Friday, August 11, 2006

Manly / Man-Friendly Church

Marc helpfully makes the point in his comment below that my review of David Murrow's Why Men Hate Going to Church doesn't give all the answers as to how church could be more manly and/or man-friendly. He makes the point much more gently than that, of course, and it is a fair point. There is no way anyone can give all the answers, but I've put some practical ideas at the bottom of this...

What I'm going to try to do here is summarise the book more fully than I did below, giving some of the highlights and a few personal reflections as we go along. Highlights are full-size, my reflections a little smaller. At the end I summarise a few things we can easily do to be more man-friendly.

Summary of my position
I don't agree fully with everything in the book, but I think we all need to read it: laity, lay church leaders, full-time church leaders, preachers, college lecturers, etc... I guess I'm aiming to push you to read this book as I write. It is not without its faults, but it does make one very good and timely point!

Caveat
Not every church in the UK needs to hear this as much as many do. There are a growing number of manly churches - and may the number continue to grow. Most of the larger churches are good at being man-friendly - and you'll see why below!

Introduction
'Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you're getting' (vii). So if your church consists primarily of elderly women, might that be because of what you're doing? It is a standard commonplace that churches are composed primarily of females. Might it be that our churches' systems are perfectly designed to give us the results we're getting. Murrow states that 'Truth is, the modern church is not designed to do what Jesus did: reach men with the good news.' (viii).
Seems to me a fair summary of some / many UK churches - he is writing in the States, so against a different backdrop - but not all. These exceptions are well-known to many of us; there are some great men of God doing manly work amongst men - praise God. Later on, Murrow will challenge us not to make men effeminate as they are converted. Ask yourself about typical masculine expressions as opposed to feminine, and see how many of each you have at church, home-group, and so on...

Part 1: Why Men Hate Going to Church
Ch 1. Men have a Religion: Masculinity. Most men don't go to church because they've been (7). But we need men at church (8-9). Answer is not a male-dominated church (9-10). But this book will challenge women in the laity: are you willing to change for the sake of the male outsiders? (11).
At this point I hadn't been convinced by anything; that came later!

Ch 2. Why Judy's Husband Hates Going to Church. 'Films represent our fantasies. Men fantasize about saving the world against impossible odds. Women fantasize about having a relationship with a wonderful man.' (15) Men are ill-equipped to go to church - not being very expressive, verbal or sensitive, nor good at singing; women hold many of the cards here (16).
Anyone ever tempted to marry a n-Xn must read pages 12-13.
That aside, I find these two points pretty convincing, if a bit rough and ready; why can't both those film-types be emphasised at church? How do rugby-playing guys fit into the average local congregation? Men need to learn some of those things, but maybe Murrow's point is that we require much more of unconverted men to go into churches than of corresponding women. Good spot - I think that's true. Why might it be? What can we change? What is biblical? What is habit? Distinguish a lively relationship with Jesus Christ, expressed, based and developed in community with going to church. Distinguish Churchianity from Christianity!
Ch 3. Men Aren't the Only Ones Missing from Church. Women and older adults [50+] are much more likely to be in church than men and younger adults [18-29] because the former crave security, the latter challenge - being attracted to churches with guts (18-21).
This is a good point - the issue is broader than just men / women, but is generational too.
Ch 4. The Masculine Spirit and the Feminine Spirit. He examines a list of characteristics taken from 'Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus' and sees that almost everyone associates the female ones with Christianity above the male ones (23-24). He distinguishes the masculine spirit [seen at sporting events, for example] from the feminine spirit [primary school] and looks at why we need both (25-28).
I think pages 23-24 are a vital read. Why do we think those characteristics are more Christian. I've been teaching through Mark recently - isn't Jesus confrontational? dismissive? even harsh? [3:31-35, 7:6-13, 11:29-33, 12:24 & 27 for some examples; when did you last follow Jesus' example in these ways?]
Ch 5. Adjusting the Thermostat. Does your congregation's setting focus on challenge, comfort, ceremony, control, conformity or confrontation? What balance is there? (29-33) This isn't just for pastors: we are all involved in setting this level (33). We need to re-discover what discipleship means (33-35).
Helpful questions, I think - he looks at each of the six foci in a little detail.

Ch 6. Men: Who Needs 'Em? Look at the jobs you want doing at church - how many are predominantly feminine? (36-39) Churches need to tell men they're needed, and have a fit-jobs-to-people approach so that they actually are needed (40). Men's gifts promote church health (44-47). If Christianity is to survive, we need men: 'Why are secularism and Islam on the rise? I believe it is their ability to capture the hearts of men.' (48)
Pages 44-47 on men's gifts' usefulness to the church are a very important read.

