ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Men’s ministry is tough work. Just ask Dennis Herrera. After three years of working with men as a lay leader at Woodlake Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, Herrera knows it’s often tough to get men together for anything — even for a good breakfast and prayer.
But last Oct. 20, men showed up for a prayer breakfast at the small Southern Baptist church. It was one of the biggest breakfast turnouts of the year. Although Woodlake hosts a similar men’s prayer breakfast every month, last October’s was unique. Not only was the meal modeled around a British breakfast — complete with British Bangers, a traditional kind of sausage — but they joined more than 3,000 other Baptist men around the world to eat, pray and worship together in a first-time event called “The Bigger Breakfast.” The Baptist Men’s Movement in the United Kingdom sponsored the event.
“I think the men seemed to be motivated to be a part of the event and add to the totals of the British men attending,” Herrera said.
The Baptist Men’s Movement had aimed to break the Guinness World Record for the largest breakfast, a record ironically held by a Texas group. They fell short, but this year the Brits will have more help. Southern Baptist men in the United States and Canada, along with Nigerian Baptist men, will be joining them on Oct. 10, 2009, for what could become the new world record.
But Southern Baptists helping organize the convention’s involvement have a bigger vision for the event’s outcome than simply breaking a record.
“The sleeping giants in Southern Baptist churches are our laymen,” said Jim Burton, team leader for mission education at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. “The Bigger Breakfast is Southern Baptists’ opportunity to gather our men and discover — or for many churches to rediscover — the synergy that can come from their focus on missions.”
Burton says Southern Baptists will focus on mission action — both in their communities and beyond — during the breakfast. Held a day before the convention’s World Hunger Day, Southern Baptist men will highlight the World Hunger Fund at the event. They are also being encouraged to invite their non-Christian friends to the breakfast and present the gospel to them.
British Baptists started The Bigger Breakfast last year in an attempt to re-ignite spiritual passion among the country’s Baptist men. Phil Creighton, vice-president of the Baptist Men’s Movement in the U.K., pointed to statistics that came out a few years ago from Tearfund suggesting there would be virtually no men in U.K. churches by 2028.
“That’s a scary prospect,” said Creighton, who first came up with The Bigger Breakfast idea last year. “Obviously, we need to do something about that. We need to show men that being a follower of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean you’re weak, but you can be an ordinary bloke and still follow Christ.”
Creighton had seen the value of men’s breakfasts in his own life. When he was a young Christian, those he met at men’s breakfasts in his church became key mentors for him. But in recent years, Creighton notes, the number of churches hosting men’s breakfasts has dropped considerably.
With a year of experience in getting churches involved in The Bigger Breakfast around the U.K., Creighton has advice for churches as they try to reach non-Christians through the event. He encourages them to be creative when inviting non-Christians and to focus on “what you do well.”
“Every church should focus on what their church does best,” Creighton said. “The key to getting non-Christians to an event like this is that they feel welcomed and wanted. If you’re trying to do something with fireworks or an American football tournament and you have mostly older men, it might not work so well. Whatever you do, do it well, do it for God and do it to the best of your abilities.”
A handful of Southern Baptist churches participated in The Bigger Breakfast last year, but this is the first time there’s been a coordinated effort to involve Southern Baptists in the event on a large scale.
Southern Baptists looking for help to plan the event can find meeting plans and a speaker outline online at www.bmen.net/breakfast. Churches also are encouraged to register on the web site and report their highlights and attendance after the event. These totals will be added with the British and Nigerian Baptists’ numbers to determine if the existing world record has been surpassed.
Burton hopes Southern Baptist churches can use The Bigger Breakfast to ignite their men’s ministries.
“We encourage churches not to treat The Bigger Breakfast as just an event,” Burton said. “For many churches, The Bigger Breakfast can launch significant men’s work in their church as men consider their role in missions. With the Baptist Men’s ‘40-day Prayer Plan for Spiritual Awakening’ we’re encouraging churches to use following the breakfast, our prayer is that churches will discern God’s heart on what He wants to do with men’s work in their church.”
The 40-day Prayer Plan for Spiritual Awakening can be found at www.bmen.net/prayer. Burton notes that the churches wanting to continue meeting regularly to mobilize their men on mission can use the weekly BMEN Online curriculum, launched in January of this year.
“We’re convinced that this is a critical time to reconnect men to the mission of the church,” Burton said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Perry is editor of Crusader magazine for the Royal Ambassador program at the North American Mission Board.)