When I leaked the name of an upcoming men's ministry to my friend Micah, he chuckled. "Did you come up with the name first, and then need to find an outlet for it?"
The name was "Man UP." The answer was "No."
I recognize what many other pastors and church leaders have identified about men: We connect to God in our labor and shared experiences. Fall retreats and road trips create spiritual bonds as well as (or better than) four songs and a sermon. Paul made much use of walking and fighting metaphors; sitting in a pew did not show up on his virtue charts.
For the record, the New Masculinity Movement in Christian circles can be overstated. It assumes men are incapable of sitting still and thinking. It also assumes that singing is for the birds and skirts. Do we really believe these ideas? I hope men can process a sermon and bellow a chorus. But I also like to see Dick run. He was born for it.
Man UP is my stab at gathering men "to grow us...to unite us...to challenge us in our relationship with Jesus." Men were invited with these words on a torn piece of paper. Man UP was pitched as "A 7-week shared experience for men" of our church. If they were "UP for it," they signaled me via text. I deliberately pitched the opportunity as somewhat exclusive and mysterious. Each Monday night I send them a text giving them a theme (Wake UP; Team UP; Shut UP), location (Grace parking lot, Winona beach), and something to bring (2x4; walking shoes; two dollars in coins). We meet at six a.m. Miraculously, several men were UP for it.
Last week I sent them on a Scavenger Hunt throughout Winona Lake. They piled in three cars, racing to the location to sniff out the next clue. After six riddles, they stormed the beach and found me reading Ephesians. Paul provided the text for our challenge: "Wake up sinners. Get out of the grave. Christ will shine on you" (5:14). I implored the men to wake up a half hour earlier than usual to read Ephesians and pray for their families five times in the next week.
This morning we chose partners and designed a miniature golf course. Ten minutes to design two holes apiece. Then we competed, laughing at one another as we chased balls and racked up bogies.