UM Men celebrate centennial

September 14, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodist Men will mark 100 years of men's ministry in 2008 in a year-long celebration that also aims to grow the organization as it works to move more men into discipleship.

Directors of the Commission on United Methodist Men, which met Sept. 15-16, have proposed 12 months of activities for local churches to celebrate the anniversary.

Approximately 239,000 people are part of United Methodist Men in the United States in a denomination with about 8 million U.S. members.

"What our challenge is, is that – in the church – we got nothing but volunteers," said the Rev. David Adams, top staff executive for the commission, in his opening address to directors. "But God calls us to go into the world and to make—what? Disciples. … We have got to step up and help men move from that volunteer stage into the discipleship stage."

Adams pointed out that "when men are growing in Christ, they impact the whole church."

In a recent commission survey of men in The United Methodist Church, respondents cited a "lack of interest in religion" as the top reason the church does not reach more young men, followed by "societal emphasis on individualism/materialism" and "distrust of organized religion."

The centennial celebration will allow United Methodist Men to showcase its work and ministries over the course of 12 months and demonstrate its impact on society.

Each month of 2008 is designated with a theme, beginning with ethnic and human relations in January. Activities suggested for that month include recognition of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and holding a joint meeting of men's groups with a church of a different ethnicity. February's theme is scouting and youth-serving agencies, camping and mentoring. March is "Celebrating Women Through Their Contributions to UM Men."

Every local church, including those without chartered United Methodist Men's groups, will be encouraged to join in the party.

As part of the observance, the commission is asking members of United Methodist Men to contribute $12 – one dollar for each month – to be disbursed at the beginning of 2009 to the various ministries highlighted throughout the celebration.

A long heritage

Men's ministry has been a part of the Methodist heritage since Charles and John Wesley established holy clubs in 1729 at Oxford University. The 1908 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, meeting in Baltimore, authorized the creation of Methodist Brotherhoods, making men's ministry a part of the denominational structure.

One-hundred years later, the 2008 General Conference will recognize the anniversary when the denomination's top legislative body meets next spring in Fort Worth, Texas. Every General Conference delegate will receive a commemorative pin. A video presentation will be sensitive to both the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren history of the church, as each formed a men's ministry around the same time.

Part of the commission's work in strengthening men's ministry is through the creation of men's ministry specialists. Adams said the goal is to have one specialist in each district by 2012. These specialists will be trained and will have experience organizing men's events. They will be available to assist other church leaders in assessing, equipping and motivating for men's ministry.

In other business

The commission provides oversight for all men's and scouting ministries in The United Methodist Church.

In other business, its directors heard a report on preparations for the 10th national gathering of United Methodist Men and adopted the theme "FocUS on the Cross." The event, which formerly convened at Purdue University in Indiana, will be held in July 2009 in Nashville. The commission hopes to build in activities that will be of interest to younger men and youth.

The commission noted that 2008 has been designated as the year of the volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America and that the organization hopes to add 1 million new volunteers by 2010. The Boy Scouts are considering joining the Nothing But Nets campaign, of which the people of The United Methodist Church are a founding partner. The commission agreed that United Methodist scouting programs could become involved in Nothing But Nets even if Boy Scouts of America does not get on board.

Camilo Toledo Jr., a commission member from the Philippines, reported on a new scouting project in his country. Robert Powell of the UMM Foundation pledged that the foundation will provide funding for the program's needs.

The commission heard an update on requests for the Strength for Service to God and Country devotional book. The Strength for Service Task Force received and filled 17,000 requests for the book in June and July – most of which went to military chaplains. The book is now available in Cokesbury, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart stores.

In legislation being sent to General Conference, the commission proposes that conference presidents submit additional detail in annual reports to the commission. The commission also asks that its membership be expanded from 23 to 25 to permit additional central conference and at-large representation.