My Ambivalence Towards “Men’s Ministries”


As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Maybe it is just my own story and bad experiences, but these days I am highly skeptical of “Men’s Ministries” (or “Women’s Ministries”). They are often sold as places for men and women to deal with deep issues with their own gender. For men, this usually means–for evangelicals–that you talk about porn problems, masturbation, and the need to “man-up.”

While I do enjoy connecting with other men, I am concerned that such ministries can easily devolve into locus of snake oil purveyors. What I mean by this is how such gendered retreats are easy pickings for people teaching men and women how to “affair proof” their marriages, which is to say lay the foundation for believing “The Shared Responsibility Lie.

Also, I have issues with gender training in general.

Teaching on submission for wives can easily devolved into teaching passivity and preparing women to be victimized by their husbands (e.g. “You need to submit to your husband’s physical abuse for a season” advice as promoted by a prominent evangelical pastor). This sort of teaching–without critical thinking–can easily piggyback on the general shaming message to women who can’t “keep their man.”

On the flip-side, teaching mean to be leaders of their households can easily lend itself to shaming messages if that man finds himself abandoned or cheated on by his wife. This sort of teaching–without critical thinking–can easily piggyback on the general shaming message to men about never being weak or showing weakness.

Fellowship is important. Same gender fellowship is important as well.

However, I am concerned that not enough is done to critically examine our own evangelical sub-culture and rigid gender role training. This lack of sub-culture awareness makes such groups suspect to me, at least.

Is the fellowship really worth being part of a group that teaches things that caused so much pain in my life (e.g. the lie that I was partially to blame for my wife leaving me since I am the head of the household)?

I don’t know. Sometimes I say, “Yes” and sometimes I say, “No.”

Regardless, I no longer look outside for a group to define my masculinity. God made me a true man, and I no longer care to play the evangelical subculture hustle games to convince others of what I and God already know.

4 thoughts on “My Ambivalence Towards “Men’s Ministries””

  1. DM, you are bold. This year you didn’t waited a week to kick off with a sticky wicket. I think I get your points, and are well taken. I think I hear what you are saying as I am a huge fan. Caution. Discernment. I am wondering if it is the idea of the group or the leadership – rather… lack of leadership that defers to the Holy Spirit within the group that is at issue here. I am missing something here because if I were in your neighborhood I sure would be hoping Mrs. DM would be leading a group.

    1. mommythree,

      Don’t have a quick and easy answer for you. I lean towards saying the devil is in the details. A good leader probably would be able to lead a quality group. Hence, I am ambivalent towards such groups. Cautious.

      Part of me suspects a false gospel is underneath the distortions. It is the old “works righteousness” that Martin Luther railed against as it applies to gender roles/training:

      “You are a real man/husband if you do x.” Or “You are a real woman/wife if you do y.”

      The more I walk and–I think–mature in my faith, the more I am convinced true Christianity always starts from a place of love and belonging in God. We get into trouble when we start “hustling” (as Brene Brown, the shame researcher calls it) after God or others’ approval or stamp of belonging.

      Healthy men’s or women’s ministries start from a place of acceptance and support. They assume everyone is part of the “Men’s Club” or “Women’s Club” and do not engage in teaching/behavior that suggests such membership requires passing a test–even a religiously veiled one. Well, that’s how I see it….clear as mud, right? 😉


  2. I’m even less than cautious, I’m totally skeptical. Numerous men’s & women’s “ministry” extravaganzas are essentially money $$$ driven events. Folks usually have to purchase expensive tickets, and then are also bombarded with sales of books, CD’s, DVD’s, subscriptions, T-shirts, wristbands, posters, pressure to contribute to some project or fund, etc…. People running these events know they can make big bucks off of the ordinary Christian’s desire to grow their faith and walk with God. The stuff taught at these events is not quality Bible teaching, but more like groupthink pep talks and ear tickling among a large group of strangers. I think a local, compassionate fellowship and in-depth Bible teaching are much more beneficial.

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