UMMen wrestle with the need to rebrand as presidents gather in Nashville.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men, meeting March 2-5 honored five top local church units of UM Men, the top annual conference unit, and top givers to the Upper Room Prayer Line and hunger-relief efforts. The also reviewed plans for the national gathering, received expressions of appreciation for Strength for Service books, and they spent an afternoon bagging rice and beans for students at a local elementary school.
Concerned about the absence of men aged 18-40, the assembly received early advice from four younger men who are part of a 16-member “think tank” formed by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of United Methodist Men.
“We thought the question was ‘How can we attract younger men?” said Hank Dozier, jurisdictional president of UM Men. “We now think the right question is “How can we support younger men in their ministry?”
Time for change
Our churches have become very comfortable for middle-aged women,” said Odell Horne, a member of the Think Tank. “Young men look at the church and say, ‘There is nothing there for me,’. If we are going to reach young men, sermons must be different and they must see other younger men walk the walk.” Odell serves as director of Family and Children Services at Fulton County, Ga
Charlie P.Lyons, coordinator of the Think Tank from Western North Carolina, has simple advice: “Love them up.” He suggests that lots of young men simply need a personal invitation to participate.
“Men in this age group want to know how they can serve, not how they can join,” said Drew Oakley, the representative of the Kentucky Conference. He notes Jesus provided answers to questions the men were asking and he did so with grace and love and without judgment.
Members of the Think Tank from annual conferences in the jurisdiction meet together weekly electronically. While it is still early, the 16-member group is concentrating attention in five areas: small groups, strong missions, rebranding, recreational/social ministries and leadership
The young men said small groups are essential to effective ministry. They come in three forms: affinity, curriculum driven and transformational. They suggest transformational groups similar to the Wesleyan model of class meetings that ask the questions “How is your soul today?” “What is God doing in your life?” and “How is your heart.”.
“Men like to use their heart and hands, and not just their heads,” they said. They call for men to address social injustice, domestic violence, poverty and hunger.
What is your brand?
The team suggests United Methodist Men is on the decline due to its reputation (its brand). There is a need to rebrand, not just setting up another program.
“Jesus helped conditions for people to feel safe, powerful and valuable. He helped them have fun and feel loved. Recreational ministry is a great place to create similar conditions.
The goal of any ministry should be to create healthy, strong leaders who are deployed to serve the church. Strong spiritual formation leads to strong expression of the commandment to love God and neighbor and the commission to make disciples.