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Men want church involvement to make a difference


Men want church involvement to make a difference

Sept. 23, 2004

By Tom McAnally*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - If men are to be attracted to United Methodist churches, they must feel that at the end of the day they have done something that makes a difference, according to the newly elected president of the denomination’s Commission on United Methodist Men.

Gil Hanke, a layman from Nacogdoches, Texas, challenged members of the commission, meeting Sept. 20-22 in Nashville, to help men recapture a "doing spirit." The lack of church leadership by men is "frightening," he said, and the participation of men under 40 "pathetic."

In his long involvement with the church, Hanke, a speech and language pathologist, said he has observed that the most popular activities for men are Scouting, prayer life, hunger relief, missions and Christ-centered fellowship. "All these have in common the desire to be ‘doers of the word’," he said.

Hanke was elected president by the 23-member commission as it organized for the 2005-08 quadrennium. The commission became an independent organization in 1996 after being a division of the Board of Discipleship in Nashville. Bishops headed the commission during each of the first two quadrennia, or four-year periods. Hanke becomes the first layman to serve in that capacity.

The Rev. Joseph Harris was re-elected staff executive of the commission, a post he has held since 1996. In his address to the commission, Harris stressed the importance of "reaching the hearts of men," particularly the next generation. "Younger men want to experience the faith, not just be told about it," he said. "They want to be participants, not spectators."

Continuing the theme of "doing," Harris urged the commission to give priority to hands-on ministry to help those in need during the next four years.

Acknowledging the presence of new commission members from the Congo and the Philippines, Harris emphasized the importance of reaching men around the globe for Christ. Harris is the first president of the World Fellowship of Methodist and United Church Men, which will hold a global gathering in Seoul, South Korea, in 2006.

Commission members heard initial plans for the Ninth National Gathering of United Methodist Men, set for July 15-17 at Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind. The event, held every four years, usually attracts more than 4,000 men for inspiration, education and fellowship.

The commission took several actions to strengthen the financial base for its work. About 25 percent of the commission’s $1.2 million annual operating budget comes from the denomination’s World Service Fund. The rest is raised through charters of local church United Methodist Men’s organizations, the United Methodist Men Foundation, sale of resources, and individual contributions of $30 per year called, "Every Man Shares in Evangelism, Mission and Spiritual Life." United Methodist Men support and fund many mission activities, including the Society of St. Andrew, Upper Room Prayer Ministries, Lifestyle Relational Evangelism and Hope of Hearing.

Commission members approved a "Legacy Builder" program that will seek monthly contributions from men to support the goal of "setting the hearts of millions of men on fire for Christ within and through the United Methodist Church."

During the next four years, the United Methodist Men Foundation, created in 1981, is committed to funding entirely the commission’s Office of Scouting Ministry, according to staff member Larry Coppock. A campaign to support the foundation will be officially launched at the gathering of United Methodist Men at Purdue in July, but $1.3 million has already been pledged toward a goal of $5 million.

The United Methodist Church is the second-largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts of America, with almost 400,000 youth meeting in 12,200 units in 7,500 congregations. Adding other groups, such as Girl Scouts, Camp Fire and 4-H, United Methodist churches serve more than 600,000 youth in about 27,000 units across the United States.

The United Methodist Church has nearly 37,000 local congregations. Of these, about 7,000 have chartered United Methodist Men’s organizations.

The church’s General Conference, meeting in Pittsburgh in May, asked the commission to conduct a study of men in the church. Harris said the study, a first for the denomination, will "put some facts behind our theories" and will be "critical to the future of the United Methodist Church as we address why men are not participating in our churches in greater numbers."

Commission member Bishop Hee-soo Jung of Chicago is chairing a task force to guide the study. "God is doing a wonderful work in our church and around the world," he said. "Let us not be discouraged." A survey form will be developed by December and will be ready for distribution early next year, he said.

Staff member Larry Malone said the commission is working to change the perception of men’s ministry from being "one of meetings and events to empowering the local church to become a place that truly welcomes and attracts men, as it helps them grow spiritually and resemble Christ in their attitudes and actions." Two commission goals, he said, are to connect and build relationships with all local congregations and with all male members of the denomination.

Malone said the certification and study programs approved by the General Conference will glean critical information from local churches about what is, and isn’t, happening with men and what is going on in their lives, hearts and minds. He outlined plans for identifying and emulating churches that are successfully reaching men, and a leadership and support plan that calls for men’s ministry specialists working within local churches and other units in the denomination.

Among other actions, commissioners:

Elected officers for the 2005-08 quadrennium. Elected in addition to Hanke were Bishop James King, Louisville, Ky., vice president; Dan Henry, Bolingbrook, Ill., secretary; Rod Erskine, Cleveland, treasurer; and Glenn Wintemberg, St. Charles, Mo., president, National Association of Conference Presidents.

Agreed to make communications a priority, using the electronic media and a Web site.

Approved as affiliate organizations the United Methodist Men Foundation, the National Association of Conference Presidents, the National Association of United Methodist Scouters, and the Society of St. Andrew hunger relief organization.

*McAnally is a former director of United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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