For most men, identity and self-esteem are connected to work and home.
Churches struggle to energize men and challenge them to discover their identity in Christ, says Robbie Sondag, children's director at Fellowship Missionary Church on Tillman Road.
“Men's ministries, in general, tend to consist of a softball team, an occasional breakfast, perhaps a golf outing, and a sporadic social event,” Sondag observes. “These things aren't bad -- they just don't call men into a consistent, deeper purpose, nor [provide] a path to get there.”
On Tuesday and October 17, Fellowship Missionary begins an eighth season of participation in Men's Fraternity, a study designed to provide practical and relevant direction for men seeking to grow spiritually and relationally.
“MF is designed to bring men together in a non-threatening environment for connection, teaching and accountability, while growing in their walk with Christ,” explains Sondag who oversees the program.
Started in Arkansas
Men's Fraternity was developed by Robert M. Lewis, a teaching pastor for Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Ark. In a quest to help men discover biblical principles of authentic manhood and to connect with other men who are also searching, Lewis founded and designed a three-fold curriculum for Men's Fraternity in 1990.
The movement spread worldwide, from classrooms to boardrooms and from church basements to prison cells. Steve Binkley viewed an MF series 10 years ago and committed to participate when Fellowship Missionary initiated the study in 2005.
“I find the curriculum biblically-based, practical, and motivating,” he says. “Even though I have been through the complete curriculum three times, I continue to learn new insights that apply to my daily living as a Christ-following man, husband, father and grandfather.”
Man to man
“Men need other men to cheer them on,” says Sondag. “Life wasn't meant to be done alone, as the world would lead you to believe. ... John Wayne, 007, the Marlboro Man, Indiana Jones are marketed to appeal to this lone-wolf mentality. The truth is, men need each other. Life is always better together.”
“We all grow by establishing and keeping close relationships with each other,” adds Bill Frauhiger, active in MF since January 2008. “We are encouraged to be on the alert for men who desperately need what we have to share.”
Frauhiger, a graphic designer and illustrator who struggled through divorce and a 28-month residence at Logansport State Hospital, longed for a connection with other men that would help him in his recovery and in communication with his children.
“God has me there for two reasons: First, for myself to grow as a Christian man, and, second, to be trained in the things of manhood to share with my young sons,” he says. “In meeting with like-minded men, I can share my struggles, hear theirs and we can continually encourage each other, ... safe in exposing our hearts, our hopes and our dreams for ourselves and our families.”
Men's Fraternity is non-denominational — designed to reach men's hearts, not appeal to a certain denomination, explains Sondag. The meeting format includes connection time (often with coffee and doughnuts), a teaching session and small group accountability.
“This isn't a bible study or a church service,” explains Sondag. “We don't sing songs, hold hands or preach fire and brimstone. Men are greeted with a handshake, snacks and music.”
No preparation is required, and men can engage as much as they desire.
The next step
For the first two decades, MF followed a three-year curriculum. The Quest for Authentic Manhood (year one) explored a man's past; Winning at Work and at Home (year two) dealt with a man's present; and The Great Adventure (year three) prepared a man for his future.
Men's Fraternity has recently re-branded itself as “Authentic Manhood” and has introduced a new curriculum entitled “33 The Series.”
“As good as the MF series is, ... the term ‘Authentic Manhood’ appeals to a wider range of men,” explains Sondag. “It’s more relevant and faster-paced, and it contains interviews and vignettes that are incredibly compelling.”
According to Sondag, an authentic man is one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects a greater reward.
“Having a clearly stated definition of an authentic man gives me check points ... of how I want to live in relation to my wife, my family, and my neighborhood,” says Binkley. “Knowing these values are biblically supported ... enables me to whole-heartedly apply them.”
Frauhiger agrees. “It has transformed me into a confident and caring man who looks for ways to serve and lead others, ... given me sound skills to share with my sons, ... (and) to make the most of my one and only life,” he says. “When I have finished the race, I want to look back and know that I finished well.”