UMMen work hard to bring younger generation into fold
By Jessica Brodie
If South Carolina men’s ministry leaders have their way, no man will be left behind when it comes to Christ.
But right now, they have to admit: United Methodist Men are looking a bit gray. Think about the term “United Methodist Men” and you might picture an older group of guys who gather for barbecue or a supper club, who get together once a month to build a wheelchair ramp or host a fish fry.
While there’s nothing wrong with this, it leaves out an entirely different generation of men who could use that kind of Christian male fellowship and discipleship. And that, they say, is simply not acceptable.
“Our demographic is too narrow,” said David Holcombe, member of Covenant United Methodist Church, Greer, and president of the Greenville District UMMen. “We want men’s ministry alive and for the younger generation, too. Men N Ministry is not just your grandpa; men in ministry looks like you!”
That is why South Carolina UMMen are shifting into overdrive this year in a bold new outreach to intentionally reach younger men and draw them into the fold.
At the UMMen Men N Ministry spiritual retreat in Myrtle Beach Feb. 16-18, part of the plans include a Saturday breakout specifically designed for men ages 20-40—Generations X, Y and Z—featuring a blend of inspiration and grassroots how-to that organizers hope will spur an all-out movement of younger men in ministry.
“Now is the time for United Methodist Men to be difference makers,” said South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston. “Come as you are and watch the ways that God begins working in your life, in your family, in your vocation and in your community. Bring all you have and watch God lift it up, bless it and give it back to you. Getting involved in Men’s Ministry will challenge and change you in marvelous ways.”
Organizers say making a difference in younger men is a pivotal part of their present focus.
“We’re in our infancy stages, but what men’s ministry of the conference is trying to do is a better job of connecting with men under 50,” said the Rev. Trevor Miller, one of the pastors at Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington.
Miller, along with Holcombe, South Carolina UMMen Conference President Herman Lightsey, L.W. Smith and others are working hard to not only offer a day appealing to the roughly 300 younger men expected to attend but also entice them to attend the follow-up event: a full day at Mount Horeb in September just for younger men.
“It’s just more focus on trying to convince these guys the Christian United Methodist man looks different than they thought before,” Miller said. “A man in ministry doesn’t have a certain race, a certain socioeconomic status, a certain age, a certain anything—it’s really all these types of people building the Kingdom.”
Miller said the culture has changed and shifted so much, and that what is appealing to older United Methodist men is not necessarily helping young United Methodist men grow spiritually. That is why a massive shift in approach is needed to keep UMMen ministry growing.
“In football terms, if you don’t continue to recruit and have these new players coming up in time, eventually you’ll have a major problem,” Miller said.
“Too often we think of what can’t be done rather than of what we can do,” Holston said. “We think we don’t have enough time, money or experience to get involved with a new commitment. But just when you think you don’t have enough, give it to God. We have to stop saying what we can’t do and give everything to God. We aren’t perfect people, but we serve a perfect God, and God can change the world.”
Get men in church, families will follow
Holcombe said he couldn’t be more excited. For the past year, he has been working with men in a think tank from all the other annual conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction to figure out good, practical and effective ways to reach what he calls the “20 to 40s.”
When Holcombe learned South Carolina has one of most advanced men’s ministry infrastructures than any in the country, he and other South Carolina Men N Ministry leaders felt called to host the initial effort.
Holcombe said the ministry with younger men is not a silo separate from the organized, main South Carolina Men N Ministry group.
“This is a growing of the group—not a different group but expanding our demographic,” Holcombe said.
And at its core, he said, it’s about creating disciples, saving souls and creating good families, good fathers and good husbands.
“You get young men in church, you get the young families and then things start to change,” Holcombe said. “I think our wives and our women want us to be strong Christian leaders.”
The plans continue from there; Holcombe and Miller said the February 2019 men’s retreat will be tailored to the changing demographic, perhaps with new or different speakers, music and programming designed bring in the 20 to 40s.
“South Carolina is trying to be a conduit, not just passing the torch,” Lightsey said. “It’s like trying to turn a super tank.
“But it’s turning.”
For more on the February men’s retreat and how to register: www.ummsc.org.