What do the San Diego Chargers’ Doug Legursky, astronaut Jon McBride, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me, 30 Days), former New Jersey Nets player Tamar Slay, and groovy singer Bill Withers (Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine) have in common? They’re all from the town of Beckley, West Virginia, where I worked at a church as youth and education coordinator in the 1990s.
What strikes me about that venerable list of names is how many “manly men” (at least by secular standards) have come from that town. Yet, when I worked in the church there, one of my greatest challenges was to find men to come alongside and mentor kids in our church programs. It’s as if in many endeavors men thrived, but they became wilting violets at the mention of the greatest and most rewarding challenge of all–living a life of faith.
Consider that as late as 2008:
• Men comprise a minority in 21 of 25 mainline-denomination churches.
• Men are 25% less likely than women to be regular church attendees.
• Men are 13% more likely to say they never attend church, even on holidays.
• Yet, all people are 20% less likely to attend church if their father didn’t attend.
• Churches where there is a gender gap are in decline; churches that are roughly split among men and women are growing.
Not only are we men not showing up to church and our spiritual lives, but the impact of our not showing up is huge.
I stopped going to church in my teen years, when my parents split up and my mom stopped attending. I thought of church as a place I was made to go, dressed in button-up shirts that felt tight and scratchy, to sit for a long time and listen to people talk about this being who sounded like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. My dad remained in attendance. After years of making a mess of my life, I wondered if there was something more to this faith thing, to following Jesus.
I became a Christian in college. Church became an outward and communal expression of my worship, and I reconnected with my dad over coffee conversations about faith. In the end, my experience validated the statistics. I followed my dad’s lead. Imagine how excited I was when the men’s retreat committee announced the theme for this year’s men’s retreat: Man Up, Show Up, God’s Calling Us.
This year’s retreat will explore what it means for men to show up, be active, and lead in the church body. There won’t be any communion plates with a side of bacon. You won’t find a wrestling ring where, like Jacob wrestling with God, you can wrestle with that annoying guy from your small group. In fact, some churches have tried gimmicks like that. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t reveal Himself to us in scripture as superficial and aggressive, but rather as wise and humble.
“You will be challenged to discover how scripture, prayer, and other men can make your faith journey a bigger adventure.”
You will be challenged to discover how scripture, prayer, and other men can make your faith journey a bigger adventure. At least, that’s how I experienced my first men’s retreat in 2012, and I won’t miss this years. Will you step up and accept the invitation?
For More Information: BelPres Men’s Retreat