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.