NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – “The United Methodist Church needs men, and men need a spiritual home. The challenge is bringing the two together,” said Gilbert C. Hanke, new top executive for the Commission on United Methodist Men.

Hanke, 59, will become top staff executive of the agency Feb. 1.

“Men are searching for something spiritual, and many are looking in the wrong places,” Hanke said. “The United Methodist Church is uniquely equipped to help men because of that wonderful balance between personal and spiritual piety as John Wesley calls it. We are always growing and understanding our relationship to Jesus Christ.

“For men, a key component is putting that understanding into action,” he added.

Hanke has combined his professional career as a speech pathologist with his service in the church, leading 18 mission trips to Haiti, eight trips to Costa Rica and a trip to Tomsk, Siberia. The trips provided assistance and training for children with hearing impairments and other handicapping conditions that affect communication and swallowing.

He also has been a church leader at the local, annual and national church levels. He was the first layman to serve as president of the Commission on United Methodist Men from 2005-2008.

He has served as president of United Methodist Men in his local church, district, and annual conference, and as president of the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men.

He is music director and has been a member of Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, for 28 years. He also teaches an adult Sunday school class and directs both the sanctuary and bell choirs.

Upon his Hanke’s naming, David Martin, president of Indiana Conference United Methodist Mens, said, “I am confident that the selection of Gilbert Hanke to be the top executive of United Methodist Men will lead to a more vibrant men’s ministry in The United Methodist Church. Gil’s active participation in various roles within the UM Men include his role as president of the Men’s Commission from 2005 to 2008. Being certified as a Men’s Ministry Specialist in 2009 will provide him with beneficial insight as he assumes the new position and brings about change.”

Hanke said the commission and the whole church needs to be concerned about reaching out to young people and “bringing them into the faith.”

Rick Peck, who serves a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

A UMNS file photo courtesy of United Methodist Men.

Gilbert Hanke conducts a hearing test for a Haitian child at a school for children with special needs. He becomes top executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men Feb. 1.

“I am confident that the selection of Gilbert Hanke … will lead to a more vibrant men’s ministry in The United Methodist Church.”

– David Martin