By Ervin Stutzman
What does it mean to be a real man? How do boys grow up to become real men? These are crucial questions to ask, given the identity struggles which many men face.
I’m grateful that there is a group within our church who helps us wrestle with these questions, and prompts us to draw on our church’s commitment to Christian formation. Mennonite Men is a bi-national organization whose purpose is to “God’s work in the world by promoting men’s groups; offering study materials for men’s groups, retreats, and mentoring relationships; and encouraging acts of service.
Don Yoder of Harrisonburg, Virginia serves as the Coordinator of Mennonite Men for Mennonite Church USA. Don has served for years as a spiritual director and as an advisor to students seeking God’s direction for their lives. His spiritual sensitivity helps to guide the organization to think deeply about the needs of men, and ways to strengthen their development.
Don leads the organization with a servant heart, laying out a vision for the future based on the resources in the Purposeful Plan. For example, Mennonite Men encourages Christian formation by regularly creating or underwriting specialized materials appropriate for use in men’s groups. They want to ensure that men of all ages are invited to make a commitment to Christ, discipled in the way of Christ, taught to engage with the scriptures, helped to develop Christian identity from an Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective, and given the capacity to cultivate their vocational calling. In addition to men’s groups, they create and review materials for use in mentoring relationships and men’s retreats.
In similar fashion, Mennonite Men has set goals for each of the seven priorities embraced in the Purposeful Plan for Mennonite Church USA. They want to help men, both as individuals and in groups, to embrace these priorities—Christian Formation, Christian Community, Holistic Christian Witness, Stewardship, Leadership Development, Intercultural Transformation, and Church-to-Church relationships.
Perhaps Mennonite Men is best known for their program called JoinHands. This endeavor, which includes women as well as men, collects the resources to offer grants to congregations who are building or remodeling their first worship facility. Since 2001, they have contributed more than $800,000 in grants for facilities to 26 congregations, of which about a third were Racial/Ethnic groups. Some were churches outside the U.S.
I had the pleasure of attending their annual meeting last spring and engaging with their leadership group regarding their vision and goals for the future. I commend Mennonite Men for their fine efforts, and pledge my support to help them achieve their goals.