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Fishing for men

Men under the age of 30 are the least likely population group to participate in church life—a reality that is nearly identical on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border. Religion writer Gabrielle Bauer reports that “significantly more definite believers in God show up among women (70 percent) than men (57 percent). Women also envision a more loving God, pray more frequently, and draw more meaning from their faith. In fact, men are 67 percent as likely as women to be unchurched—not exactly the gender ratio toward which a healthy congregation strives.

So what does it take to attract younger men to the church?

Part of the answer can be found in Jesus’ invitation to Peter, James, and John to join Him in fishing for men—or at least that is what is suggested by the recently released book, Coming of Age: Exploring the Identity and Spirituality of Younger Men.

Drawing upon findings from their Young Male Spirituality Project, the authors report that “most young men identify nature and sports as profoundly significant in nurturing and expressing their identity and spirituality.” The authors go on to identify ministry strategies that congregations can use to create effective ministries for younger men, including:

  • Attend sports events of members of your church and perhaps start a church fan club.
  • Post news stories of the sports performances of members of your church.
  • Consider setting up a weight or exercise room in your church.
  • Take a cross-generational group of men on an adventure trip or retreat.
  • Provide childcare so young couples can go hiking, running, biking, or exercising together on weekends.
  • Integrate a Bible study on God’s call and Christian ministry into a sports outing.
  • Create your own “Christian Sports Café” for Monday night football and Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Hold a worship service for hunters and fishermen before the opening of the season. Emphasize the stewardship of creation.
  • Incorporate illustrations, metaphors, and stories that come from the world of sports and nature into preaching and teaching.

Source: Story, Summer 2006, Luther Theological Seminary

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