- United Methodist Men is moving fast on its four-year plan to revitalize itself after Greg Arnold took over leadership about 18 months ago.
- The established system of local churches paying for a charter with the group will continue for those who are comfortable with it, but new ideas are being quickly implemented.
- UM Men’s relationship with Boy Scout troops has also been overhauled in the aftermath of the settlement of abuse cases, and faith could take a larger role in Scouting programs.
If you are leading United Methodist Men, manly terminology just seems right somehow.
“Be prepared — strap in, be ready to roll,” said Greg Arnold, who took over leadership of the men’s ministry general agency about 18 months ago. “We don’t move at church speed.”
Arnold, who brings a business background to the job, has reconfigured the strategy to reach men in the denomination by deemphasizing the charter model, revising the agency’s relationship with the Boy Scouts and moving out of its longtime home on Music Row and into the nearby 810 Twelfth Avenue South building, which also houses two other agencies.
More changes — and hopefully growth — are coming.
“We're just getting out of the gate,” Arnold said in an interview with United Methodist News. “We spent the better part of the first year sitting down with each of our stakeholders across the connection.”
At a presentation in March, Arnold and his team laid out their vision, and he said it was “warmly received, enthusiastically received. … We have a pretty aggressive four-year plan.”
Retired Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president of the United Methodist Men board, said he is “delighted with the direction.”
“I'm firmly convinced and grateful for it,” he said, “and I’m thoroughly convinced that Greg is the outstanding leader we need.”
Arnold estimates that between 4 and 5 million men belong to a United Methodist church. Every church is supposed to charter a local United Methodist Men group for a fee, but many haven’t participated in that practice.
New app platforms
“I think the biggest pivot for us was creating a brand-new ministry platform that was open for all men and all the churches,” Arnold said.
Those comfortable with the chartering setup will be able to continue, said the Rev. Sterling L. Easton, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries, which is a part of United Methodist Men.
“What this does is open up an opportunity for a church that wants to take the ministry beyond the charter platform and develop a deeper relationship in men’s ministry,” Easton said. “Those churches that want to do men's ministry studies, they can use this platform to do it.”
For $180 annually, resources for churchwide or small group men’s ministries are available, and there’s also an app for individual men to follow.
The curriculums are designed to work for Christian men in other denominations as well. Ministry coaching and leadership development with credentialed men's ministry specialists are scheduled to be added by the end of the year.
Study programs are four weeks long, and include service suggestions.
“We don’t build a cookie-cutter process,” Easton said. “It’s whatever their need is at that local church for that community to do their service. And then they come back and they go into another study program. … It gets a little deeper and gets more involved.”
The subscriptions should bring income into United Methodist Men, helping it increase revenues to pay its bills and invest into more ministry projects.
United Methodist Men has moved from its own office on Nashville’s Music Row to the 810 building a mile away, where United Methodist Communications and the United Methodist Publishing House are also based.
“I think one of the challenges the church is facing right now is that it is perceived as being totally disconnected, that the agencies really don't work together and that the agencies don't understand each other,” said Rick Vance, director of operations for United Methodist Men. “One of the things that is obvious in this current move is that we are intentionally beginning to team and partner with other agencies.”
The move is also good for the commission’s bottom line.
“There'll be money that can be invested for the long term for the ministry, and allow us to do things we couldn't otherwise,” Mueller said. “Sometimes churches are bound to buildings and that defines who they are. … I think United Methodist Men is much more focused on the vision of where we’re heading and how do we use all of our resources to get there?”
The United Methodist Church’s relationship with the Boy Scouts was imperiled when that organization entered child sex abuse-related bankruptcy proceedings, and the denomination agreed to contribute $30 million to a $2.4 billion fund to settle last year with more than 82,000 sexual abuse survivors.
A new affiliation agreement was developed to define the roles and responsibilities of the players in local Scout troops — the national Boy Scouts organization, local churches and others. Insurance and indemnity responsibilities have been spelled out.
“Programmatically, we’re working on a program called The Shepherd Church,” said Steve Scheid, director for Scouting ministries. “You pay a little bit to help the United Methodist Men organization continue to develop resources, and we provide those. You don’t know how to help kids start to pray? We provide prayer templates that help you to be able to reach a broad audience with the connection through prayer.”
Other curriculum will be developed to complement with scouting activities like hiking, camping and rappelling, he said.
“These devotionals directly connect to what you’re doing,” Scheid said. “So that (those) who are experiencing the rappelling experience, we talk about the word ‘trustworthy.’ I've got the rope. I've got you. If you slip and fall, I got you. How does that relate to God?’”
Overall, the new direction of United Methodist Men could turn out to be “a shining example of what it means to be the church going forward,” Mueller said.
“I think in a church that's still trying to deal with … disaffiliations and changes in the coming year, to have an agency of the church show with clarity what it means to be focused on the mission of the church in a particular context is, I believe, a gift to the whole denomination.”
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