads of household in normal conversation, are small but profound ways of raising the bar of expectation to where God puts it.
Second, teach them (and then remind them over and over and over and over again) that the gospel makes them adequate to fulfill their role.
Many men run—at increasing speed—away from leadership because their definition of leadership is based largely on a scholastic leadership model, not the shepherding, i.e. relational model which comes out of the gospel and that is clearly assumed and taught in Scripture (Acts 20:17-36; 1 Cor. 4:15-17; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-5). No wonder then that many men shy away from leadership because they do not perceive themselves as having enough knowledge or being a good speaker.
Compare the scholastic model with its emphasis on a higher, “more mature level” of knowledge and rhetorical skill to 1 Cor. 1:17-2:5 where Paul speaks simply, plainly—and thus powerfully—so that people will see only the power of the cross. The message of the gospel itself is powerful whether people swoon when they hear it or not. Do we really believe that? Do we teach that? Or does God’s Word NOT return void (Isa. 55:11) ONLY when it is spoken by a pastor or well-respected teacher?
When one stops and really things about it, it is a great struggle and it tests our sincerity when we proclaim (with gusto of course) that the gospel, the Word of God, is “sufficient”. Do we as leaders and do we as heads of household really believe that the gospel is sufficient? Do we teach heads of households about how the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture has direct bearing on their role? Or is this just something for those with “know” more, like seminary graduates?
The message of the cross is intended for life, to be spoken by all (Eph. 4:15-16), most especially by church shepherds (Eph. 4:11-12) and home shepherds (Eph. 5:22-6:4).
Let’s remember that the people to whom the New Testament was first written were not seminary graduates, or the highest social strata, but slaves; uneducated people…and they were expected to live it. This is because it is a gospel for the people to be applied sufficiently and authoritatively in their relationships. When Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore one caught in sin, does Paul only mean ordained pastors? Certainly heads of household, perhaps more than any other individual, need to know how to restore a brother or sister, as they are surrounded by them every day at home before they ever go to work! They need gospel confidence to do this.
Equipping heads of household is a matter of helping them know this gospel: to live it and to teach it. The gospel, not their skills and/or abilities, makes them adequate. As they grow in their own living of the gospel, they become more effective communicators of it.