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Commission calls for Men's Ministry Sunday

7/23/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert (615) 742-5470 Nashville, Tenn.

A photograph of the Rev. Joseph Harris at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html and a sidebar, UMNS story #372, are available.

By J. Richard Peck*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist agency responsible for men's programs has expanded its plans to help churches strengthen their ministry with men.

Meeting July 17-20, the Commission on United Methodist Men called for the creation of Men's Ministry Sunday and an intensive study of men across the denomination.

The 39-member body also revised existing resources and drafted legislation for the 2004 General Conference, the church's top legislative assembly.

Meeting for the last time in the 2001-2004 quadrennium, the group sought ways to address the fact that, in many congregations, only about one-third of the members are men.

"If we cannot get in the door from the front," said the Rev. Joseph L. Harris, top staff executive of the commission, "we will go in whatever door we find to help the church minister effectively to and through men."

The front door has traditionally included chartering local church units of United Methodist Men. The number of churches hosting local units increased during the past year to some 6,000. However, more than 29,000 churches remain without organizations.

While continuing to charter groups, the commission drafted General Conference legislation that sets as a goal the development of programs and policies to help all United Methodist churches strengthen their men's ministry regardless of the presence or absence of chartered units.

The group will ask General Conference to establish a "Men's Ministry Sunday" as a fourth "special Sunday without offering." That day, to be held at any time during the year, would celebrate men's ministry within and beyond the local church. The general commission would provide resources.

The commission will also ask General Conference to create a committee to study men across the denomination. The $36,000 study would be led by the commission and the research arm of the United Methodist General Council on Ministries or equivalent organization. In calling for the study, the commission states that when a man is the first to come to Christ, the rest of the family follows him 97 percent of the time.

"Our future and the future of men's ministries in the denomination may lie with a bold challenge to the entire church to wake up and pay attention to the spiritual needs of men," Harris said. "We have heard claimed that men are the sleeping giants in the church. Perhaps it is the church that is asleep to men's spiritual needs and men are merely waiting for (it) to wake up and take those needs seriously."

One way of helping the church awaken to men's spiritual needs will be the introduction of "Power Tools," a weekly electronic resource available by e-mail and on the Internet.

Produced by the Rev. Kwasi Kena, a commission staff executive, the online publication will provide tips to enrich ministry to men along with a Bible study and prayer suggestions. In order to save funds and time for this effort, Kena will combine a quarterly newsletter and a quarterly magazine into a single publication. He hopes this expanded magazine will also become available as an online resource.

In an effort to reach younger men, the commission agreed to support a mentoring program developed by the Rev. James W. Hollis Jr., a North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference evangelist. That program calls for a "man in the fourth quarter" (ages 60 to 80) to recruit a "man in the second (age 20 to 40) or third quarter (age 40 to 60) to mentor a male in the first quarter (under 20)." The program involves retreats, banquets and fellowship, and includes a ministry to single mothers. Such programs may be linked with United Methodist Children's Homes.

While the commission recently developed "T-Quest," a spiritual-life resource for small groups, it also wants to partner with other organizations to provide additional materials. The group has agreed to enter into an affiliate relationship with the National Fatherhood Initiative, a secular organization that teaches new dads how to deal with infants and toddlers, helps incarcerated men become better fathers, and gives men deployed overseas access to their children through a Web site.

In other business, the commission:
· Decided to ask General Conference to reduce the number of members on the commission from 39 to 22 in order to cut costs.
· Engaged in a racism workshop led by the Rev. Chester R. Jones, top staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.
· Joined other general agencies calling for 2006 annual conference celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.
· Learned that the first gathering of Methodist men from around the world is set for Seoul, South Korea, in 2006, with Harris as president of the world fellowship.
· Learned that United Methodist Men raised $257,000 for "Meals for Millions," a hunger-relief program led by the Society of Saint Andrew.
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* Peck is the communications coordinator for the Commission on United Methodist Men.

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