Outreach to Christian Men on the Rise

( [email protected] ) May 09, 2007 04:34 AM EDT

After 16 seasons of developing godly men, the nation's largest men's ministry is making some changes this year.

"We are busy and we are excited about 2007 and one of the things that ranks clear is change," said Dr. Tom Fortson, president and CEO of Promise Keepers, "but sometimes we don't want to change."

For over a decade, Promise Keepers has held up to 22 stadium-sized gatherings, drawing hundreds of thousands of men across the country each year. Now in its 17th year of conference ministry, the men's movement has scheduled only seven national conferences this summer and added a line-up of smaller-scale events called Promise Keepers "Selects."

PK Selects are one-day events that will engage men to get active in the local community. They are planned to seat only 1,000 to 2,000 men at a time as opposed to the tens of thousands Promise Keepers typically gathers at its larger conferences. The four-hour gatherings are issue-specific and focus on one theme. Such topics that will be addressed are finances, single parenting, preparation for marriage, pornography and business ethics.

"Promise Keepers wants to go after the tough issues," said Fortson in a featured interview.

Another tough issue the Christian ministry is tackling is sexual sin among pastors. Partnering with Focus on the Family Pastoral Ministries Department and a team of local pastors in Denver, Colo., as well as noted Christian therapist Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg, Promise Keepers helped develop Clergy Link - a one-day forum.

Clergy Link launched in March at Crossroads Church in Thornton, Colo., where 170 pastors heard Schaumburg urge pastors hiding sexual sin to come clean.

"A fallen leader told me, 'I spoke into everyone else's life, but no one was privileged to speak into my life,'" said Dr. Rick Rigsby, chaplain for the Texas A&M football team, at the forum.

"Pastors are under a lot of pressure," Fortson noted. "Where do they go?"

With many pastors facing a lack of accountability, Clergy Link was started to pray for pastors and encourage them, said Fortson.

While Promise Keepers focuses on the development of such small-scale events, the ministry still recognizes that they have served as a catalyst for men in large events. Their first 2007 stadium event themed "Flood: Energizing Men of Integrity" hits Mobile, Ala., next month.

And returning this year is comedian Brad Stine, who newly founded the GodMen conferences.

After three years of standing on the Promise Keepers stage, Stine began to realize the need for men's ministry and found a place in his heart to reach out to men.

"Promise Keepers really showed this need, this desire for men to come together to deal with and discuss male topics ... and it really highlighted how necessary that was because of the growth [of its conferences]," said Stine, according to Promise Keepers.

GodMen takes a more aggressive and "raw" approach, tackling men's struggles, connecting with Christian men and recapturing the masculinity many feel is lost in the churches. Stine, who has hosted two conferences so far, with the latest drawing around 300 men, wants men to know that "spirituality and masculinity are not mutually exclusive."

Although a growing ministry, GodMen is not competition. With a real lack of outreach to men and the loss of men from the church, Stine stressed the need for filling the gap.

"You have to be careful about not looking it as competition," said Stine. "To me, everybody's just bringing a piece to the puzzle."

Fortson also emphasized the importance of collaboration, as seen in the Clergy Link partnerships. “[We] cannot do it alone as Promise Keepers in dealing with men,” he said. “So we have to collaborate with others to be more effective.”

Promise Keepers claims to have inspired over 80 different organizations addressing men's issues.

Both GodMen, which will also be hosting its first national conference in Mobile, Ala., this year, and Promise Keepers have demonstrated that men cannot be isolated. They have to be part of a tribe and have other men who understand their struggles fighting with them, said Stine.