We Started Slowly
How men’s ministry has grown at Northside Christian Church
By Gary Olsby
About 12 years ago, I took our men’s leadership team to a Man in the Mirror Conference entitled “No Man Left Behind.” We learned many principles for successful ministry to men, but the thing that stood out for many of us was a statement that building a thriving men’s ministry takes 10 years.
So we started slowly—with one men’s Bible study group that studied Robert Lewis’s Men’s Fraternity video series. The group met on Wednesday mornings at 6. Since then we have added a group on Thursday evenings at 6:30 and a group on Saturday mornings at 7:30.
We call these our three core groups. Having three groups helps eliminate the excuse that a single group does not fit into a man’s schedule. Each of these groups studies the same thing. Currently we are going through a 10-week Bible history overview, and interestingly enough, we’ve seen record crowds, even though the study did not address a “felt need” issue for men.
Perhaps men do want to study the Bible after all. Imagine that!
I must say, though, that we often do focus on the felt needs of men. In Mobilizing Men for One-on-one Ministry, longtime men’s pastor Steve Sonderman says, “The top issues for men are work, family, marriage, sexuality, and finances, and rarely are these addressed in the church today.” After working with men for years, I agree wholeheartedly with Sonderman’s list.
We offer a men’s conference each fall—and also short-term groups (that are not always just for the men)—that usually focus on one of these issues. Such groups include Financial Peace University, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Love & Respect, Dads of Destiny, and Every Man’s Battle (information about each of these programs is available online).
For the first 10 or so years of our men’s conference, we used the military theme “No Man Left Behind.” In the spring of 2014, the “REAL Men” theme emerged (explained in the accompanying article).
We kicked off this new theme via my sermon to the entire congregation on Father’s Day, 2014. We even passed out a REAL Men coin and encouraged the men to keep it in their pockets at all times to remind them of what it means to be a real man.
When our core groups resumed in the fall of 2014 (after our traditional summer break, during which we promoted our new program) we went through a 13-week REAL Men study of lessons that I put together. These 13 lessons became a REAL Men book, which is now available at www.garyolsby.com.
We’ve also developed a website (www.nccrealmen.com), a monthly e-newsletter that reminds the men of coming events and includes an encouraging article, a group of men’s prayer warriors, and polo shirts and ball caps with the REAL Men logo on them.
Whatever we are studying, we try to review what it means to be a REAL Man—keeping the theme in front of the guys on a regular basis.
We also host monthly events that are key to attracting new men to our core groups. These include a Guys’ Night Out (free pizza, billiards, ping-pong, etc.), Wilderness Trek (camping, target practice, off-roading, fishing, hiking, etc.), a father/child camping trip, mixed martial arts viewing, car show, ATV trip, retreat, traditional men’s breakfast, and Sunday Night Football viewing. Our church also offers adult athletic leagues, although these leagues do not fall under men’s ministry.
For anyone looking to start a men’s ministry, I encourage you to read Patrick Morley’s No Man Left Behind and Steve Sonderman’s How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry and Mobilizing Men for One-on-one Ministry.
Gary Olsby is the men’s pastor at Northside Christian Church in Fresno, California, and author of the book REAL Men: Tackling the Biggest Issues All Men Face.