Men, Young Men, Masculinity
Men, Young Men, Masculinity

Masculinity Think Tank Update

by Natalie Collins January 23, 2019 A

We met for the most recent Masculinity Think Tank in mid-January at The Wren in London.  It was a cold day, and there were four of us.  Discussions moved swiftly from child development, Queer Eye and the accusations against R Kelly.  Here are some thoughts from Mark, Mike and Matt:

I’ve found myself reflecting on fabricated yet powerful testimonies that, whilst bringing people to Christ have, over time, turned out to be false. The two we mentioned were those of Tony Anthony (author of Taming the Tiger) and Michael Guglielmucci (behind the Hillsong song ‘Healer’) both of whom had powerful testimonies that turned out to be false.

The key parts of our discussion around this topic at the Masculinity Think Tank were about:

  1. Does God still work through false testimony?

Whilst we don’t have all the answers and don’t fully understand God there is a bigger question of who God works through and whether God can (or if He chooses to) speak to people through fabricated stories of faith?

  1. What happens to those who come to faith as a result of false testimonies?

This seems to be a question around supporting people in an ongoing journey of discipleship beyond a ‘conversion moment’ so that their faith is rooted in Christ and not simply hanging upon their conversion experience.

It was good to meet up, and I enjoyed the wide-ranging discussion which included parenting styles and how much pressure (or freedom) different parents exert on their male children to be ‘manly’ – whatever that means in this post-Gillette advert world.

We talked around the concept of ‘man time’ (e.g. football with the guys from church or ‘generic church men’s ministry group breakfast’) and the peer pressure felt if a man stops participating in ‘man time’ activities as a result of him starting a new relationship and preferring to spend time with his wife/partner.

At least two people in the group recounted times this had happened.  This led on to changing room etiquette ‘do you check out/compare physical attributes of other men – what is an acceptable time frame – a couple of seconds glance or detailed mental note-taking leer?’  We then explored some stereotypes about men.  There was good coffee, too. 

Richard Rohr, in his book ‘Falling Upward’ and his daily devotional ‘The Spring Within Us’, suggests that it is ‘easier’ to raise children ‘conservative or traditional’. Rohr argues that children need stability, security and a strong sense of self. He refers to how ten-year-olds fiercely guard the rules of their game, “We cannot flourish early in life inside a totally open field. Children need a good degree of order, predictability, and coherence to grow up well.”

By the time we reach adulthood we learn that boundaries can be opened up, and we get to play in the whole field.

How do we apply this to our thinking around faith formation with young people? We discussed how Rohr’s thinking applies to the way we teach children the foundations of faith. ‘Sunday school’ teaches the building blocks of faith – the key stories and doctrines – creating a structured view of faith.

But as children mature, as youth workers, we need to create an environment where they ‘get to play in the whole field’. Rob Bell argues in ‘Velvet Elvis’ that we need to see the building block of faith more like springs in a trampoline than as bricks built up into a tall tower. Springs in a trampoline, he says, can be bent out of shape, and in some instances on can even be removed, and the trampoline will still be functional.

If too many bricks in a wall are damaged, or removed, the whole wall crashes to the ground. How can we create an environment where this is possible in our youth ministry?

If you enjoyed reading this, you can find more thoughts on Gender and Masculinity here