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To gain black male membership, be creative, SBC leader says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Churches hoping to add African American males to their membership mix had better start cooking up some nontraditional ways to get them there, according to Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans.
Luter, a trustee of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville and former SBC second vice president, told a group of participants of Black Church Leadership Week at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center Aug. 4-8 that is just what he did — and it worked.
“When I first became pastor of Franklin Avenue, I went around the neighborhood knocking on doors, trying to get the brothers to come to church,” said Luter, who acknowledged his passion for men’s ministry. “But it wasn’t working.
“Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute, the brothers love boxing.”
So, with his wife’s permission, Luter ordered up a pay-for-view boxing match at his home and spent the next month promoting the fight from the pulpit.
“I told the ladies to invite their husband, their brothers, their fathers, their grandfathers — anybody they could think of to come to my house and watch the fight.”
On the night of the fight, Luter said, about 50 men showed up.
“They showed up carrying beer cans in one hand and wine coolers in the other. But sinners sin,” he said, adding he did not expect them to show up with a Baptist Hymnal and a Bible. “I just told them to deposit their beer in the trash, and I gave them pizza and cold drinks.”
From the men who watched the fight at his home, Luter said about five came to church the next Sunday. Franklin Avenue now has a men’s group that meets every Tuesday night.
Luter said Christian African American men have to let other African American men know what God has done in their lives.
“I didn’t start out carrying a Bible. I haven’t always been to church. I told those brothers I was pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, and I’m committed to reaching men. I let them know Christ made a difference in my life.”
Luter said African American males give several reasons why they do not go to church. Some he has heard are:
— They think the church is full of hypocrites.
— They believe pastors have an ego problem.
— They are angry at God.
— They don’t want to give money to the church.
— The church is irrelevant; it doesn’t address their needs.
— The church has a black congregation with photos of a white Jesus.
— The worship service is too long.
— The preaching is too emotional. They feel the preacher plays on emotions and feelings.
— They would rather be watching sports.
— They lacked Christian role models as children.
“All of these reasons are nothing but flimsy excuses — but real issues — yet none should stop any of them from going to church,” Luter said.
Once church leaders get men inside the church house, they can begin thinking about starting a men’s ministry, Luter said.
The first step is gaining the support of the pastor.
“Many things live or die depending on the support of the pastor. If the pastor doesn’t support it, it’s a closed book. Every Sunday from the pulpit, the pastor has to call for men, men, men.”
Next, an effective men’s ministry leader must be chosen, Luter said.
“He has to be born again, not just popular or have a good job. He has to be a role model, a good listener, compassionate, not judgmental, biblically sound and demonstrate good leadership skills.”
The third step to starting an effective men’s ministry is getting the word out, Luter said.
“Do it up. Talk about it from the pulpit, put it in the church bulletin, announce it in Sunday school classes, on posters, flyers and by word of mouth.”
Once the word is out that a church is attempting to start a men’s ministry, a kick-off event should be planned, Luter said.
“Make the event non-churchy, non-formal and non-threatening. If possible, have it away from the church — like a picnic, in a gym or someone’s home.”
Once the ministry gets started, Luter said, leaders must consistently hold meetings.
“You need to decide when you’ll meet — weekly, every other week or once a month.”
And finally, Luter said, leaders must set ground rules. Some include:
— The ministry meetings are not male- or female-bashing sessions.
— What is shared in the meetings should be kept in the meetings.
— Leaders are to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of men.
— Those in the group are to hold each other accountable for their actions.
Luter said the 10 goals of a ministry for men are:
1. to help men grow spiritually.
2. to prepare men to become ministers for their families.
3. to show men how to love their wives as Christ loved the church.
4. to show fathers how to produce godly children.
5. to help equip other workers in the church.
6. to help win other men to the Lord.
7. to lighten the counseling load of the pastor.
8. to develop accountability among other men.
9. to help develop future church leaders.
10. to develop role models and mentors for teens and children.
Black Church Leadership Week is sponsored by the Sunday School, International Mission and North American Mission boards, Woman’s Missionary Union and the Annuity Board.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey