In circles of single women, the question “where are all the good men?” is a typical topic of conversation. But recently I have heard this question among a lot of other people and not just singles. I keep hearing that youth ministers are having a hard time finding male Core Members. We see good, Catholic men at church by themselves, with a girlfriend or a spouse, but they magically disappear after Mass. There are of course the overextended men that remain in the vestibule or courtyard after Mass, but those men are already in every ministry at the parish.
So the question begs to be repeated: where are all the good men? And why do so few commit to being on Life Teen and Edge Core?
The truth is that men are in the Church but we are not luring them into youth ministry with the right bait. Christ told the disciples that He would make them fishers of men, which obviously spoke to them as fishermen. Do you think they would’ve jumped in the boat if He told them about all the temptation He went through when He was in the desert for 40 days alone? I don’t think so! So how do we bait the men of our parishes and keep them on the hook for the entire youth ministry ride?
Let’s explore a few areas where God wants us to go out to the deep and lower our nets.
Create Recruitment Geared Toward Men
Sometimes recruitment tactics can be viewed as emotional manipulation. Emphasizing the emotional side of ministry such as the hurting teen, the spiritual highs and lows of a retreat, or the experience of a week at camp doesn’t always motivate men to join Core. Men want to lead, mentor and be strong role models for teens; therefore, we must emphasis this communal deficiency in our recruitment strategies.
One Sunday, during my sister’s Mass recruitment, she noticed multiple husbands elbowing their wives in the side. She instantly asked the wives to elbow their husbands back, shouting, “We need men to rise up and show our young boys what it means to be a men of God.” Let’s just say she had more men on her Core Team that year than women. Look to fathers who coach Little League or AYSO, or to college students who were high school athletes and know the effect of great leadership in a teen’s life or possibly a local businessman who hire teens in their stores or restaurants. Men will rise up and commit; we just need to loudly shout out the need.
Men Want Results . . . Yesterday!
We all know ministry doesn’t have immediate, measurable results. The problem is, men want to know that what they’re doing is making a difference. Otherwise, they feel like they’re failing. Why do you think so many men sign up for P90X? Because it has a 90-day measuring stick where you can tangibly see if you have reached your goal.
To use a track and field analogy, men need to know the distance markers of relational ministry to understand just how much further they need to run to reach the finish line. So many men (and women) will give up before God desires them to because they don’t see the mile markers they have reached and they give in to the lie that they’re failing. Leading teens into a relationship with Christ is a lifelong goal that requires trust between the teen and the Core Member. Keep guys on track by affirming them weekly in the small ways they have gone the distance for the teens and for God.
Relational Ministry is Not Exciting
Reality check: men don’t get excited about relational ministry.
Walking up to an individual or group without something to talk about invokes fear in most people, especially when it’s a group of teens. The best thing to do with male Core is to immediately discover their interests and ask them to attend teen events that they are passionate about. If they love football or baseball, have them go to their games or possible start an NFL or MLB fantasy league. Draft night could be an epic guys night twice a year. Plus, this is a great connecting point for men on a weekly basis for relational ministry that eventually leads teens into a relationship with Christ.
Get creative in how you empower men in relational ministry as well as the “tasks” of being a Core Member. A lot of men prefer to “do” things in ministry instead of witness or share. Start with men’s gifts, for example audiovisual set up, but still partner him with another Core Member in a small group. This will help him gain confidence and build trust with the teens while giving him something tangible to “do” at Life Night.
Helping men gain confidence in areas they excel while challenging them in areas they may not be comfortable will allow them to explore gifts and talents they don’t even realize they have. In the end, these little confidence boosters will be the mile markers you can point out on a consistent basis that keep them hooked and make them fishers of men.