What high profile events like Promise Keepers and wild-game dinners instigate?namely, a push to mature Christian men?Men’s Fraternity facilitates.
The growing local church ministry program has mapped out a process through which men, whether saved or lost, can discover what biblical manhood is all about and how to put it into practice.
In 1990, Robert Lewis, then the teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Ark., responded to the pleas of the men in his Bible study for a deeper Christian, fraternity-like camaraderie. When Lewis first announced to his church that the Bible study topic would be “discovering manhood,” the group instantly grew from 30-40 men to 300.
“I knew then I had stuck my finger into one of these raging spiritual streams Henry Blackaby [author of “Experiencing God”] talks about. God wanted to do something,” Lewis said in a 2004 interview with Baptist Press.
The three-year program “Men’s Fraternity” was the result.
Lewis, also the best-selling author of “Raising a Modern-Day Knight,” grew up in a home without a healthy model of manhood and fatherhood. In the first Men’s Fraternity session, “What Men Need and How the Church Can Help,” Lewis shares transparently that he left home at age 18, “clueless about manhood and seething with anger.”
He said, “When you haven’t been schooled to be adequate in manhood responsibilities, then you constantly make stupid mistakes, which only fuels the anger and shame that you feel as an incompetent male.”
In his quest to help men discover the principles of authentic biblical manhood, Lewis said he found several elements are needed for a transformational men’s ministry:
?a safe place where men know they are understood and not alone,
?a compelling vision of biblical masculinity,
?time to process their masculinity,
?practical how-to’s that yield success,
?encouragement from other men,
?a celebration of their crossing into responsible manhood,
?and the church.
LifeWay Christian Resources noted the success of Men’s Fraternity in 2004. Needing a quality men’s discipleship resource, they partnered that year with Men’s Fraternity to make the material readily available.
At the time of the partnership, James Draper, then the LifeWay President, stated: “It’s been proven over and over?in the churches where this ministry is used, men’s ministry has gained new momentum; men have stepped up to be leaders in their home and in their community.”
Men’s Fraternity director Rick Caldwell conservatively estimates that the material is now being used in over 6,000 settings. Not only is it being used in churches, but also corporate and other work settings, and even prisons as well.
“It is an avenue for believers to bring non-believers to help them understand biblical manhood and to lead them to Christ,” Caldwell told the TEXAN.
In a December 2006 article in New Man magazine (Robert’s Rules), Caldwell reported that Fellowship Bible Church has recorded at least 80 salvation decisions annually in recent years stemming from Men’s Fraternity meetings.
The Fellowship Bible group now includes about 1,200 men. They gather at 6 a.m. each Wednesday from fall through spring months to be served a “plate-sized” 45-minute presentation and then break up into small groups to “digest” it, Caldwell explained.
The method of Men’s Fraternity is to provide an atmosphere that doesn’t look or feel “churchy.”
“We try to not make it feel like a worship service. Why do that if you can’t get them to attend worship on Sunday?” Caldwell posed.
The most successful meeting time has proven to be on a weekday from 6-7:30 a.m. “Safe” music, or sports videos, or other “guy” things going on in the meeting room help men understand that they are at a function designed for them.
Over the three-year course, men study:
“The Quest for Authentic Manhood,” which defines manhood and challenges men to let the boy in them die.
“Authentic Manhood: Winning at Work and Home,” which addresses fulfillment at work and relating successfully to a woman.
“The Great Adventure,” which helps men rediscover the adventure in life and encourages them to maximize their manhood.
Each weekly meeting begins with a “host,” one of the two key leaders. He welcomes the group, communicates the vision and any instructions needed to set the course, and prepares the way for the “presenter,” the other key leader.
Following the welcome, men hear a 45-50 minute talk given by the presenter, who can either be Robert Lewis via DVD, or a live presenter who has mastered the material and can deliver it with excellence, Caldwell said, “The material isn’t 24 talks. It’s one talk given in 24 servings. They get a plateful at a time to digest.”
The host returns to summarize the talk, then sends the men to their small discussion groups, which Caldwell said “is crucial for Men’s Fraternity.”
“Then they create their own manhood plan?a mission statement for their manhood, like how to relate to their wife, a son, a daughter, or co-workers. Then the guy can see how he is doing,” Caldwell said.
Though many churches using Men’s Fraternity have seen noteworthy growth in their men’s groups, Caldwell said the material works just as well with only a few.
“I’ve actually done the whole 24 weeks with just me and another man,” he said.
And the material has proven effective across ethnicities, as groups have formed overseas in Iraq, China, Guatemala, and Australia, and several other countries.
Caldwell acknowledges that the idea of a college fraternity might not resonate with all locations. He recommends that churches “take advantage of the branding [Men’s Fraternity], but if it helps to fly it under an established name, we encourage them to use both.”
Caldwell reported: “What’s happening is that men who have journeyed through this material are excited about taking it to their communities and other settings?they feel like they’re almost commissioned. They are moving up the ladder of manhood and taking responsibility. And that’s our mission.”
Caldwell assists pastors and leaders around the world in integrating the Men’s Fraternity curriculum into their ministry to men. For more information about Men’s Fraternity, visit the website at mensfraternity.com, or for materials visit lifeway.com/mensfraternity.