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Church taps men’s curriculum, sees personal, family renewal

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following stories are part of a monthly Baptist Press series to explore and describe how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom.

HOUSTON (BP)–With four decades of ministry experience, Buddy Griffin has never been more excited about leading men to a new appreciation for their roles as fathers, husbands and spiritual leaders.

The director of men’s ministry and prayer at Sagemont Church in Houston, the 66-year-old Griffin attributes much of the Southern Baptist congregation’s growth to “Men’s Fraternity.”

He is passionate about its impact on Sagemont, which has seen nearly 20 men accept Christ as Savior during the sessions since the fall of 2005.

The discipleship and spiritual growth curriculum, covered over a three-year span, was written by Arkansas pastor Robert Lewis and is distributed by LifeWay Christian Resources.

“This has absolutely revolutionized me and my family,” said Griffin, who came to Sagemont in 2001. “I can tell you story after story about what’s happening in the church. Men are reconciling with their dads, reconciling with their families and being the men they should be.”

John Morgan, the church’s only pastor during its 40 years, gets excited when he drives into the parking lot on Tuesday mornings and sees it so full he could easily mistake it for a Sunday.

The pastor said he has never seen men so willing to be involved in congregational life and be doers of the Word, not just hearers.

“Men are filtering into every aspect of church life -– greeters, choir, teachers and youth group sponsors,” Morgan said. “They’re using their muscles as well as their mind to carry out the mission ministry of the church. They’re becoming involved in missions, and men are giving financially for the first time.

“I’ve never seen a ministry that excites wives and families of these men like the Men’s Fraternity is doing.”

The instructional material includes a workbook and DVDs so men can watch Lewis’ teaching and then engage in discussion groups, although Griffin writes his own material to coincide with the lessons’ main points.

The first year of the Men’s Fraternity curriculum is a 24-session study titled the “Quest for Authentic Manhood.”

It reviews a man’s core identity and reviews basic manhood issues, looking back at past wounds and exploring the concept of biblical masculinity.

Quest includes Lewis’ definition of biblical manhood: A man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and always looks for the greater reward -– God’s reward.

Year two of the curriculum, titled “Winning at Work and Home,” devotes 16 sessions to a man’s career and family.

The third year, “The Great Adventure,” is a 20-session study exploring a man’s identity and vision for life.

Men’s Fraternity has been so successful that Lewis has relinquished his role as senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock to devote more time to speaking and writing. He now serves as pastor-at-large.

Griffin heard Lewis speak at University Baptist Church in Houston in March 2005 and was stirred to incorporate the material into Sagemont’s men’s ministry.

The first session attracted so much attention that Griffin scheduled a second class on Sunday afternoons for men who couldn’t make it on Tuesday mornings.

Initial total attendance of 750 –- which included men from 20 different churches — dwindled to 550 by the end of the first course, but the attrition rate doesn’t surprise Griffin.

Exploring past hurts as part of developing godly masculinity is a tough task that not all men are ready to complete.

“This isn’t suitable for kids,” Griffin said. “I tell men not to bring their sons during the first half [of Quest] because it’s so hard to deal with wounds. I called some men and asked why they left and they said, ‘I’m not going to sit through that. It hurts too bad.’”

For those who stay, Griffin said the small-group discussions that follow each week’s teaching are a prime reason for the study’s popularity, as the men in these groups develop strong bonds of friendship and some meet at other times for mutual support and encouragement.

Having someone saying, “Way to go,” is important for men, who often lack “cheerleaders,” Griffin said.

“Who else cheers for men when they do the noble things in life?” Griffin asked. “Who cheers when a man is noble, honest and faithful? Men go where the applause is. Guys in their small groups come and share victories and give each other hugs and high-fives.”

Such expressions of affection and camaraderie don’t come easily for many men, which is why Griffin also has designed events to bring men closer together with their families.

Before last year’s second semester (classes run during the fall, take a break for Christmas and resume in January), the men’s ministry sponsored a barbecue that included wives and children and drew a crowd of 1,100.

In February, Griffin organized a father-daughter spaghetti dinner and required all the men to write a love letter to their daughters. Females attending ranged from age 7 to 51, Griffin said.

Near the end of the first course last May, the ministry held a father-son retreat. Dads spent the morning of the second day with their sons, read a letter to them and resolved any tensions between them, Griffin said. Sons from 6 to 46 were part of that event, he added.

“On Sunday at 10 a.m. we asked if the men wanted to brag on their sons,” Griffin said. “At noon we wrapped up without having a sermon. We had healing and reconciliation and men would cheer each other.”

In addition to drawing participants closer together and promoting healthier families, Griffin said Men’s Fraternity has prompted spin-off activities.

A class in November on sexual purity attracted 37 men, including three teenage sons, with a second session to be offered during February. Additionally, Houston McComb, a counselor at Sagemont, said, some men have gotten involved with an organization that encourages men to write letters to their children. The church also has held a six-week course on Sunday mornings based on another of Lewis’ books, “Raising a Modern-Day Knight.”

Griffin said these activities have revitalized the men’s ministry, which publishes a monthly newsletter and has redecorated men’s bathrooms with fishing equipment and sports photos to improve its “man-code.”

“It’s all part of making our facility more appealing to men,” said Griffin, noting that a huge men’s ministry banner hangs in the gymnasium declaring, “Men of God reaching, equipping and inspiring men.”

    About the Author

  • Ken Walker