Do you wonder what it means to be a man? Do you desire to grow? Want something more? Long for a life that matters? Seek to make a difference in the world? If so, Living That Matters may be for you or your group. This practical handbook is a guide to help individuals and groups engage in honest conversations on what matters most for men—with a focus on following Jesus, forming community, and building peace.
With over 60 years of combined experience in pastoral ministry and social work geared toward men, authors Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld offer many short reflections to help individuals and groups deepen relationships with one another, with ourselves, with our families and communities, and with God as we seek to live into God’s shalom—a peaceable order with abundance, security, and justice for all and well-being throughout creation.
Steve Thomas, MDiv, is the US coordinator for Mennonite Men. A graduate of Hesston College, Goshen College, and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Steve has served in pastoral ministry for thirty-three years. He cofounded and directed Peacemakers Academy—a Mennonite martial arts school—for ten years, and taught as an adjunct professor in peace, justice, and conflict studies at Goshen College for six years. He is a cofounder of the Indiana/Michigan MALEs chapter of Illuman and a cofounder of Pathways Retreat. He is an ISA Certified Arborist and has a graduate certificate in urban forestry from Oregon State University. He and Linda Lehman Thomas have four children and live in Goshen, Indiana. He enjoys leading retreats, arboriculture, woodland management, furniture making, and being “Poppy” to his grandchildren.
Don Neufeld, MSW, is the Canadian coordinator for Mennonite Men. He has been a social worker for over thirty years, first in child welfare and then (since 2010) in private practice as a therapist. He works primarily with men, addressing a broad range of matters including mental health, fathering, relationships, addictions, and violence. Don has written and spoken about his specific interest in the convergence of clinical and theological thought in relation to men’s well-being. He is pursuing a master of theology degree at Conrad Grebel University College. Don enjoys camping, cycling, reading, and working in his yard. He and his wife Gayle live in Virgil, Ontario, and have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and one wonderful grandson, Rowan.
“As a regular speaker at men’s conferences, I have always been concerned by a toxic view of manhood that has crept into a Christian view of masculinity. Too often, men are taught to model their lives after macho-styled warriors instead of growing toward a much higher form of strength, that of peacemakers. This is why I love Living That Matters. This practical book shines as a beacon of light to guide men through the stormy seas of toxic masculinity toward a more Jesus-centered ideal of what it means to be a man.”
~—REV. COLIN MCCARTNEY, co-director of Connect City Ministries and author of Let the Light In
“This handbook brilliantly weaves together quotes, stories, movies, plays, and so on about a multitude of topics related to men—even the very challenging and uncomfortable ones. It combines a thorough grounding in scripture with highly credible psychological and sociological insights. I don’t know of another men’s ministry book that comes close to doing what this one does. Many in their twilight years wonder whether their life has mattered. If you seek to be strong, loving, and wise—if you seek to live a life that matters—this book, read in the company of a group of companions, will get you there.”
~—DOUG KLASSEN, executive minister of Mennonite Church Canada
“Having known and listened to Steve Thomas for years, I—and many other people—have experienced him as a man of true wisdom, in the best biblical tradition. It oozes out of him in a visceral way that touches the soul and awakens what we already know, but with greater clarity. Alongside Don Neufeld, Steve does it again in Living That Matters, with deep and practical insights honed by his awareness of his own, and our own, mortality. I strongly encourage searching and serious men to read and carefully reflect on his practical wisdom in this new book. Your life will expand with the divine spark shared by Steve and Don.”
~—FR. ROBERT COLARESI, O. Carm., director of Carmelite Spiritual Center in Darien, Illinois, and convener of Illuman of Illinois
“Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld’s previous book helped us see what is destructive about patriarchy and pointed toward a vision of healthy masculinity; now, Living That Matters provides concrete and holistic ways to embody that vision. This second step is a crucial one. Like all domination systems, patriarchy is wily: it will find ways for people to think the right thoughts without fundamentally changing their attitudes and actions. This means that only a concrete set of practices, embedded in ordinary lives, can bring about transformation. I hope that many men throughout the church will take up the challenge presented by this book. Their own well-being, as well as the well-being of everyone around them, depends on it.”
~—RACHEL MILLER JACOBS, associate professor of congregational formation at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
“Living That Matters reminds me of an admonition I gave my children at the dinner table when they sat cockeyed in their chair, ready to go out for the evening: ‘Sit straight in your chair and eat like you mean it.’ With a tremendous resource of wisdom teaching, conversation starters, and all-important pauses for reflection, authors Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld call us to live like we mean it, ask the hard questions, participate in a circle of trusted companions, and work at becoming strong, loving, and wise men of God.”
~—DAVID WENGER, spiritual director and massage therapist at The Hermitage Retreat Center, Three Rivers, Michigan, and cofounder of IN-MI MALEs (Men as Learners and Elders), a chapter of Illuman
“Living That Matters is an outstanding resource that allows men to engage in various relevant topics relating to living faithfully and restoratively. Each section is thoughtfully written, with discussion questions bound to foster great conversations. I look forward to using this book as a resource for men in our peacebuilding work.”
~—ROD FRIESEN, restorative justice program coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario
“As I near the second half of life, I am longing to be around men who know they’re broken, and I am interested in resources that acknowledge the gifts and shadows that come with being a man. In Living That Matters, authors Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld give us a set of spiritual power tools to examine ourselves and have real talk about the wounds, challenges, and opportunities that men face on the journey to wholeness.”
~—SHAWN CASSELBERRY, author, global talent manager at Internal Family Systems Institute, and cofounder of Story Sanctum, an online shrine to sacred storytelling
“I’m convinced that the worthiest of goals is to become a good ancestor. The future of our planet and the realization of God’s shalom may depend on it. Authors Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld have developed a road map to help men move in that direction while accompanying them on the journey of becoming more generative and wise. In a day and age when toxic masculinity runs amok, they offer an alternative vision that men of faith can embrace—a vision that involves community, contemplation, conversation, and faithful action. The result will lead not only to healthier masculinity for our times, but to a blessing for future generations, who will look back with gratitude.”
“In the past half-century, what it means to be a male in North American society has been undergoing an overhaul. Through profound reflections on 70 topics, Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld guide us through the new wilderness of manhood in the twenty-first century. Drawing upon a wealth of resources from their decades in ministry and counseling, Living that Matters opens conversations for men to speak of their own experience, doubts, strengths, and longings. From such sharing together, friendships will be deepened and individuals will find greater meaning in their relationships, work, spiritual life, and service to their communities.”
~—REV. DWIGHT H. JUDY, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary, from the foreword