Friday, July 07, 2006

Local churches start men's groups

By Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig, STAFF WRITER: INSIDE BAY

It's common for women to gather and share their innermost thoughts and feelings. Ask a group of men to do the same and you may be met with some resistance.

There is, however, a growing movement among churches to honor and recognize men as they have women through a variety of programs that uplift, engage and support, for males only.

"Men's ministry basically focuses on a number of areas," says Barry Zwahlen, a board elder at Community Presbyterian Church in Danville. "The general idea is creating venues where men can get to know each other ... to build relationships."

At CPC, ministers have found creative ways to encourage men to participate in male-oriented groups and events. For example, one fall the church held meetings on Monday nights centered around Monday Night Football, but also included a speaker that offered spiritual enlightenment to the guys. The church also hosts a men's retreat in February and invites national speakers and groups to facilitate. This event is open to non-church members, too.

At Valley Christian Center in Dublin, Eric Lura agrees with Zwahlen that programs should appeal to what men typically enjoy.

"We grow from shared experiences and men seem to connect with shared experiences with other guys," says the director of Men's Ministry at VCC. "We don't naturally come together."

Lura says his church has events like its barbecue tri-tip dinner that features classic cars with an auto tips component. He says a speaker is invited to talk about auto and "spiritual restoration." Power breakfasts, their men's retreat and summit and outreach programs have drawn an average of 50-plus men to the events.

Men's ministries have been a staple of many places of worship for decades, however, have gained popularity in recent years especially with movements like the Promise Keepers says Lura. The Christ-centered organization based in Denver is dedicated to introducing men to Jesus as their Savior and helping them to grow as Christians.

Rev. Chuck Johnstone with Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore says it's important to have programs that help foster growth in many areas of a man's life.

"I believe there is a need for mutual support, encouragement and sharing of issues relevant to men," says the senior pastor. "Work, parenting, partnering, retirement, health issues, spiritual growth and faithfulness ... these kinds of programs attend to some of those needs."

Zwahlen, who also works with youth at CPC, says although the programs men's ministries offer an opportunity to grow with one's Creator, he believes men need relationships.

"I think men need to be in relationships with other men ... we need to hold each other accountable, pray for each other, be there for one another," says Zwahlen.

Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig can be reached at (925) 416-4817 or at


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