As the organiser of an annual conference for men, I’ve heard lots of reasons why men don’t attend men’s events:
- “I’m too busy.”
- “I find it too difficult to leave the family overnight/all day.”
- “It’s too expensive.”
- “I’m too old.”
- “I’m too young.”
- “I don’t like men’s events.”
There are many reasons, but in the lead up to BASECAMP 2017, I wanted to find out which of these are the biggest blockers. Is it cost? Is it the length of time away from the family? Is it something else?
I was particularly interested in men under 45 – these are the men who are usually under-represented in men’s ministry in churches, and I assumed that the busyness of life (work, family, church, sport, etc.) is the most significant factor keeping them from meeting with other men. This was my conclusion from many conversations, and a recent study by McCrindle backs this up:
“Whilst nearly all men (97%) agree making time for their mates is essential, the majority (85%) of Aussie males are struggling to find enough time for much needed ‘man time’ with their friends.”
So I wasn’t surprised to discover this in a survey I conducted – 38% of men under the age of 45 named “not having the time” as the reason why they don’t attend men’s events.
What did surprise me was the reason that came in at number two:
34% of men under 45 said that they don’t attend men’s events because they don’t know anyone else who is attending.
Besides busyness, men would attend if they knew someone else who was going. This shoudn’t have surprised me – when I recently wrote about the 5 challenges experienced by Christian men today, many men told me how much they related to challenge #5 – men don’t have friends. For many reasons, men are often isolated with few strong connections outside of their immediate family. But they want this to change, they want to get to know other men – they’re just waiting for someone else to initiate.
I understand this – if you’re feeling disconnected, it’s daunting to turn up to an event where you don’t know anyone! But if you are personally invited and know you won’t be sitting awkwardly in the corner, it’s a much more appealing prospect.
I decided to do this recently – albeit in a very low key way. I sent out a Facebook message on a Tuesday night, inviting the men at church (those who I am connected with on Facebook) to join me for dinner that Friday:
Gentleman of St Andrew's,
It's good for men to meat together (pun intended). If you're free on Friday night, join me for a steak at the Blue Gum Hotel at 7.30pm. Let me know if you're in, and I'll save you a spot. Feel free to invite other men – I don't have contact details for everyone.
Hope you can make it!
Three days later, 17 men turned up for dinner, and others would have come if it weren’t for the late notice!
I’ve only been at the church a couple of years and with 2 young children I’ve had very little opportunity to get to know other men – this is why I inititated the dinner in the first place! But I was encouraged by the eagerness of men to spend time together, and the feedback afterwards was “Hey, thanks for organising this”.
The implication for men’s ministry is clear – men need more than announcement in church, or a blurb in the weekly church newsletter to get them along to an event. They need another man to say to them: “I’m going to this – do you want to come with me?”.
Will you do this?