by Rev. Timothy C. Cartwright
I am a great advocate of outreach and evangelism. As with my current congregation, Grace Lutheran in Ashland, Org., and with all the congregations I have served, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, Ohio, where I first met Leo Mehl and his wife, Marjorie, (see the print edition of the May Lutheran Witness), we intentionally formed a “pit crew” for our men’s ministry effort.
Called the “New-Man Group,” participants gathered once a month at 7 a.m. on Saturday for coffee, friendship, Bible study, and breakfast. It was one of the activities to which I invited Leo Mehl. The group was a place to ask questions, establish connections, and engage in honest conversation.
At Gloria Dei, we were making an intentional effort to clarify the objectives for our ministry points. We needed to do a better job of assimilating new people into the parish, or into the Christian faith. We wanted to help newcomers establish relationships with our long-time members because, as others have noted, failing the “friendship factor” often hastens the departure of new households. (From time to time, we all must challenge the cliques at the coffeepot and make room for the guest.)
How does a New-Man Group work? Here’s a summary:
- Keep it simple, casual, and focused.
- Respect other Saturday commitments.
- Rotate the task of meal preparation.
- Use a face-to-face seating arrangement.
- Have breakfast hot and ready at 8 o’clock.
- Start on time with a prayer.
- Set aside 20 minutes for the meal.
- Always include introductions.
- Ask a “What do you think about” question.
- Use a familiar “narrative” section of Scripture, e.g., Elijah, David, Paul, Nicodemus, Lazarus. (The Catechism is also a great help.) Enjoy the discussion.
- Request a freewill offering to cover expenses.
- Conclude promptly at 9 o’clock with a prayer.
Other New-Man Group variations offer monthly dessert and Bible-study evenings at the home of a member (the Mehls excelled at this.), an annual parish-work party, or a “Half-Timers Group” that meets at a member’s home for a televised sporting event, dessert, and half-time devotions.
In order to have 15 to 20 men participate, I’ve found it takes about 50 postcard invitations, 20 telephone calls, and 10 personal invites, plus, perhaps, email and public announcements.
And remember to encourage everyone to invite a friend.