“Why don’t men go to church?” This was a question posed by Christian Vision for Men, an organisation founded by Carl Beech, who was speaking on Monday night to a men’s meeting at Trinity Church in Cheltenham. Of the printable responses, men tended to think that church is for wimps, for women, and that it is irrelevant. It doesn’t help that some recent songs are romantic songs to Jesus – “Beautiful one, I love” springs to mind – which are very hard for men to sing, even for regular churchgoers.
This alone should be cause enough for churches to re-think their approach – but there is extra incentive. As a survey for Evangelicals Now in 2003 showed, if a child becomes a churchgoer, there’s only a 3.5% chance that the rest of the family will go; if the mother, then the figure rises to 17%; but if the father becomes a Christian, there’s a 93% chance the rest of the family will follow.
There is a huge need for the Gospel among men today, which is being obscured by a feminised church environment. There is currently an epidemic of loneliness: one grim example is that the most common cause of death among men below 40 is suicide. And the effect among family members of non-functioning fathers is worse: children with absent fathers are five times more likely to commit suicide, and 32 times more likely to run away.
Carl is a passionate speaker who is very attuned to the needs of men and knows what is effective – but he does not make it complicated. His main message: “do what you are good at and invite a friend” – whether that is DIY, sea fishing, quad biking, hill walking or whatever.
The end of a tough term has arrived, and I’m enjoying being able to relax back in Cheltenham! One of the major highlights of the year so far has been the placement at St. Andrew’s, Haughton-le-Skerne, which ended on Sunday. I’ve loved being a part of that community, and to work with David Bryan – who has been a brilliant bloke to work with and a huge encouragement. The church needs more vicars like David, who are known more for their natural ability to relate to men than for their feminine sides.