Two of the largest Christian ministries in the UK have entered into a 10-year partnership with the vision of seeing one million men engage with the Church by 2024.
Christian Vision for Men (CVM) and Premier Christian Media will be collaborating on campaigns to engage men with the good news of Jesus, encouraging churches to set up men's groups and make the ordinary man feel more welcome.
Carl Beech, director of CVM, will become a media spokesperson on men's ministry within Premier and a 2,000 seater Men's event is being planned to take place in central London in 2015.
"It is well known that men seem to require more time to respond to the Christian message than women and take an average five years to come to a position of faith after first hearing the Gospel," says Peter Kerridge, chief executive of Premier Christian Media.
"We believe that Premier is in a unique position to be able to lend promotional support to CVM's ongoing activities to speed the process of bringing the Gospel to men across the UK. The Church desperately needs to engage in a more positive way with men, many of whom who are currently feeling alienated from Church structures."
Beech has said he is "delighted" to partner with PCM in this new mission: "The spiritual make-up of this country has changed dramatically during the past two decades and we believe that evangelism to men needs to be long-term and persistent, with friendship as a priority.
"This is a significant partnership and we believe that by uniting together, we will see many men engage with the Christian faith in the years ahead."
Carl spoke with Christian Today on the joint venture and his belief that the Church needs to act now if it is to reach out to men.
CT: What's your vision at CVM?
CB: We're an evangelistic movement passionate about making Jesus known to men. We work in the UK as well as in 16 other countries around the world, and we do that by running small groups, events, training and providing resources. Our vision is connecting men to Jesus and the Church to men; that's our big thing.
CT: Why aren't churches attracting men?
CB: It's a massive issue and a huge question. I think that the style of leadership, discipleship patterns, the sort of gospel message that we're communicating, worship styles and engagement with real life from the pulpit are all massive issues. I don't call it the feminisation of the Church because that's a bit loaded, but some of the issues I call the romanticisation of the Church.
I think the problem is the sort of men that we're putting into leadership and the sort of training we're giving them. If you open the average church bulletin, most activities you see there are for women and children. Most of the people we pray for on a Sunday are the sick, the women's group, the children's group, the Bible study or those in the caring professions like teachers and doctors, so the message is that this isn't a place for ordinary blokes. I think pastors are locked into a particular mode of the way they do their job and the kind of things they are excited about, which isn't what men are facing at work Monday to Friday, so I just think there's some disconnect taking place there.
CT: You've criticised the 'Jesus is my boyfriend' approach in the past, have we softened Jesus?
CB: Yeah, massively, again I'll put it under the label of romanticisation. I wrote a blog called Jesus is my boyfriend where I talk about that in detail. We don't say that blokes aren't sensitive and don't have emotions, we're more balanced than that, but there is some serious stuff we need to look at.
CT: How are you hoping to build more connections between men and the church through this partnership with PCM?
CB: It's a bigger platform, and when two organisations come together and join forces you can do more, so it's very exciting! We're looking at using more mediums – the airwaves, magazines, blogs, podcasting, events – in collaboration, hopefully to raise more awareness of what we're doing so we'll see more men's groups formed as a result.
CT: Tell us about your new four level evangelism model for men [stage one: events or activities with zero Christian content. Stage two: an event with a Christian speaker – perhaps breakfast, lunch or a fish 'n chip supper. Stage three: men informally discuss and debate Christianity. Stage four: ensure that interested men are 'plugged-in' to a community which keeps them "gripped and excited" by the message of Jesus.]
CB: It's a Sewing, Reaping, Keeping model really, so it's firstly helping blokes actually make friendships, which is a big challenge, outside of church circles. Then we need to find the perfect way to share the gospel, and then help them unpack it more, and then we need bloke-friendly churches. So it's a long-term sustained programme; it takes on average five years for a bloke to come to faith from the point of first hearing the gospel. This model understands that, and understands that men really form relationships in the context of activity rather than sitting around tables chatting, so it examines all of that in quite a lot of detail. We've got a DVD and do loads of training on it up and down the country.
CT: How have you seen changes as a result of your ministry at CVM?
CB: People are becoming aware of the issue, and we've seen churches putting in sustained effective programmes of evangelism, and we've seen churches grow as a result as men come to faith. It's a long-haul job, but we've seen some real fruit over the years.
CT: How can churches respond to your vision?
CB: Again, massive question! We say that churches need to work at this kind of thing in a sustained way for a couple of years, but you have to stay healthy for women and kids too, obviously. It's got to be a journey, and men's ministry has to be in the core of the church's life, not just a bolt-on to give blokes an outlet.
The thing is, the Church is 65 per cent female - so you either come to the conclusion that God loves women more, or something's gone wrong. We believe that something's gone wrong.