Fishers of Men

Best Practices For Effective Ministries to Men and Boys

How well are we investing in men? Are they being transformed from a weekend audience to a Kingdom army fulfilling a Kingdom vision? Here some basic steps for developing a leadership pipeline that addresses men’s needs, transforms their lives, and deploys them for service.

When a man’s character and conduct become Christlike, life changes for those around him. Most directly, the women and children connected to his life and choices suffer less and develop better. Fewer literal and emotional orphans fall prey to cultural predators who exploit their loneliness, needs, and insecurities for evil purposes. Negative generational and cultural cycles of chaos, dysfunction, and destruction stop in their tracks.

In the most basic analysis, when men have the capacity to act in the interests of others versus solely acting in the interest of themselves, the foundations of societies and nations change. Wherever these men go, their character goes with them. Professional, political, social, cultural, and religious institutions become the beneficiaries of well-formed men. As a consequence, those organizations become less corrupt and produce fewer cynics. Maybe your families, your community, or your church could use a few more men like this — men who bring hope by their very presence.

Spiritually healthy, moral men are like a cleared field that is ready for cultivation. Spiritually unhealthy, immoral men are destructive to themselves and those around them. Like dynamite, self-centered men produce blast zones of pain and suffering as they self-preserve, self-indulge, and seek to be self-important at the expense of others.

This dangerous potential and reality brings disappointment to a loving Father who watches His sons expectantly, hoping for a healthy expression of His character in their lives. Scripture tells us the blast zones of ungodly male character and conduct break God’s heart: “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;For righteousness, but, behold, a cry for help” (Isaiah 5:7, NKJV).1

Pick up a newspaper or click onto a major news outlet and within seconds one can lament male sinfulness. From sexual violence against women in Uganda and human trafficking in Thailand to Wall Street greed and epidemic fatherlessness in the United States, the crisis is obvious. The information age has crushed the ability of the male culture to escape the one thing men have relied on for centuries: invisibility. Men prefer to hide their weakness and guilt. Yet a simple but powerful global awareness has occurred. Suffering makes the news, and the behaviors of men are at the center of much of the suffering.

This is the first factor every church must be aware of when considering a real and resonating revival that women, children, communities, and countries will find meaningful on a personal level. Pain resonates deeply, and anything that successfully reduces suffering by touching and transforming men becomes immediately relevant. As pastors and churches attempt to focus on reaching people with the gospel, it should be asking: “What problems can we solve that dramatically impact the people and communities we are trying to reach?” The answer is broken male culture and its victims.

Many women today actively seek emotional, relational, intellectual, and financial independence from men. For the first time in United States history, women outnumber men in earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, holding managerial positions, and gaining qualifications for high-growth job sectors in the foreseeable future.2 These trends add to the challenges facing men. Lacking moral authority, feeling unneeded and unable to contribute or provide emotional support, many men are running scared.

Statistics indicate there are 2.18 billion Christians in the world. This means there are between 500 and 700 million Christian men roaming the planet Earth.3 Christian men are the largest standing army for potential good on the planet. Good men surround us. We work with their wives and children. But how well are we investing in men? Are they moving from affiliated to activated? Are they being transformed from a weekend audience to a Kingdom army fulfilling a Kingdom vision? We can only expect to get back from people what we invest in them. Effective churches realize this.

What do we call a healthy men’s culture, where consistency of convictions brings justice, and with justice, hope? We call it a solution to a problem that dramatically impacts the people and communities we are called to evangelize.

Fishing for Men in a Broken Culture

Like today’s men, the average first-century Jewish male was influenced by cultural ideals of masculinity. His thinking, consciously and subconsciously, was shaped by sentiments such as the ones expressed in this ceremonial prayer: “Blessed art thou, O God, for not making me a Gentile, slave, or woman.” Into this broken thinking came Jesus, who challenged many cultural biases. He defended and dignified women, invited children into His lap, and told parables about honorable Samaritans.

What stands out to me as a pastor is that Jesus modeled this brand of Spirit-filled masculinity to the men of His time through a public ministry to large numbers of people as well as a private discipleship relationship with a small group of men. Before we move on, we need to establish the connection: Jesus used the former to accomplish the latter.

Public and planned ministry should happen at the same time as private modeling, messaging, and mentoring. Matthew 4:19 captures the heart of Jesus’ call: “ ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ ” This call reflects the Lord’s plan for men to follow Him, learn from Him, and change the world for Him. At its core are the concepts of a personal invitation, personal imitation, and personal impartation that produce personal replication. The key word is personal. The discipleship process among men involves one man personally inviting and investing in other men. What started with 12 men and three years of discipleship led to 20 centuries of Kingdom expansion. This was Jesus’ plan for men.

Pastor, You Need a Reliable Leadership Pipeline

Just as the Alaskan pipeline distributes much-needed fuel to the lower United States, a leadership pipeline is vital to pastors. It’s a matter of effective stewardship of resources. We may not want to acknowledge the lack of effective training for men. We may not even be aware of the need for this leadership pipeline. But it is a timely conversation grounded in the timeless mandates of Scripture.

