‘This ain’t your grandma’s church’

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Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor would be so proud. (Insert grunt here. And then a whack on the thumb with a hammer for good measure.)

From the “everything old is new again” files, I give you Man Church.

The Detroit Free Press hailed its arrival in Canton, Mich., with a feature last week. Similar males-only assemblies have emerged in Arizona and Texas lately and represent a new trend in attracting men to worship: Make them more comfortable by excluding women and singing, and ensure there’s plenty of coffee.

WWJ News radio in Detroit filed this piece on the church plant, which is an offshoot of Connection Church of Canton:

Homes without fathers or husbands are on the rise, so much so that some researchers say it’s becoming an epidemic. In response, Connection Church of Canton has created something unique they’re calling “Man Church.”

“It’s not a political problem; it’s not a religious problem; it’s not a socioeconomic problem — it’s a man problem,” Mike Bartee, Pastor of Development, told WWJ Newsradio 950′s Brooke Allen.

Bartee said there will be no singing, and the evening service will be fast-paced.

“Man church is designed for guys, by guys,” Bartee explained.

“We’re gonna start on time, so we’ll be in and out,” Bartee said. “It’s a half-hour of teaching, and it’s 45 minutes of what we call table talk. So, it’s groups of guys, eight at a table, and they’ll be discussing some pretty hard questions about the teaching.”

“This ain’t your grandma’s church,” he added.

This ain’t your grandma’s story, either. At least not my grandma. She would have insisted that some other viewpoint be represented in the name of good reporting. No women are quoted, and no men are, either, to offer a perspective on whether excluding females from gatherings is a positive move for society.

The Free Press touches on the reasons organizers say the church is necessary — two of those involving women:

The program will involve mentoring of boys and helping single mothers, but the broader idea is to change a culture that doesn’t always value responsibility and mature men. In the city of Detroit, about three out of four children grow up in single-parent homes.

Connection is a Pentecostal congregation with about 1,500 people attending Sunday services on average. But the Man Church program is open to all men. It’s part of several programs that churches in metro Detroit and the U.S. have set up to address the issue of men going to church; women often outnumber men during Sunday services at some churches. During tonight’s program, Bartee will discuss the 2004 book “Why Men Hate Going to Church.”

So the way to create culture change is to allow men to gather for teaching and worship and exclude their children and families in the process? I wish that question had been in the reporter’s notebook.

Here’s another: Why do women outnumber men in churches? And are they threatening them somehow, some way?

I had to find the referenced other churches on my own — the Detroit-area coverage didn’t cite any by name.

The ones I found in Rockwall, Texas, and Chandler, Ariz., had testosterone-fueled websites. The Lake Pointe Church location in Texas bills itself as “Extra Stout” and serves up burgers and “manly speakers” during its Wednesday night assemblies. I didn’t find any press on this one.

Nor did I find any coverage of the Arizona locations in Chandler and some place called SanTan. (A deeper search found this facility is located on San Tan Hills Drive in the city of Queen Creek. Guess that female monarchy part wouldn’t have looked good at all in the header!) The church’s online presence bills the worship time as “Straight forward relevant topics around the challenges facing men today — not like any other church you have seen. This ain’t your mamma’s church!”

I could go either way with this trend: Let’s see stories done right with some thoughtful coverage on the implications and execution, or let’s hope this show runs its course quickly and fades into history.

Aaaaaruuuuuuuph.

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About Tamie Ross

Tamie Ross is a wife, mom, writer and all-around crazy-about-life girl now battling autoimmune disease. Her 20-year journalism career included stints as religion editor for The Oklahoman, online editor for The Christian Chronicle and freelancer for clients ranging from The Associated Press to United Methodist News Service. She has won state and national awards for her personal columns and editorials.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Well, considering my grandmother was the one who taught me my religion, and my mother was able to do a man’s work on a farm, I don’t think either of them would be too impressed by these ‘churches’.

    However, it appears from deeper in the stories that these are not churches as such, but ministries or programmes run by what I presume are more mainstream church groups that have the ordinary Sunday morning mixed services.

    What intrigues me, and what doesn’t seem to be covered in any of these reports, is what are they doing in ‘Man Church’? Are they learning more about religion, or deepening their faith, or is it instead a series of lectures about personal development and responsibility?

    The distinction isn’t made clear, but it’s vital: using (say) Joshua as an example of ‘How to Become an Effective Leader’ is a very different thing to preaching on the role of Joshua in salvation history. If they’re teaching men to be ‘better’ workers/bosses/members of the community/parents/spouses/children, then great, but that is not the same thing as teaching them to be better Christians and developing a spiritual life – and that’s what would worry me.

    There’s nothing there to say that men who complete this seven-week or however long it is course would then go on to change their habits about attending worship services, so you could still have “women often outnumber(ing) men during Sunday services at some churches” and indeed, I could see it actually reducing the number of men who turn up on Sunday morning – after all, if they’re getting their dose of ‘church’ on Tuesday night without all that tedious technical ‘religion’ stuff, why bother?

  • Kevin

    At least the reporter stuck to the facts, however few in this extremely short piece, rather than use ‘reporting’ as a front for pushing their own opinions and biases or for ridicule.
    Which can’t be said for your reaction to it.

  • Zach W. Lorton

    As a married man, my wife is always encouraging me to seek out connection with other like-minded guys, partially so that we can build each other up, but also because she knows me. She knows that I’m a loner and act like an island more often than I should, and that takes my focus off the world around me and keeps it on myself. Not a good thing.

    Today’s churches, on the whole, are FAR too feminine for most men to be comfortable in. A lot of men’s groups, at least in some churches, spend time doing a lot of touchy-feely, tell-me-your-innermost-desires-and-needs type thing. While I believe there’s a time and place for that, it’s not most guys’ default status. Once a man experiences the love of God in his life, and sees the change that it makes in him, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotionalism of it. But men who haven’t experienced that look at it as foreign, and look at other guys who practice that all the time as freaks.

    Men like to DO things. Great men’s ministries get together to give of their time and resources to do things for others that have need. Perform oil changes, patch a roof, hang drywall, run wiring, fix a parking lot, perform some landscaping, etc. When guys come together as a team to get something accomplished, it bonds them through the experience. Men need two important things from churches:

    1) Something to do and the empowerment to do it.

    2) Teaching on what being a responsible man of God really means.
    Interpersonal connection is great, but men need to be taught how to live responsibly first and foremost.

  • BC

    If you want some ideas on why women outnumber men (and which churches have more equal numbers), see David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” http://churchformen.com


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