By personal experience, teaching golf professional Scott Lehman discovered a principle that many men’s ministries are discovering as well: Where there is a common interest in an activity, there is an inroad to a man’s heart.
About 10 years ago, Lehman for the first time in his life entered a Christian bookstore seeking help for his then-failing marriage. He soon noticed a book with a golf theme because golf was the sport he’d pursued from childhood.
Lehman picked up the devotional book “In His Grip” by Jim Sheard and Wally Armstrong and began to read it.
“In golf, the most important key fundamental is the grip and how your hands are placed on the club. The book started to talk about how the key fundamental in life is living a lifestyle in his grip. God began to open my heart to the message,” Lehman recently told Baptist Press.
Now Lehman’s greatest passion is to reach other golfers through In His Grip Golf Association (inhisgripgolf.com), a ministry he founded that uses the golf course as a mission field and golf as an evangelistic tool. In 2006 Lehman focused full time on developing the ministry. He conducts leadership training workshops teaching churches how to organize an In His Grip Invitational and how to implement a year-round golf ministry.
Also, at his Pastor’s Masters Golf Retreats held at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest and Glorietta Conference Centers, pastors do play golf. But, more important, they attend seminars on golf-related ministry and golf-centered life lessons?ideas they can take back and develop in their own settings.
Lehman presents a “reach, teach, and send” message, believing that golfers can grow in the image of Christ “through Scripture passages at every hole, small group Bible studies, [and] golf retreats,” and then be sent out to fulfill the Great Commission. Thus far Lehman has helped about 24 churches host In His Grip invitationals, which average about 100 men per tournament.
The Great Outdoors
Don Hamlin is a Southern Baptist education minister in Kearney, Mo., with a passion for ministry to men and boys. An avid outdoorsman, he has written two men’s devotional books: “Lock, Stock, and Barrel,” and a study guide, “Hook, Line, and Sinker,” both available on his website, dhamlin.hisurfer.net.
Hamlin has organized regular fishing and hunting events at his church for several years. Some are intended as outreach to unsaved men, and others for fellowship and spiritual growth.
“Our church is very sports and recreation minded,” Hamlin said.
“People have a passion for [different things], and our church is open to reaching people any way we can that is reasonable. Being minister of education and outreach, my philosophy is that when someone mentions they want to start something, I respond like Rick Warren says, ‘Sounds like a good idea. You’re in charge!'”
They have held deer hunting clinics in the fall and turkey hunting clinics in the spring to reach un-churched men. A church member with expertise in hunting a particular type of game will present his own tips and techniques, or possibly a talk on topics like guns or bow-making.
“We’ll also have a local wildlife official who is active in his church come and speak, and try to connect his topic with God’s Word. It’s more of a question-and-answer forum, and we might give away door prizes in that interest area,” Hamlin said.
Wild game feasts and “cowboy/horse-whisperer” events conducted in partnership with the local association are other outreach efforts in which the church participates. Three-day fishing retreats provide an opportunity for about a dozen men to fellowship and study Scripture together after fishing all day.
“And any kind of sports?football and baseball are big here. We don’t have organized leagues, we just kind of meet together and play,” Hamlin said.
SBTC evangelism consultant Joe Simmons can help churches organize creative evangelistic outreach events such as a wild game festival at which sportsmen display their trophies. (For information, contact the SBTC Evangelism Department at 877-953-SBTC or log on to sbtexas.com and click the “Contact Us” link.)
Bikers and Such
“Bikers Welcome” is a sign many churches are beginning to post, and Christian motorcycle riding clubs are rapidly forming to reach out to an interest group?many of them men?who often perceive they are not welcome in the traditional church.
F.A.I.T.H. Riders, a ministry that began 5 years ago in Lakeland, Fla., the Christian Motorcyclist Association based in Hatfield, Ark., and the Arkansas Baptist Bikers Association organized through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention are examples of a few of the chapter-based organizations for Christian bikers who want to use their leisure activity of choice to reach others for Christ.
Doug Hixson of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Pampa, said his church is working to birth a club for bikers in his church.
“I probably have 15-20 guys in my church who have motorcycles. And this town is full of men who ride motorcycles, so we want to try to create a fellowship/camaraderie thing among bikers,” he said.
Hixson told of a kind of rough looking man?a biker with a pony tail?who had been out of church for 40 years. The man went to a Sunday School class where the teacher, who is also a deacon and a biker, had a pony tail as well. The idea for beginning the biker ministry was spawned from that event.
Hixson said: “We’re missing a whole society, and we want to blow the idea that they aren’t welcome out of their mind. We don’t care what they look like; we just want them to feel comfortable and come to church.”
Their initial goal for the ministry is to schedule a few 1-2 day rides each year that members can invite their friends to. Another possibility for the club is participating in the evangelistic mission to the annual Harley-Davidson biker rally in Sturgess, S.D.
Reaching tomorrow’s men
Partnering with his 22-year-old son, Kyle, Don Hamlin’s most recent outreach effort has been to teenage boys in the form of a skate club. Each week the church takes about 25 boys to a skateboard park to just go and have fun.
“Boys were coming to our church parking lot to skate board, and we realized God had brought a mission field to us. These kids know I can’t skateboard, but that doesn’t bother them. If I tried to be like them, they would quickly see that I’m disingenuous,” he noted, adding, “Like if I tried to fly fish with a group of fly fishermen. I try to just be open to being a learner of their skills.”
As a result, they were able to take about 20 of the boys to an Extreme Sports event where Luis Palau spoke, and 11 indicated an interest in receiving Christ. They have confirmed three as true decisions thus far.
LakePointe Church in Rockwall offers a “Skate Church” ministry with Bible study on Tuesdays and Saturdays followed by fellowship through skateboarding.
Another opportunity to reach and disciple the men of tomorrow is a recent addition to the Men’s Fraternity curriculum, “Becoming a Man.” Rick Caldwell, director of Men’s Fraternity, recently went through the study with his 18-year-old son and a handful of his best buddies and their fathers.
Caldwell said: “I watched us struggle through it, but it became magical. The videos are the same [as the Men’s Fraternity videos], but slightly abbreviated, and packaged in a way that it applies to a high school son and his father.”
Caldwell said the five-week study is an extremely helpful tool for fathers and sons to dialogue together, and for father’s to impart the lessons they have learned from their own life experiences.
With the hundreds of recreational interests men pursue, points of connection between men are limited only by the number of men who will step up and use their healthy interest as an evangelistic tool.