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United Methodist Men challenge ROMEO status

United Methodist Men hold hands in prayer. United Methodist Men are
seeking ways to encourage younger men to participate in the organization
to bring men back to the church. UMNS Photos by Linda Green. 

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*

United Methodist Men wants to change the perception that its members are ROMEOs, or “Retired Old Men who Eat Out.”

Michael Stewart

The men admit to enjoying their pancake breakfasts, their fish fries and their lunch and dinner meetings at restaurants or in church fellowship halls.

But United Methodist Men also spent $15 million in missions projects at local churches last year.

They are working hard to address one of the denomination’s major needs: recruiting young men to active church lives. Reaching out to new generations was a focus of the group’s national gathering in Nashville in July.

Michael Stewart, 24, a member of West Grove United Methodist Church, Avondale, Pa., attended the conference for insight on how to start a men’s group in his area.

"There is a lack of men in just about every aspect of church life," Stewart said. “We need help. We need everybody."

Where have all the young men gone?

The number one crisis in the American Protestant church today is a lack of men in the church and a lack of men growing spiritually, said the Rev. David Adams, top executive of United Methodist Men.

The Rev. David Adams, top executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men.

In the United States, there are 69 million men who do not know Christ, and the lack of men in worship and in men's ministry groups is a dilemma affecting churches of all races and economic strata, he said.

For aging denominations such as the United Methodist Church, keeping and recruiting young men is a particular concern. The average age of United Methodist Men is unknown, but officials believe it is older than 57, the average age of a United Methodist.

A major issue facing men’s ministry, officials say, are gender stereotypes suggesting either that church work is “women’s work” or that the role of men is to learn just to get along and do whatever tasks they are assigned.

Sunday worship services in many churches are filled primarily with women and men's ministry officials want to overcome the stigma that the church has become "demasculinized."

Dwayne Hyman

The Rev. Jacques Banks, pastor at Indian Head (Md.) United Methodist Church, believes older men must demonstrate to younger men “that being a man of God does not make one weak or prohibit a person from doing what they enjoy" as a way to make young men come to United Methodist Men.

The point is not to compete with or replace women, according to Adams. "It is about how men can stand side by side with women to partner with the pastor to increase the Kingdom of God."

Statistics from the Commission on United Methodist Men indicate that when a man accepts Christ first in the family, the family follows him to church 93 percent of the time.

"What this reveals is that if the church had an increase of men, there would also be more women and children,” Adams said. “It's a win-win for God and the church.”

Start with evangelism

The first step to bringing in more young men is reaching out, many observers said.

If United Methodist Men is thought of in terms of evangelism rather than as a dining out club, the organization and the church will grow, leaders suggested.

Ellsworth McCampbell

Bringing men into the church requires a "face-to-face explanation of what Christ has done in our lives and what Christ will do in their lives," said Earle Harvey, a member of Peoples United Methodist Church, South Portland, Maine. Twelve men participate in the United Methodist Men's group at his church and Harvey said it has been difficult to increase that number.

Dwayne Hyman, 20, of Bryans Road, Md., said men his age are not in church because of the myriad distractions keeping them from coming to know God.

But, he said, learning to be “a real man” in the church is part of his journey of self-discovery.

Justin Perez, 17, of Norristown, Penn, is a member of United Methodist Men because it helps him further his faith and enhance his relationship with God. He recommended that churches offer more sports activities for youth and talk about God during those activities. "Young men are not in church because it does not appeal," he said.

Steven White, 16, agrees the church needs more activities that are relevant to young men.

"It would make us more active and want to come and learn more about Jesus," said White, a member of Glenwood United Methodist Church, Wyandotte, Mich.

A recent study on the younger unchurched and the churches that reach them points out that young adults need cross-generational relationships. Mature adults can challenge their younger counterparts to move on to maturity through friendship, wisdom, and support, the study said.

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According to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, the study concluded that young adults want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and are looking to be a part of a place where they can make a difference through acts of service.

Ellsworth McCampbell, a member of Bethel United Methodist Church, Flint, Mich., said church members and men should move beyond their comfort zones, canvass their communities and invite young men in.

"Young men are not going to come in by themselves," McCampbell said. "If we as men care enough and love enough for what we represent, then we can get the job done.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


Ellsworth Campbell: Get out of our comfort zones

Michael Stewart: There is a lack of men

David Adams: It is about helping men

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