Consider Jethro’s wise counsel to Moses: “Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. … But select capable men from all the people — men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain — and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied’ ” (Exodus 18:17,18, 21–23).

Jethro showed Moses his need for additional leadership — a leadership pipeline. These other leaders would help Moses as he led the Israelites. In the same way, pastors can develop leaders who will help them lead their church.

Most pastors dream of having a strong and vibrant men’s community that drives ministry in their churches. Their dream rarely becomes a reality because they have no compelling vision for men that they articulate. They fail to demonstrate the model or connect it to a meaningful process that transforms and trains men to take the initiative. In other words, there is no end game, no set of goals, no pathway, and no larger vision for men.

When a church’s vision for men in the community and in the congregation is no larger than “this is good for you” or “you should do this,” with no personally transcendent or transformational component driving interest or curiosity, why would men want to participate? On the flip side, if a church has a strong vision, a defined process that helps a man realize it, and outcomes that make men stakeholders in the ongoing success of the church’s mission, men line up to get involved.

Developing Vision, Meaning, Clear Process, and Influence

Though today’s men face complex challenges, reaching them doesn’t have to be complicated. Men like simplicity. Through years of helping hundreds of churches improve their outreaches, I’ve identified some basic steps for developing a leadership pipeline that addresses men’s needs, transforms their lives, and deploys them for service.

“Get In”

Nearly every man has a “go-to guy” he knows who can help him fix his car or write his next home loan. But few men know where to turn for help with spiritual and relational battles. A successful pathway for male discipleship emphasizes getting guys in with other guys who share a personal commitment to grow personally and spiritually — preferably on a weekly basis.

(For GET IN resources, go to

A successful outreach consistently helps men see the value of connecting with one another. It creates meaningful contexts for them to foster spiritual friendships. It also invests in quality resources to equip the men who come.

Once guys get connected, they will naturally want to know, “What’s next?” It is imperative that you know the answer to that question before they ask it. The answer must resonate with how men think. This is why the next stop on the pathway is about giving them meaningful wins.

“Get Healthy”

This step involves defining and meeting the felt needs of men and helping them get a “win” that is meaningful to them.

Like icebergs, many men keep a large part of themselves submerged. Hidden beneath the waterline of their lives are a host of issues — moral, relational, marital, professional, and emotional concerns — that produce enormous stress and define the true substance of their existence. They work at being tough guys who have it all together, but it’s just an act.

In a safe group context, men can honestly pursue health in their character and their relationships. This involves an open discussion of temptation and compromise (moral health); views of women and marriage (marital health); responsibilities in the home (family health); and how masculine friendship and accountability work (relational health).

True health in these core areas is the difference between a synthetic leader who pretends to be something he is not and an authentic leader. A synthetic leader talks about mission and vision,but lacks the character to meet the demands of itin his own life. He is divided between what he says and how he actual lives. An authentic leader, on the other hand, has the inner character to match the demands of the mission and vision. He is undividedbetween what he says and how he lives. (See Jesus address and expose the syntheticleader in Matthew 23:13-28.) The Bible requires core health and strong leadership in these areas prior to selection for church leadership (1 Timothy 3:1–10,12; Titus 1:6–9).

Once a church has defined and met men’s felt needs, guided them through honest discussion, and led them to spiritual growth and accountability, the process of leadership development can begin.

“Get Strong”

The next phase involves casting a vision for continued church involvement and preparation for ministry. This calls for greater commitment and sacrifice. In a relational context, the goal is to think and behave increasingly like Christ. It is the natural progression from transformation to activation into leadership training. Practically, men should sense their transition to the next level of ministry commitment — personally, spiritually, and practically.

Resources and relationships should center on strong spiritual formation that leads to personal expression of the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:38) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).

Once fully trained, there is only one call left.


“Get Going”

A trained “God’s man” is responsible for ministering, discipling new leaders, and partnering with pastoral staff to advance the church’s mission. He stands strong, but he doesn’t stand alone. Tools, resources, and relationships support his continued success and spiritual growth.

A solid leadership engine that produces solid men accelerates the church’s mission and vision. That’s the desired outcome. Ultimately, you want to be confident that your discipleship efforts, like Christ’s, will grow the kingdom of God.


Masculinity is up for grabs at this moment in history. Much of society now rejects the broken male culture’s uncaring and self-centered “Alpha Male.” Over-sensitive and weak “Omega Male” lacks a spine and is too codependent. The world looks for the next wave of Spirit-filled male leadership. People seek congruence between courage and compassion, strength and service, toughness and tenderness — qualities that are perfected in the character of Jesus Christ. But making such men requires a new wave of modeling and mentoring. The Church is both equipped and called to deliver to accomplish this.

  1. (Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  2. Hanna Rosin, “The End of Men,” in The Atlantic (July/August 2010).
  3. Pew Research Center, “Global Christianity” (December 19, 2011). Church statisticians project consistently 2.18 billion Christians worldwide. Approximately one third of this number is women, one third is men, and the last third are children.