Men are in trouble! That’s the conclusion of Steve Biddulph, Australian researcher and social commentator, who suggests that all through the 20th century, and into the 21st century, men have been suffering uniquely and severely. “Suicide, premature death, accidents and addiction—the statistics are all dominated by men. Physical violence against spouses, child sexual abuse, divorce, moral bankruptcy in business and politics, all point to something badly wrong with large numbers of men. Schoolyard shootings, serial killings. Men, always men” (The New Manhood, 2010).
The statistics aren’t real kind to men! Men on average live six years less than women; they have the highest death rates in every category from womb to tomb; over 90 per cent of acts of violence are carried out by men, and 70 per cent of the victims are men; in school, around 90 per cent of children with behavioural problems are boys, and over 85 per cent of children with learning problems are boys; young men aged 15-25 have three times the death rate of young women, and those deaths are all from preventable causes—motor vehicle accidents being the greatest; men make up 80 per cent of the homeless, and 90 per cent of jail populations; the leading cause of death among men between 15 and 44 is self-inflicted death.
It’s time to fight for all the men and boys in our churches.
What’s happening to our boys and men? What have we done, or failed to do, to get to this place? Have we failed at parenting? Has our education system missed some vital ingredient that is necessary for instilling decency and resilience into the souls of boys?
What about our Church? How are men doing in our worship and church life? Are they thriving or just surviving? Do they feel they belong, that they are needed, valued, treasured? What is there in the way we “do” church that attracts and holds them? What of our terminology? We speak of having a “relationship” with God—is that men’s usual language? Do men feel comfortable and easy in talking about a relationship with their God, or would they feel more at home talking about doing something for God? Might men find meaning and involvement in some kind of “shed church” where they can meet to “sharpen their spiritual blades?”
Nehemiah said (4:14), “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” It’s time to fight for all the men and boys in our churches. It’s time to do all we can to ensure church is a place where men can find meaning, adventure and belonging. It’s time to seek out the men and boys who have walked away and welcome them back—to a Church that challenges them to be the men they can be, under the moulding hand of God.
Pastor Trafford Fischer is director of Family Ministries for the South Pacific Division.