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The Epidemic of Shortage of Men in the Church
“De Man dem short and de ooman dem plenty”
It Nuh Pretty at all
Welcome to Man Short Church, the statistically average US congregation. This week:
• Man Short Church will draw an adult congregation that’s 61 percent female, 39 percent male.
• Almost 25 percent of the married women who attend Man Short will do so without their husbands.
• Man Short will attract a healthy number of single women, but few single men.
• About 90 percent of the boys who are raised in church abandon it during their teens and twenties. Most never return.
• This Sunday in America, six million married women will worship without their husbands. That’s one out of five.
• Most churchgoing guys are “lifers” who grew up in church. Men are the hardest group to reach.
• Less than 10 percent of churches can maintain a thriving men’s ministry. The majority of men who actually show up for Sunday worship are there in body only. Their hearts just aren’t in it. Few will do anything during the week to nurture their faith.
Man Short Church is the norm in Christianity – in the U.S., and around the world. Your church profile is probably similar. In today’s church, women are the participators, men, the spectators.
How did we get here? How did a faith founded by a man and his 12 male disciples become like a the worse curse to men? Why do Christian churches around the world experience a chronic shortage of males, when temples and mosques do not? Why are churchgoing men so hesitant to really live their faith, when men of other religions willingly die for theirs? In “The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity” Leon Poddles quotes from a man he spoke with on the streets: “Life is a football game, with the men fighting it out on the gridiron, while the minister is up in the grandstand, explaining it to the ladies.”
THE EFFECTS OF THE LACK OF MEN IN THE CHURCH
A lack of male participation is not only heartbreaking, it’s strongly associated with overall church decline. Over the long term, a lack of men will doom a congregation. The gender gap is associated with church decline, according to the latest studies. The denominations with the fewest men (per capita) are also those that have been losing members and shutting churches. On the other hand, churches with robust male participation are generally growing.
The problem of criminality and drug abuse among inner-city black men is a problem of the distortion of masculinity. The low numbers of men in means the church would be not be properly positioned to help black men attain the status they so desperately need for their own good and the good of black women and children: that of patriarchs, responsible fathers who rule their families in justice and love.
This has also helped to cause Christianity to be dismissed as irrelevant and unimportant. Other effects include
Reduced evangelistic ability as far as males are concerned
Perpetuation of the cycle of confusion as it relates to defining Biblical manhood.
Reduces the mate selection pool for the females
Reduces the credibility of Christianity
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT
Men are the world’s largest unreached people group. They have their own language, culture and unique needs. It’s clear that the church has ignored these needs far too long.
1. UNDERSTAND WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH
Look at it from a sociological perspective. What other behaviors do men avoid? What other venues make men uncomfortable?
The answer is obvious: in our society, men avoid any behavior (or venue) that might call their manhood into question. For example, men don’t go to baby showers, fabric stores or “chick flicks.” So it is with church: men believe, deep in their hearts, that church is a women’s thing. Men approach Christianity with the same apathy or discomfort they display when forced to watch a Meg Ryan film. It just doesn’t resonate with them. We need to Become students of men. The truth is many pastors have built their ministries on their ability to interact with women. Because men are so unneeded for church work, ministers have had little incentive to go after them. A good place to start: read John Eldredge’s bestseller, Wild at Heart.
John Eldredge says it best: men are wild at heart. Though men see the goodness of the Christian faith, they are not swept up in it because church life is so soft and sweet. The cautious, sensitive culture of today’s church fails to match the adventurous spirit found in most men.
2. Get rid of the symbols that suggest that the church building is feminine territory like the pictures of gentle Jesus meek and mild in a white dress. Stop sending Nick signals that church is for women. From the moment he walks into the sanctuary, Nick must sense that this is something for him, not just something for his grandma, his wife and his kids. Examine everything about your church: the décor, the vocabulary you use, the songs you sing, the behaviors you expect. Men will respond if you meet them halfway.
3. Present Jesus as the real hero role model that he is. For this to happen there should be more focus on the manliness of Jesus. The blue-eyed effeminate-looking wimpish white Jesus made famous in a painting by Michelangelo will not do (especially if He is seen holding that lamb). Here are my suggestions: the Jesus who cracks the whip at the moneychangers in the temple; the Jesus who embraced martyrdom to bring salvation; the Jesus who is a winner; who spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly; the Jesus who will rule the world with justice one day; the kingly Jesus who proclaims and demonstrates the Kingdom of God; the Jesus who spoke harshly to scribes and Pharisees calling them ‘white-washed sepulchers.’ [ http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020421/relig/relig1.html ]
4. Plan worship experiences that are deliberately masculine focused. Women do masculine, but men DO NOT do feminine. This is why we need to tip the balance toward the masculine spirit in worship. That’s the format most likely to make everyone comfortable. Helping men worship. With men, it’s all about quality. Men appreciate good music from talented musicians, played in their vocal range. When possible, choose songs with masculine lyrics. Many of today’s praise songs feature lovey-dovey words set to a romantic tune. Nick may feel uncomfortable singing these words to Jesus, a man who lives today. Also, whenever possible, move men outside for worship. There’s nothing like a bonfire and a starry night to connect a man and his Maker.
5. Meet their deepest needs: Men need spiritual fathers and a band of brothers.
A spiritual father is simply a layman who takes responsibility for bringing other men to maturity in the faith. It’s based on the discipleship models of Jesus and Paul (1 Cor. 4:14-15). If you really want to bring men to life in Christ, spiritual fathering is how it’s done.
