A ministry colleague of mine is having an excellent conversation on Facebook about how the church has become feminized and what it will take to make church a much more masculine event. His premise is that church over time has become more feminized, and because of this it is one of the barriers that keep men from engaging in church en masse. His comment thread has 38 (and counting) replies so far.
The most interesting dynamic I observed about the conversation is that it fluctuates between light humor, “masculine” vs. “feminine” worship service practices, and deep reflection of what exactly is considered masculine. It is a conversation anyone involved in ministry ought to be having, because one thing that seems to be constant across all ethnicities is there are more women than men in church.
I thought about posting my thoughts on the comment thread, but it’s morphed into a blog post so here is what I think about the subject. First off I think trying to make a list of masculine characteristics is tricky business. Who decides what should be on the list?
I remember when I first got married I was the family treasurer in spite of the fact that I am horrible with math. Why? Because that is what a “man” does. Also I am horrible at anything mechanical, another trait on the masculine list. Wisely I’ve turned all things financial and mechanical over to my wife. So am I less of a man? There will never be a list long enough that all men fit.
Second I have come to the conclusion there is no “magic bullet” event that puts you over the top. Many men look for some sort of defining moment that makes them a man. Some societies have formal rites of passages. Others have informal ones. I know in our country in most non-Christian communities it usually involves conquering something.
Maybe its women, so when you have sex for the first time you’re in the club. Or alcohol, as if you can “hold your liquor” you’re a man. It doesn’t make logical sense that one day you are a boy, you do something, and then you’re a man.
I will let others debate about whether or not there is such a thing as a feminine worship song and masculine preaching. To me that is not the heart of the matter. At the core what the church needs to be doing is helping men figure out what does it mean to be masculine?
If we do that, the songs and preaching take care of themselves. Based on two decades of ministry, I believe any church that helps men do the following will have no problem being considered a masculine church:
1. Navigation help on relationships with women. We are a mess in this area! Some men view women as the enemy, or as I mentioned earlier something to be controlled or conquered. Others are scared to death of them. Most don’t know how to deal with their mother, wife, or daughters in a healthy manner. Church needs to be a space for men to learn how to engage the women of their life in a healthy way.
2. Helping them deal with their upbringing. Nowadays rare is the man who does not have emotional baggage from his family of origin. Most of them have never dealt with it, because as men we are conditioned to “buck up” and “get over it.” It leads to emotional retardation. Church needs to be a space where men can learn to deal with the pain of their past and forgive those who have harmed them.
3. Providing fellowship. Whether it is a sports team or a gang, men want to feel they are part of something outside of themselves. That was the primary drawing card of the meteor that was Promise Keepers in my opinion. It was a well-run event for fellowship to happen. What I remember about those events was not the event itself but all the camaraderie around it (the long van trips, conversations into the wee hours, the laughter during the meals, etc). Church needs to provide opportunities for men to be real with one another in the presence of only other men.
4. Let them share their gifts. Men want something to do that makes them feel significant. My grandfather was not a church going man, but unlike me he was very mechanical. Whenever my grandmother’s church needed something fixed they called him and he was there. Problem is they never picked up on that so he wasn’t there for anything else. When I pastored I “tricked’ numerous unchurched men into being churched by simply finding out what they were good at and asking them to use that gift within the confines of the church. Whether they are churched or unchurched, create places for men to use their God given gifts.
5. 3 for life’s road. I have no idea where this adage came from but I hear Christians say it all the time. Every man needs a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy in their life. In other words we need mentors, colleagues, and mentees. The church that masters making sure this happens among men will be the church that will have no problem drawing them.