What about men’s ministry in the PCA? We have been asked that question many times. Before responding, a bit of history would be in order. When the PCA formed in December of 1973, the organizing committee was aware of the background from which our original churches were coming. The committee also understood the challenge to develop a new denomination, originally called “the continuing Presbyterian Church,” that would impact the culture and world, by standing for the truth with a renewed commitment.
In the mainline church (PCUS) from which the PCA developed, there had been structures and programs that had proven effective and two of those were its women’s ministry and its men’s ministry. Desiring to develop programs and ministries that would encourage spiritual growth and ministry to those in and out of the church, the PCA approved a women’s ministry, known as Women in the Church (WIC) and Men of the Covenant (MOC). They positioned them under the oversight and direction of the committee for Christian Education and Publications.
One of the biblical models for making kingdom disciples is found in the book of Titus. After addressing the problems in the communities (and by implication, the homes) resulting from bad teaching, Paul instructed pastors to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine, (Titus 2:1). He then said he was to teach in such a manner that older men could minister to younger men and older women to younger women. A men’s ministry can, as we have seen with our WIC ministry’s focus on “spiritual mothering,” have a powerful impact in the church. Women need to minister to women, and men need to minister to one another. Men who serve as elders and deacons have unique opportunities to minister to one another. The possibilities of dads, granddads, and other older men ministering to younger men make this ministry both challenging and exciting.
From the very outset the PCA’s women’s ministry took root and began to develop a ministry that would give them a sense of connection with women from other churches in the PCA. Testimonials continue to come from women who have appreciated and benefited from that connection. There have been three major denominational WIC conferences and six major regional conferences over the years. The next conference is planned for 2006. In 1999, more than 4,000 PCA women gathered in Atlanta for a conference focusing on mercy ministry. This provided the push for the present mercy ministry conference jointly sponsored by CEP, its WIC program and Mission to North America.
What about the men? In the beginning CEP attempted to start a parallel ministry, originally called Men of the Covenant, at the assembly level to assist presbyteries and local churches with men’s ministries. Such attempts have yet to take shape though numbers of efforts have been attempted over the years. We continue to be asked, especially by some of the participants in the WIC ministry, when are you going to have similar ministry for the PCA men? We have replied that we have made numerous attempts but without success. Many local churches have some very outstanding men’s ministries in the PCA. Our desire, more than having a top down structure, is to encourage men to see the need and come forward as husbands, fathers, and Christian men in general with the commitment to seek to live as kingdom disciples.
We have also been asked why the PCA encourages special ministries such as women, youth, children, and men through CEP. Our response has uniformly been that we do encourage local churches, through their formal and informal leadership, to develop a holistic plan of ministry for their churches. This allows local sessions that are responsible for the local church’s ministry, to oversee and coordinate the entire ministry, and to evaluate its progress.
In addition to the approach above, we have also seen the value of including specialized ministries to women, men, youth, and children. None of these are to replace the whole, however. As far as children and youth, the church must not take over parental responsibility, though promises are made at baptism to assist parents in training their children.
Having said that, the articles by Pat Morley (PCA) and TE Peter Alwinson, a PCA teaching elder, launch a new effort on the part of CEP. We will be working more closely with Morley, the author and originator of the Man in the Mirror ministry. Together we will offer churches help in developing a men’s ministry. Encouraging, mobilizing and training men for ministry are vital initiatives. As a former pastor, the churches I served were able to do some significant ministries through both the women and men’s ministries. I have seen first hand the value of such ministry.
In case you’re asked, CEP is still very much committed to encouraging a men’s ministry that is strategically focused in the local church. We would like to encourage churches with this ministry and even provide training and resources to assist. We are asked, “Will CEP ever sponsor a denominational men’s conference similar to its WIC conferences?” At this point only the Lord knows that, but would not it be a wonderful thing to see PCA men from across the church come together for such an event?