Recently I was asked by the wife of a conference attendee the following questions. Why a ministry for men and men alone? And why do we encourage men to do stuff on their own as groups of guys? Are we sexist? Are we encouraging gender division? Isn’t church “Life Groups” enough. Especially when a husband and wife can attend together?
First let’s think statistics; over the last 20 years 38% of believing men left the church. In fact for men aged fewer than 30, nearly 50% left in the same period of time. Now that reflects the belief that men are deciding they don’t want to go to church anymore! So we are facing a crisis before we even think about reaching men who aren’t yet believers. The decline is pretty terminal.
Of course, women are leaving church too. But no-where near as fast as men. I recently had a pastor say he was vexed by the lack of young men in church. He went on to say that his church had these great young girls who really wanted to find Godly husbands and yet there were no men. On average across the US the ratio of women to men in the church is 70% women to 30% men. Not good. So what do we do? Men aren’t good at small talk. They don’t form trusting relationships as fast and as easily as women. In fact, you might say that when a woman walks into a room she looks for people to talk with and relate to. When a man walks into a room he is plotting his escape strategy and looking for the exit door! So men need a forum and a place to forge good strong friendships which over time will become open enough for conversation about stuff other than what they do for work or the football etc. If this isn’t encouraged most men will go into a default “loner” mode.
Church culture can also be quite feminine and therefore difficult for many men to get to grips with. Think of church décor. Lots of children’s pictures, flowers and banners. Then there is the worship. Songs are often about feelings and subjective. Teaching is often generic and talks about concepts rather than every day practicalities. Volunteer jobs in the church can also tend towards the more feminine aspects of character; loving, sharing, nurture, compassion. Men seek adventure and challenge and while love and compassion are important traits for men, the wild and adventurous aspects of their personalities can be completely starved in church. So we need to create an environment that makes the Christian faith accessible to the average US man and church a place worth hauling themselves out of bed for.
I shared with this young woman that that our ministry, and ministries like ours who do “Ministry to Men” are working hard to equip the church with tools and resources that will make church a great place for their husbands, future husbands, sons and friends. Simple as that. We don’t want a church dominated by men or male characteristics nor do we want to make church a “men’s club”. Just a place where men can be gripped and excited by Jesus. I also shared these thoughts with her:
- If you have a husband who isn’t yet a believer, let him go at his own pace. He may well be thinking about faith quietly to himself. You may be surprised to know how much thinking he has done. Just don’t (as several people I know have done) blast out Christian music all the time, or stick verses up everywhere in the house. It will just turn him off rather than on.
- Remember that men need to be in a “band of brothers.” Let him go away once a year for a weekend or once a month to a gathering. It’s what he emotionally needs. Many believing women pray for their men to get active with the church but then start to resent it when he does!
- Remember that men need encouragement to form friendships and won’t feel safe talking about the things on their hearts in a mixed environment. Hence the importance of men’s groups.
- Don’t feel guilty and carry a sense of blame if the man in your life isn’t demonstrating any interest in faith. On average it takes over 5 years from point of first hearing the gospel for a man to come to faith.
- Try not to judge the men’s spirituality by a female standard. Men may not be outwardly demonstrative or emotional. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged at quite a deep level.
- Don’t mistake a lack of outward enthusiasm for the things of God for a lack of interest. Men just communicate enthusiasm very differently. He may be much further along the thought process than you think. I have known men to have quite a developed prayer life that have never once talked openly about their faith or regularly attended church.
I went on to share with her that I hoped my answer at least offers some thoughts on why we are doing what we are doing and to please pray for us as we seek to play our small part in introducing men to Jesus.
By Dr. Ron Fraser President, PointMan Ministries