Monday, March 03, 2008

Where are all the Men?

This post arises out of several conversations I've had in the last few months, most recently last night.

One of the tragedies of modern evangelicalism is the women. Or is it the men?

There seem to be far more young women than young men in many churches, which means that the women are often faced with a very difficult choice. Either they marry people they have big differences with theologically, often even non-Christians, or they stay single. I know people who have done each. Generally it seems that those who are struggling more in their faith tend to marry, but it is a horrible decision to have to make.

So the question is - where are all the men? In the discussion, we came up with three reasons why there are often so many more young women than young men (older women, there's a difference because of the different life expectancies, as in the population at large). There's probably lots more too.

Reason 1 - Friendships

An important part of how people come to faith is through friendships. Our society is a lot better on female-female friendships than on male-male friendships or male-female friendships. Women have friends. Men have people they do things with. So I might have friends I do sports with, or go to the pub with, or whatever, but they aren't friends I'd talk to about stuff or friends in the abstract. So because women have better friendships, they're more likely to come to Christ through their friends.

Proposed solution: church-based football leagues, church-based activities generally with a very gentle evangelistic focus.

Reason 2 - Lack of Acceptable Role Models

Christian leadership is seen more and more as being relational (and that's important). However, because the leadership is gentle, relational and so on, it's often also seen by society as being more feminine, and the men who do it are less accessible as role models for other men. It's notable that the one societal cross-section of British evangelicalism where men aren't under-represented is the one where there is a strong archetypal role model still in place - the posh public-school section.

Proposed solution: male leaders - listen to Mark Driscoll on this one.

Reason 3 - Feminisation of the Gospel

We tend to emphasise some bits of the Bible over others. Specifically, we tend to emphasise the bits about God loving us and accepting us, which can be seen as fitting in with stereotypically female concerns. And we don't tend to emphasise the bits which fit in with characteristically male concerns - the risk taking, the pictures of the soldier and the athlete, the heroes of the faith, the pressing on to win the prize, the eschatological goal of the faith, and so on. Which means that, because we present an unbalanced view, we get an unbalanced group of people in.

I'm not saying that the facts that God loves us and accepts us and so on aren't important - of course they are. I'm saying that they're not the whole story.

And a quick note on stereotypes - of course men and women do not all precisely follow their stereotypes, and some of the stereotypes are culturally conditioned. But they're still sometimes useful generalisations for getting a big picture.

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