Each community of consecrated men is said to have a particular charism. The charism is the spirit of the community and its mission. The charism shapes the way the members live, pray, work, and minister.

Within apostolic communities consecrated men live together but perform a variety of ministries and services outside their home. Members of institutes with an apostolic charism may serve as teachers, doctors, or administrators. They may work in parishes, schools, or any number of settings related to the mission of the institute.

Consecrated men in monastic communities place a high value on living and working together, but they may also leave the monastery to perform ministries or tasks related to the life of the community. Some monastic communities operate a hospital or school.

Life for men in contemplative communities is focused less on outside ministry and more on rhythmic life of prayer, community, and work. Men in contemplative communities usually have less contact with the outside world than those in apostolic or monastic communities.