I’ve heard it said many times, as the men go, so goes the church. This is one reason I’m so happy about what happened a couple of weeks ago at Mt. Hermon Conference Center. The church I serve in Central Peninsula Church (CPC) held a Men’s Retreat there. We’ve been doing this at the same place for over 30 years. A few years ago we almost canned our retreat because our numbers were down. I’ve even been told from a good friend who works at Mt. Hermon that churches doing men’s retreats are few and far between these days. But in the last few years we’ve experienced a revival of sorts among the CPC men. At this last retreat we had about 250 men, which I think broke a CPC record for the amount of guys at our conference. This has always been a multi-generational retreat, with teaching, small groups, recreation, food and time to just hang out. None of that has changed, but what are some of the things that have contributed to this resurgence of men coming to our retreat?
An extension of ministry that takes place all year long
Twelve years ago we started a men’s ministry at CPC called Men’s Fraternity. We didn’t hire anyone to start this. We did it organically with existing leadership. It started small; we kept it simple. We provided a hot breakfast. We taught on men’s issues and we set aside time for small group discussion. We met on Thursday mornings from 6:00-7:30 am, September through May, because most men are available during that time. We had about 25 men meeting at first, and steadily it grew. Today we have over 150 men who show up each week. We now have a dedicated staff person to lead it, but volunteers do the bulk of the work. A cooking crew even shows up at 4:00 am! I believe that Men’s Fraternity has been the foundation for a successful Men’s Retreat.
Don’t let money be an issue
There are a lot of men who see the price tag of a typical men’s retreat and just can’t justify forking out the cash for a weekend away with the boys. We decided we didn’t want money to hold anyone back from coming. Instead of charging for the retreat, we now take an offering during the retreat to cover the expenses. We know that some men can’t cover their costs, while other men can cover more than their own. Each year we’ve seen God show up and provide more than enough through this offering.
Involvement from elders
As our elders discussed the future of our Men’s Retreat a few years back, we realized that many of us weren’t even going! How could we encourage our men to attend when we weren’t even willing to take the time to go ourselves? Our elders committed themselves to attending the retreat. We even held an elders open forum on Saturday night in which men could ask our elders anything they wanted. It was a huge hit! When our elders engaged, the men of the church followed!
Perhaps a men’s retreat isn’t the answer for all churches, but for us it has been a catalyst for genuine transformation among our men. One of our men emailed me recently with this testimony: “It was great to have dinner with you at the retreat on Saturday. Thank you for sharing your time. The retreat was amazing and I’ve walked away with a new peace in friendship and fellowship with many men in the CPC community. I am really in awe of what God has done within CPC and I have never fellowshipped and worshiped in such a deep and meaningful way as I have last weekend. I am hoping that as God continues to do His work in my life and that of my family’s, that I will be able to give back to the CPC community…”
May his tribe increase!