Second, every man needs a band of brothers. Jesus began his ministry by assembling a team. They trained together, worked together, and suffered together. Men cannot succeed as followers of Jesus without a team surrounding them. No matter how meaty the sermons, no matter how rich their quiet times men will not come to maturity to Christ without a band of brothers surrounding them, and a spiritual father to guide them. Most churches offer nothing in the way of men’s ministry or small groups. What a tragedy. Although it’s initially hard to engage men in a small group, once they do get involved, they’re usually hooked. Their faith deepens. Their lives change.
6. We need to understand the qualities of maleness and femaleness. Males and females are different and this is borne out by both Scripture and science. In his book, ‘The Masculine Journey”, Robert Hicks examines six Hebrew words that are used to define males. These six words, he argues, form the stages of a man’s life.
a. adam describes the CREATIONAL MALE
b. zakar describes the SEXUAL MALE
c. gibbor describes the MALE AS WARRIOR
d. enosh describes the WOUNDED MALE
e. ish describes the MATURE MALE
f. zaken describes the WISE MALE OR SAGE
Other than the first word ‘adam all these words are used distinctively to describe males alone.
7. We must understand the cultural context in which our youth males grow, develop and live. Cultural practices vary from place to place and thus the impact on persons will vary. Our cultural context can be described, in part by two simple phrases:
a) no father
b) nuff “mothers”
These two factors have created many wounds in both males and females (the father wound and the mother wound) and a crisis in understanding themselves. The impact varies from person to person and is somewhat different for males than it is for females.
8. We must also know how to relate to males as males.
Relating to males:
We live in a very homophobic culture where close relationships with other males are often suspect and where even when males try they find it difficult to relate to each other. We offer some simple guidelines:
a. understand that males relate around what they DO together
b. males prefer action to conversation
c. males find it uncomfortable to be vulnerable
d. effective relating to males requires you to learn to “flex”
e. you will have to meet a man on his turf before you can move or guide him to where you want him to be.
9. We must provide a context in which males can release and realize their essential nature without the criticism of females and where they can learn from responsible male models who can provide experiences and ceremonies that will nurture and mark their development.
10. For churches to attract and retain men, they need to intentionally develop masculine modes of doing evangelism and pastoral care. E.g. Sports Evangelism. The church must deliberately tailor its evangelistic efforts to win men. What obtains at present is that evangelistic meetings try to win everybody and invariably end up with a handful of men at best and a ton-load of women and children. That is perhaps where the church has gone wrong.
11. You must put a high priority on developing leaders, especially male ones. Men are not looking for theologians, teachers or facilitators. They are looking for men who will lead them to greatness.” Men need great leadership. Men are drawn by vision and purpose, by achievement and power. Churches that attract enthusiastic men do so by taking risks, dreaming big, and bringing a measure of adventure back to the Christian life.
12. Take risks and develop ministries that have a danger factor because men are adventurous and risk takers.
Men love technology. “Information conveyed through the use of technology often has a higher degree of believability than does information coming directly out of the speaker’s mouth.”
Men love excellence and quality. “Men are turned off by mediocrity, amateurish music, worn-out facilities, and unkempt grounds.
Men love the outdoors. Plan activities to be held in the outdoors as much as is possible. Men feel closer to God when they are outdoors.
Men love adventure. Men are transformed more by what they experience and less by what they are told.
Helping men learn. Men’s brains are less verbal than women’s, so they require a different approach. Men have been trained to focus for 6 to 8 minutes (the length between TV commercials). The lengthy monologue sermon, so effective in the Victorian era, fails to reach today’s men. Rick Warren of the Purpose Driven Church may have an answer: he frequently breaks his sermons into 5 to 7 minute chunks, with a video, drama or song between each segment. And object lessons are essential: never take the pulpit without an object in hand. Jesus called these parables, and they survive to this day because men remembered them. Effective pastors and teachers draw metaphors and illustrations from the realms of sports, business, battle and survival.
Helping men serve. Roger from Ohio says, “If serving in the church was more about pounding nails and less about wiping runny noses, I’d probably be interested.” Men will gladly serve if we let them do what they’re good at. Why not work on cars? One Illinois church has an on-site auto repair facility, staffed by volunteers, that benefits single mothers and the working poor. Even a small church can offer free oil changes in the church parking lot. Our congregation started doing this twice a year; the event attracts more than fifty guys who give up a Saturday morning to serve God. What’s more remarkable, we almost always get a few nonreligious husbands of churchgoing wives.
A clear mission for every church. Most church mission statements are rambling and non-specific. Men are drawn to clarity and brevity. If they’re going to give up their weekend, they want to know why.
High moral standards. Family men are looking for a church that’s different from the world they see on TV. This is why conservative churches are growing and liberal ones are dying. Few men are drawn to squishy morals. They want a church built on a firm, time-tested bedrock.
Men need help and backup enforcing morals at home. Children today are bombarded with immoral messages. Men feel powerless against MTV, South Park and the Internet. Churches should train men how to deal with these situations – how to say no to sin in a loving way. www.churchformen.com/?p=203 Why Men Flock to Islam
Develop a culturally relevant, Biblically grounded, practical affirmation of a sexuality
The church and Christian radio have failed to support a married man’s need for regular sexual intimacy with his wife, which is an insult and a betrayal. We are men, not eunuchs.
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