On Sunday morning, or whenever you corporately meet, take a second to glance around and conduct a quick demographic survey. If your church is like mine there’ll be a fairly healthy smattering of kids, married couples and older folk but there could well be a gap in 20-30 single somethings, and an even bigger gap where the guys should be.
You could dismiss this by saying something like, “Young people grow up and then move away for university” – but does this answer the question? If you’re in a town or city then surely there will be people moving in to the city replacing those who are moving out.
I think it’s time to own the fact that by and large many churches struggle with retaining young men and women when they enter their twenties. Rather than simply explaining away this phenomenon I think it’s pertinent that we work out how we’re losing these people and how we’re going to get them back.
Being a man isn’t a problem, it’s the solution
The church was started by a man in his thirties with a bunch of his mates. They all had jobs and some had families. After 3 or so years of training Jesus (the guy who started the church) left eleven guys to get on with it. Of these eleven, ten were martyred for their beliefs. The love that these men had for Jesus led them to give everything they had for the church. This is the calibre of man that Jesus picked to lead the church. 2,000 years later and the job spec hasn’t changed, but perhaps the candidates have.
To succeed as a man in life you need to show some determination. To father and lead a family, hold down a job, provide a future and encourage men around you takes grit and courage. Through all of this a man’s character is shown and every aspect of his god-given manhood is used. My question is, do we encourage any of this in church or not?
Let me explain what I mean.
I wonder if you know of this man? He’s competitive, and likes sports. He’s stubborn and doesn’t like to admit he’s wrong. He wants to be right and win the argument, oh, and he wants to have lots of great sex.
Stereotype? Maybe. But here we have him. Now, let’s look at how some churches may see him. He’ll be branded as: strong and not meek/mild, proud and not soft-hearted, arrogant and divisive, and lustful and degrading to women. He’ll know sooner rather than later that he’s just sinful and all he desires are wrong. He’ll either have to neuter himself or leave the church. Not once will he be encouraged in who he is.
However, I don’t think this is how Jesus sees him. Sure, he might be misusing his passions – but our God is a redeemer, not a large anti-testosterone pill. Instead of pre-condemning the up-and-coming men in the church we should celebrate them and encourage them. Let’s look at them the way that a loving father who wants the best will look at them.
This guy I mentioned could be viewed this way. He is competitive; he’s not satisfied till he gives his best. He’s stubborn; he’ll fight for his faith. He regards truth highly and wont settle for anything less. Oh, his healthy sex-drive is a great ingredient for a healthy marriage, which is the core of a healthy family.
If we decide that we don’t need to defend truth, or work hard for our Lord and Saviour, and that easy compromise is preferable and healthy families don’t rate that highly then sure, we don’t need young men in the church. We can condemn all manly desires as sinful and not welcome and we can effectively skim off the boys as they reach manhood.
But if we wake up and realise that we value God’s truth and that it is under attack, that compromise is as disgusting as it is rife and that the family model is so far off from God’s plan, then maybe we’ll think about making at an effort to keep our boys instead of repelling them and take the effort train them to become the men God is calling them to be.
If we lose the young men, we lose the church. Game over. But if we give the guys a glimpse of how God sees them and how He wants to use them, then watch their natural talents come into play as they grab hold of life and pour their lives out for the church in love for their leader, Jesus.