Part 2: The Three Gender Gaps
Three chapters examine:

7. The Gap of Presence - there are more women at church than men [20% more in the US, for example]. Interestingly, the gap is generally smaller in the larger churches: chicken or egg - which comes first: size or men? (58). Particularly interesting is the examination of how the message at church has been changed because of attendees (61-63).
8. The Gap of Participation - women are more serious about their faith, and more involved in church than men; they really are!

9. The Gap of Personality - entire personality types are missing from church, making it harder to attract men. This chapter examines what churches miss by missing men, why churches need men, and why having men around will be hard for a number of churches in a number of ways. Very interesting!
These chapters house some of the key research behind Murrow's book - all of which is worth at least a quick glance, and some sections require deeper thought.

Part 3: Understanding Men and Masculinity
These chapters examine the differences between men and women. Many of us may be tuned to ridicule this stuff without any thought - having read or heard so many poorly thought-through versions as to be almost immune. Work hard not to be hardened to this - we are different! Men speak on average 7 - 10 thousand words per day, women 20 - 25 thousand; our brains are different; we learn in different ways; we experience things differently. Since church should and must be about learning and experience, as well as many other things too, we need to have thought through how each sex is best served. Further, it is helpful but sobering to note that many of the most well-habilitated men in church are those who display the least masculine traits - what are we training men in at conversion? Femininity or Christ-likeness?
I agree. We need to understand both masculinity and femininity - which is why I frequently encourage all male preachers to have read Sharon James' 'God's Design for Women' at the very least, and probably a couple of other books on that subject too...

Part 4: The Straws that Break Men's Hearts
I gave Murrow's list in my earlier post here. What do men fear at church? (155-125) Do we encourage - or even cater for - or even permit - manliness in church? (133-144) Do we let men lead like men? Murrow says: 'It is not a sin to focus on Jesus' feminine side, to sing songs that feel feminine, or to dress up for church. On behalf of men, all I ask is equal time for the masculine spirit.' (145)
Some good, fair, insightful points, and well made... Listen, learn and change!


Part 5: Restoring the Masculine Spirit in the Church
These are some ways we can adjust the church's thermostat to make changes so men will be more comfortable:
17. Leadership and the Masculine Spirit (151-167) We must have and encourage bold and visionary leadership, aiming at results and seeing them happen, pushing ahead despite opposition, giving things a go, having a clear purpose, setting high standards.
This is hard at times - as a member of a congregation run by Richard Coekin, there's no major lack of this about - but bears much fruit among men. Sometimes we just have to keep quiet under the little things that irk because of the bigger picture.
18. Pastoring and the Masculine Spirit (168-174) We need to be strong, resolute, full of conviction; that means laity need to endorse such models and follow such men.
Same comment as above!
19. Teaching and the Masculine Spirit (175-183)
You've just got to read this chapter!!
20. Worship and the Masculine Spirit (184-192) I quote: 'women are to worship as men are to sex' (184). Think about it! How can we change our worship style to be more men-friendly? Loads of ideas here.
Don't agree with all of this in terms of practical stuff - and not with all the book on that level, fairly obviously. I'm basically keen that loads of us read this and learn from it - having for years been at churches I found it really hard to take my bloke friends from work to.

21. Women and the Masculine Spirit (193-202) Loads of tough stuff here for the ladies, particularly in the female-dominated churches this book is aiming at. Are you prepared to change for good gospel reasons - the reaching lost men.
Not sure how much I can comment. Maybe one of the women who reads this will illuminate us all via a comment? All sounds fairly sensible to me, but I'm no expert on being a girl!
22. Ministry and the Masculine Spirit (203-211)
This replays some of the stuff from chapters 6, 8 & 9 in more practical detail; some good practical sense.

Part 6: Meeting Men's Deepest Needs
These are ways to meet men's deepest needs, so they'll stay once you've got them in!
23. Every Man needs a Spiritual Father. This is a big gap in churches and major loss to discipleship. It'll be hard to start, but we seriously need it.
24. Every Man needs a Band of Brothers. As above.
25. The Second Coming of the Masculine Spirit. Wraps it all up.
Two very good practical chapters. I read them and know how much I owe to such men in my life.


TOWNER'S THOUGHTS
Things we can change to be more man-friendly:
  • The way we refer to Christian truths: Jesus is both loving brother and bold captain - which gets more air-time at church?
  • What and how we sing: run into the arms of God or fighting the good fight of faith - one is from a song, the other from Scripture!
  • What we focus on theologically: we so often miss Jesus' and God's more masculine traits (possibly by habit - we've learnt not to focus on them in our happy little effeminate churches).
  • How we describe the Christian life: see first two comments!
  • How we teach: men generally prefer short interactive stuff, women long monologues - which do we do more of?
  • How we express our gathered worship: men hate singing but love shouting!
  • When, how and where we meet up for mid-week studies; cup of tea in a living room - how masculine!
  • How we fellowship more generally: this should be much broader for all concerned - lets be inventive as congregations to find many many diverse things a few of us can enjoy together.
  • What we value: do we prefer meekness to boldness - and, if so, why?
  • How we disciple.
  • Our buildings: do we focus on tea / coffee or table-football / darts? Why? they're each equally sociable!
You get the idea. Read it!

