On Getting & Keeping Masculine Men in Church

First, if you want to reach men, it helps to be a man.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but you shouldn’t make reaching men the focus of your church. The focus should be the truth of the gospel and living in obedience to it. I’ve seen some guys who unintentionally make a caricature of masculinity by focusing on superficial markers of it.

 

I recall, years ago, sitting in a class at Harvard Divinity School, and across from me sat an Indian woman–you know, from India–and she, in her words, was the pastor of a congregational church, (United Church of Christ, naturally).

She was a graduate of HDS and she had come back to school to take a few classes from her favorite professor. Her favorite was mine as well, Ralph Potter, a man who didn’t follow the fads, but instead taught classes that drew upon the riches of the Western tradition in a way that was welcoming and anything but strident. We read Montaigne, and Aristotle, and Gracian, even Augustine.

Her remark in class that day was one that made a real impression on me. It was something like this: “My education prepared me to confront patriarchy. I wish I had some patriarchs in my church. The most controlling people in my church are old women.”

I confess, my thought at that moment (which I didn’t vocalize) was, “Good luck with that, sister.”

One of the things I’m grateful for over my 30 plus years of ministry is I’ve had a lot of good men in my churches. Getting them into church and keeping them there hasn’t been a big problem for me. I’d say my congregations have been roughly split, 50/50 between men and women.

From all I’ve seen and heard, that’s unusual. And it isn’t just the result of belonging to a particular denomination, or holding to a particular theology. In two of the churches I formerly served my successors managed to drive the men out and return the ratios to something more like the norm–70/30 favoring women.

So, what’s my secret?

What follows are some bits of advice rooted mostly in common sense.

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