Steve Ward loves to nurture growth. A professional landscaper by trade, he also leads Man Cave Ministry in Asheville, North Carolina.
Man Cave, established in 2013, will mark its 10th anniversary of ministry later this year. Dedicated to coming alongside men who are coping with “hurts, habits or hang-ups,” the hands-on men’s ministry offers hope, help and healing through weekly fellowship, Bible study and personal relationships.
Man Cave’s rustic, inviting setting is framed with large garage doors. Every wall is filled with crosses, flags and antique tools mixed with mounted fish, deer heads and other wildlife trophies. A bustling kitchen and outdoor grills help complete the downhome feel.
Describing Man Cave as “a place where we build relationships – no judgment,” Ward said, “We let Christ’s love do the work on them.”
The informal ministry, which started with a handful of men, gradually has grown to an average of 80 or more men who gather every Tuesday evening for a meal, prayer time, Bible study and group discussion. The personal testimonies and prayer requests are especially meaningful as men share deeply and openly about their life struggles, needs and goals as well as prayer concerns for family, neighbors and coworkers.
The men’s candid comments are closely guarded by fellow participants, reflecting the hand-painted sign casually propped on a window sill: “What happens in the Man Cave – stays in the Man Cave.”
“One of our themes here is whether you’re going through something good or going through something bad, you don’t have to do it alone,” Ward noted.
Nearly a decade ago, “the Lord opened up my eyes to a niche of a need of men that’s out there that I honestly, truly did not know existed,” he reflected. “The heart of Man Cave really is just reaching those guys that are either church hurt, mad at God or just going through struggles.”
‘Come in and be real’
Man Cave’s primary ministry strategy involves providing a setting “where guys can actually come in and be real,” Ward explained. “They don’t have to pretend. They don’t have to put on.” (To read one man’s personal story, click here.)
In addition to the Tuesday night meal and Bible study, Man Cave has expanded to include a Celebrate Recovery-type Steps Class for those dealing with addictions. Throughout each month, the ministry also involves a women’s Bible study group, a youth night and a fellowship lunch for military veterans.
Affirming the life transformation experienced by participants at the Man Cave, Ward said, “Our numbers have slowly grown, but now it’s like it’s almost exploding. Probably 40 percent or so of our guys are church guys and the rest of them are not. We have new faces that come in week after week.”
Chris Ramsey, who leads the Steps Class, also volunteers as a cook each Tuesday afternoon.
“Everybody that comes here says they can feel God on this property,” Ramsey noted. “What makes this place so unique is you can have people that have been in a ditch all day digging, sitting next to someone that is an executive in a business. … It’s unreal how everybody meshes together.
“Another thing is people feel safe here,” he shared. “It’s a safe spot for you to admit that you’ve got struggles or troubles.”
Reflecting on his own life challenges and the positive impact Man Cave has made, Ramsey said, “I am so thankful that in the Bible, God didn’t use perfect people. I love to say God can take my mess and turn it into a message. He can use anybody when we ask Him for help.”
Living in brotherhood
Bob Apple, who facilitates group discussion following each week’s Bible study video, affirmed that “what we have here is men living life in a brotherhood. They can share very openly, very frankly.”
As one of Man Cave’s leaders for the past six or seven years, Apple greets man after man by name while sharing a big hug and a contagious smile. “I get energized by being here,” he said. “I know that I’m supposed to be here. It’s part of my purpose.
“I love it when a man comes in here carrying burdens and then he leaves his burdens here. He can do that by claiming who he is in Christ,” Apple declared. “When guys are communicating, they learn that they’re not alone. They’ve got other men that are dealing with the same kinds of issues.”
Towns and cities across the nation have “thousands of men living in isolation, hopelessness and desperation,” he pointed out. “There are answers in God’s Word and living in community with other men that can help them.
“Every town in America needs Man Caves,” Apple insisted. Citing the vital need for Christ-honoring brotherhood and community, he added, “God intended for us to live that way.”
Interested in starting a similar ministry? Connect with Man Cave Ministry at ManCaveMinistryInc.org.