Ideas needed for man-friendly churches

by
12 January 2011

by Ed Thornton

THE diocese of Oxford hopes to tackle the shortage of men who attend church. The diocese has joined Men and the Church (MATCH) to host a one-day conference on 5 February, “offering resources and ideas for churches wanting to reach unchurched men with the gospel, exploring why so many men leave the Church, and [encouraging] new strategies for evangelism to men”, a statement from MATCH said.

The Church of England’s head of research and statistics, the Revd Lynda Barley, said that about two-thirds of regular worshippers were women. The Revd Paul Eddy, founder of MATCH, said that, in many churches, the ratio was one man to every four women.

Clergy across the diocese, both male and female, were “very con­cerned” about the shortage of men in their congregations, he said, and had asked for “resources and support” to help attract them.

Mr Eddy complained that the present C of E mission strategy “re­volves around ‘belonging’ to a congregation, and then ‘believing’, and then a change in ‘behaviour’ after conversion.

“With evangelism to men, I would suggest, the strategy should be the re­verse: recognising they will first need to consider behaviour, then belief, and then finally belonging to a local church — if its worship, preach­ing, and discipleship is relevant to men.”

The Revd Ben Norton, a Fresh Expressions pioneer minister, runs XY, which describes itself as a “lads church”, in Bridlington, Yorkshire, which meets in a pub.

Superficial changes to church services, such as changing the hymns or reducing the number of flowers, amounted to “rearranging the furn­iture on the Titanic”, he said. Many men needed “a safe forum to work out what they think” in an environment in which “they are able to swear” or express controversial views.

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