RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Seeking to help predominantly black churches strengthen male leadership in homes, churches and communities, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention has launched an initiative for starting and undergirding men’s ministries.
“I’m the Man” is a collection of discipleship resources and promotional materials that churches can use to connect with men both inside and outside of church, said Jay Wells, director of black church relations and consulting for LifeWay.
“I’m the Man is not a challenge, it’s a statement,” Wells told more than 450 men during the “Be the Man” conference at Ridgecrest, N.C., in May. “Nobody can take away the fact that we are men. Being the man is not a choice. The kind of legacy we leave behind is,” he added. “So when we say, ‘I’m the man,’ that means we take the responsibilities in our homes and in our communities and in our churches to be men and to leave appropriate legacies for those who come behind us.”
I’m the Man is structured to encourage four actions: lead, serve, protect and mentor. Logos and sample activities are available at LifeWay.com/man. The site also suggests six Bible studies churches could offer especially for men.
Wells said the campaign is designed for more than just the men currently in church.
“Find a way to affirm men in your church and your community,” he said. “Some of them don’t come to church. You know that. We’ve got to figure out a way to connect with them.”
Wells encouraged church leaders to think creatively about ways to connect with more men.
“We want you to take it, put your own twist to it and affirm men both in your church and in your community,” he said, likening it to military service recognitions that many churches offer that act as bridges to attract people.
Wells said he wants I’m the Man to help spark a climate change in many churches as they offer new ministries that appeal to men.
“We believe we’ll be able to touch the heart and soul of a lot of men,” he said, echoing some speakers at the weekend conference who said many men don’t feel welcomed at churches.
“Because of the predominance of women in the church, unconsciously we’ve shaped it by what women prefer,” he said. “So men have increasingly become less comfortable because of the way things are done. Unconsciously, men walk in and say, ‘This is a ladies’ place.'”
Wells said the initiative seeks to answer the question, “How do we make church man-friendly while at the same time not running off the ladies?”
Leaders hope the activities and Bible studies help churches positively impact families. Several speakers at the Ridgecrest conference said many black churches must reconnect with men to have a positive impact on families and communities.
“A young man needs a picture of what manhood can be,” Kevin Smith, pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., said. “One of the frustrating things as a pastor is to have women in their early 30s and 20s ready to get married and the dude’s in their mama’s basement playing PlayStation.”
Wells said I’m the Man redefines masculinity.
“We don’t mean macho-ism. We mean mentor, lead, serve, protect,” Wells said. “The men are going to be more comfortable in the church if you start affirming them. What’s going to happen is the men in church are going to feel different. And when the men feel different, they’re going to participate more. And when they participate more, you change the whole character of that church.”
David Winfrey is a writer based in Louisville, Ky.