SIDEBAR: A Badge and a Bible

by Christina Quick

Justin Noel knows the importance of ministry to men. As a sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer, he regularly encounters guys who desperately need the transforming power of Christ.

“I see it all the time — fatherless homes, substance abuse, and men who aren’t stepping up to the plate and being responsible,” says Noel, men’s ministry leader at Oswego Assembly of God in Kansas. “Men get in trouble, and it trickles down to their kids. I see these issues firsthand, and it makes me want to reach out to those guys more.”

Noel often ministers to men as he transports them to jail. He even hands out cards with his personal cell phone number, inviting suspects to call and talk about their lives.

“I wonder what I’m opening myself up to sometimes giving my number to a guy I’ve just arrested,” Noel says. “But I see it as another avenue for reaching men.”

Noel can relate to many of the struggles today’s men face. When he was 2 years old, his father was murdered. He says growing up in a fatherless home impacted him in some negative ways.

“I used to be embarrassed to talk about poverty and not having a dad, and the wrong choices I’ve made,” Noel says. “But I see so many men who are dealing with the same things. I tell them, ‘I’ve struggled; I drank; I went down those roads. But the Lord delivered me.’”

Noel was on the verge of divorce when he rededicated his life to Christ in 2009. He says if the men in his congregation had not reached out to him with compassion and kept him accountable in his spiritual growth, the turnaround he experienced in his life and family would not have been possible.

Less than two years after returning to his childhood faith, Noel sensed God calling him to lead men’s ministries. The church’s senior pastor, Steve McBrien, had been praying for someone to step into that role.

Today, Noel leads a monthly meeting of about 18 guys. The group often gathers in homes for food, fellowship, and Bible discussions. Noel also tries to touch base with each of the men on a weekly basis, through a phone conversation, text message, or personal meeting.

The men take part in special events throughout the year, such as campouts and fishing tournaments. An annual retreat at a Christian hunting resort includes target shooting, ATV riding, and a variety of competitive games. The retreat ends with a meal and spiritual emphasis.

Noel says churches must be creative in seeking ways to bring men back into the fold.

“Some guys think church isn’t for them,” Noel says. “They see it as a feminine thing. Some have already been down that road and become burned out. I want to go a church filled with men who are hungry for God. That is my vision.”

Christina Quick, freelance writer, Springfield, Missouri