As many of you know I am a strong proponent of reaching men as strongly as we do women with the issue of abortion recovery. I’m also proud to say I’m a founding member of a group called M.A.N. (Men and Abortion Network) that consists of a handful of men and women who work together to bring awareness to this issue.
This month’s newsletter I wanted to dedicate to this subject only. Two of the members of MAN, Dr. Catherine Coyle and Dr. Vincent Rue have developed a model for pregnancy resource centers interested in reaching men. Churches can certainly apply some of these principles to it’s abortion recovery efforts as well. Below is just a sampling of it’s content, please feel free to read the entire paper at our website, www.menandabortion.net
Building a Men’s Ministry: A Guide for Pregnancy Resource Centers
(Catherine T. Coyle, RN, PhD & Vincent M. Rue, PhD)
Men play critical roles in crisis pregnancy and parenting. They may do so actively by accepting responsibility and offering help to their partners or passively by deferring all decisions to their partners. Some men coerce their partners into terminating pregnancy while others vigorously seek to protect the lives of their unborn children. In any case, men may exert significant influence that affects the outcome of pregnancy as well as the quality of their relationships.
As an increasing number of men are accompanying their female partners to crisis pregnancy centers, it has become apparent that centers need to minister to men as well as to women. While this need presents many challenges, it also offers tremendous opportunities for both individual and organizational growth. Given the small budgets of pregnancy resource centers and their dependence on individual donors, funding may be a major challenge to building a men’s ministry. Another challenge may be resistance from staff or volunteers. Nonetheless, those centers that have successfully developed men’s ministries have met such challenges and experienced growth in the form of increased appreciation of men’s roles, the acquisition of new skills, and the procurement of expanded resources.
Areas of Change
The establishment of a men’s ministry within your pregnancy resource center will involve three primary areas of change. These areas are: environment, staff, and resources.
Many, if not most, pregnancy resource centers, have a very feminine décor and atmosphere suggesting that they exist exclusively for female clients. Seeming to confirm that view is the fact that the vast majority of staff and volunteers are women. Small changes to the environment can go a long way to alter the perception that these centers are solely women’s clinics. For example, having men’s magazines available in the waiting room is achievable even for centers with very limited budgets. When affordable, gender neutral artwork and a flat screen television are great additions to waiting areas. Specific items may be sought through donors who prefer giving something tangible to your ministry. There are several useful men’s brochures related to pregnancy, parenting, relationships, and abortion and these should be visible and freely accessible. (See attached Resource List.) In addition, individual centers usually produce their own brochures which include a list of services offered and those services should acknowledge men as well as women. From the moment a man enters your center, he should be getting three basic messages: 1) he is welcome at the center and it is a place for men and fathers as well as for women and mothers, 2) he is important and not merely an afterthought, and 3) his participation in the counseling process is both welcome and important.
Changes involving your staff will also be required for building a successful men’s ministry. There may be some resistance among staff, volunteers, or board members toward changing the status quo and reaching out to men. Resistance may be due to concerns about limited resources and/or to concerns that there will be a negative effect on public relations with a decrease in donors. Still another source of resistance may be related to a staff member’s past abortion. For example, there may be lingering resentment toward a male partner that has become generalized toward all men involved in a crisis pregnancy. Many of those individuals who staff or volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers have a personal abortion history; it is critical that they have processed, resolved, and found healing from their abortion experience prior to working with female or male clients.
Still another source of resistance is the nature of change. Change involves giving up the familiar, learning new skills, and vulnerability. Some people seem to thrive on change while others are averse to change. Yet, change is inevitable in life and the changes inherent in ministry expansion provide opportunities for positive growth among both clients and staff. For some men, a visit to your center may be their first exposure to an individual or organization which espouses a supportive and inclusive life perspective. This provides an opportunity to challenge and impact the biases and beliefs that clients and staff hold and, most importantly, offers what may be truly life-changing moments for your clients.
There is no question that new resources will have to be identified and acquired to build a ministry. Some resources, such as print materials, are more easily attainable while others, such as new staff, may not be realistic given budget limitations.
To begin, it will be necessary to form a ministry development committee which would ideally include men who are interested in being a direct part of the ministry as well as a member of the center’s staff. The latter can serve as a liaison between the development committee and the rest of the staff and the center’s board. This committee would be responsible for deciding what aspects of a men’s ministry will be developed, recruiting male volunteers, and securing initial funds.
After determining which aspects of ministry will be their focus, committee members will need to work on both the recruitment of volunteers and the details of delivering new services. Male volunteers may be recruited through men’s community groups and through local churches, particularly those churches that have supported your center in the past. Simply having male volunteers present and visible sends a powerful message to male clients, that their presence is an acceptable, normal part of the routine at the center. In addition to recruiting male volunteers, the development committee will also have to plan for training those volunteers and create a ‘walk-through’ process to guide them in their interactions with male clients. Training may be nearly identical to that for female volunteers but with additional information concerning male communication styles and specific needs of male clients or a distinct training program may be developed solely for male volunteers.
Recruiting and retaining male volunteers is a challenging task. Male volunteers will be more readily available if they can schedule their visits to your center to coincide with a couple’s appointment. This allows the volunteers to contribute to the ministry without compromising their paid work obligations. Male volunteers will be more committed if they know that they are contributing their time and experience to a ministry in which they have influence. Your male volunteers should have the opportunity to provide ideas and feedback that are incorporated into your ministry as it evolves. Some volunteers may choose to meet with clients who are coming in for a first appointment while others may be comfortable serving as longer-term mentors to younger men adjusting to fatherhood.
Initial funding for your men’s ministry may be small and come from a board decision to allocate a fixed sum to be used toward ministry development. Funds for a specific endeavor may be sought via formal grant applications. As your ministry expands and awareness grows, new donors may be acquired and regular donors may choose to increase their donations. Of course, awareness depends on clearly advertising both your services and your needs. Assuming your center has a mission statement, it may need to be amended to include men and fathers. If your center has a website, the addition of information pertaining to your men’s ministry and volunteer opportunities should be easy and cost-effective. Your board might also consider highlighting the men’s ministry at fundraisers such as annual banquets, golf outings, or in other campaigns.
The most important resources gained will be your male clients. Given the goal of crisis pregnancy centers to support life, the male partners of women who come in for pregnancy tests are influential in terms of ultimate pregnancy outcome. However, men should not be viewed simply as a means to better serve your female clients. They are human beings and that fact demands an acknowledgment of their rights, responsibilities, needs, and expectations. Like women, they are going to experience insecurity and anxiety when faced with a crisis pregnancy. If we fail to recognize and respect men’s legitimate rights and roles, we become part of the problem rather than the solution. If we don’t minister to fathers as well as to mothers, our ministry may be tragically inadequate.
Please feel free to contact the SaveOne office with any questions you might have. We’re here to serve you!