8 Comments:

Blogger matthew said...

Thanks Andy. I've been meaning to read this for ages, and you've provided a spur to do so. Another came from a great guy at church - in his early 30s, godly, committed, enormously successful in his career, who said he finds church hard because Christian men are wetter than a fish's wet bits, and that he'd invite his non-Christian friends to church more if it weren't for the fact they'd think he was asking them to become gay.

Theologically, I think we need to talk more about Christ as second Adam, subduing creation, and explain how that fits with everything we do in life; we need to spend more time talking about Christus Victor as well as penal substitution, and reconciliation; and we need to preach and preach and preach from the OT and the gospels - I'm entirely with you in your comments on Jesus in Mark.

Also, I increasingly think we need to sing fewer and fewer contemporary worship songs, and more and more psalms. Less Jesus is my boyfriend, more God smashes his enemies! I'm not sure that men dislike singing (witness Cardiff Arms Park, or any football match), they just hate singing girly songs. And to the extent they do hate singing, they're just being unmanly - witness David! Jim Jordan rightly stresses that worship is warfare, and so encourages fast, vigorous, martial singing. That'd probably help men.

In my preaching, I'm trying to be more confrontational/provocative, and more challenging.

I'm also starting to think that I need to do more personal work in pubs over a pint and a game of pool. That'd be good for other guys, and good for me too. Some Reformed US churches have started a men's discussion night in a local pub over beer and cigars.

Just some random thoughts.

8:58 am, August 12, 2006  
Blogger Andrew said...

I echo all that - especially the theological emphases and music things; you're right to correct me on men singing - I meant that men often don't like singing in church. Thanks MWM.

Re: Psalms, that's my dissertation this coming year, and what you've indicated is what I hope to be able to argue at greater length. Let's reclaim those great hymns of Israel, and lets square our shoulders to teach the theology needed to understand them!

10:14 am, August 12, 2006  
Blogger Ros said...

Okay, so I'm a girl. I'd just like to say that I don't much like the Jesus is my boyfriend stuff either. And I like shouting. Can't stand football.

I'm not convinced by your point on how we teach. I don't know any women who like listening to long monologues and my experience of learning in groups is that women usually find that easier than men. So if you're going for manly learning I'd've thought proper sermons were still the way forward?

BTW where is Jesus called our Captain?

8:31 pm, August 12, 2006  
Blogger Liam Beadle said...

I wholeheartedly agree re. the music issue. This evening at Jesmond Parish Church we opened with Christopher Idle's paraphrase of Psalm 95 - a manly song which edified me and, I think, other men around me - and went on to sing, by way of contrast, 'All my days', which I (perhaps we) found harder. We probably need both, and of course church is at least partly about tolerance of what we ourselves (as men, as young men, as educated men, ad infinitum…) don't like. There is nothing more manly than serving women by singing things that they might prefer.

In much of this I am painfully aware that I might be (unwittingly) being very patronising towards women, and crave their indulgence!

I am not sure I want to see coffee 'après-church' replaced by darts or pool: both have a competitive edge which, while certainly not wrong (nay, enjoyable in the right context) could damage the fellowship. Coffee is neutral. Darts are not!

I agree with Ros re. sermons. In my (limited) experience women do engage more in discussions and men do prefer the traditional sermon model. I certainly do! (And am thus in danger of just defending desire.) I read an interesting article in the Banner of Truth a few months ago which observed that Powerpoint has a feminising effect. Women (I generalise as much as the essay itself did) like the bullet points and illustrations and can cope with more than one focus, whereas men prefer one focus and more eye-contact with the speaker.

As for style, in my experience there are already enough rugby stories in sermons anyway. I prefer football, but there you go. (Sorry, Ros!)

10:57 pm, August 13, 2006  
Blogger matthew said...

Well, if we want to be Bible-manly, do we need even to mention sport? Perhaps athletics :-)

11:26 am, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Marc Lloyd said...

So beer after church it is then? Or maybe single malts would be more condusive to a reflective mood - if that's not too girly?

A pint to the person who introduces liturgical shouting, by the way. But its gotta be really full blast Arms Park style.

8:18 am, August 20, 2006  
Blogger Liam Beadle said...

At Jesmond Parish Church the other week, the minister asked us to shout the first word of the Jubilate (NIV). Does that count?

2:33 pm, August 21, 2006  
Blogger matthew said...

Mark, single malts are very manly. Especially when accompanied by a good cigar.

2:45 pm, September 02, 2006  

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