The Tearfund report on Churchgoing, April 2007, demonstrated that more men are leaving church than women.
But now we have the opposite, there have been two and a half times more women leaving the church within the last ten years.
We were given an article today from a book by David Murrow called 'Why men hate going to Church'. Reference was also made to Leon Podles: The Church impotent - the feminisation of the Church
Does the Church in the West alienate men and deter them from participating?
We dwell on this.
If a father becomes a Christian, then there is a tendency for the rest of the family to join the church but if a woman becomes a Christian the parallel does not happen - 93% of families follow a father but only 17% follow a mother (American research).
We discuss men's outreach.
But a friend and I are left wondering:
How much of what we do propagates myths about men and women? If all outreach to men revolves itself around football and the pub are we marginalising those for whom the pub and the football ground mean very little?
So how much do we reach out but end up compartmentalising people at the cost of unity?
This all made for something of a slightly depressing day because we had already spent morning worship praying over statistics about church decline, hoping that the Holy Spirit might turn this thing around so that churches do not end up becoming some kind of museum to a long-forgotten way of life.
I just think that we must not continue separating out the genders and creating clubs within clubs. But we do: Youth ministry and children's ministry, men's ministry and women's ministry. Sometimes, it's needed. I am writing a course for women who have just become mothers, so am I excluding men?
I guess it's all about where we draw the line. It's about not making unhelpful distinctions but it's about meeting people's needs as well.
In writing on Ephesians, chapter one, I decided that Paul communicated essential Christian truths about our position 'in Christ', by using language that the people of his day understood. He sought to unite the Jews and the Gentiles, should we not seek to unite men and women in worship? Are we really that different, emotionally and psychologically?
He used the language of the law courts and the markets. He alluded to Roman adoption laws with which the Ephesians would have been familiar and images of sonship and redemption which would have resonated with the Jews. He spoke of the down-payment of the Spirit against a backdrop where the Ephesians would have stamped goods they intended to buy later with a seal. He spoke to believers in a language that they understood and yet he also prompted the Gentiles to appreciate the heritage out of which their came and celebrate the Jewish story into which they had been invited.
...so keep it relevant - yes?
...do not ignore the past, celebrate it but move forward - yes?
...minister to people's needs but do not create groups which become exclusive - think holistically to think 'whole-istically to think 'holy-stically'.