International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day today – so why is Christian Vision for Men highlighting this?

In lots of spheres across the world, people are working for equal opportunities for men and women. CVM is involved in this too…

The problems

The current average gender ratio in the UK Church is 1 man : 2 women (1).

How does this affect ALL Christians?

  • For men: there’s a massive need for more effective evangelism, discipleship and ways of doing church
  • For women: for half of them in the church (over 2 million), Christian marriage is NOT an option → the choice is… stay single and childless, or marry a non-Christian.
  • For children/young people: spiritual fatherlessness → only 11% of grand-children of members of today’s church’s will have a Christian father & mother if current trends continue (2)

The church needs to be reaching men and women equally effectively.
The church also needs to ensure that Christian women and men have equal opportunities to marry someone who shares their faith. At the moment, that’s not possible for half of all Christian women, which is something that most of the church isn’t really aware of.

CVM is a key part of the ENGAGE network (Nathan Blackaby CEO of CVM is the Co-Chair), which is about ‘making Christian marriage possible’. Please note: that’s ‘possible’ not ‘compulsory’! Biblically, singleness is good, and marriage is good. If people want to remain single, and that desire is coming from a place of emotional wholeness – great!
At the same time we know that

At the same time we know that

  • if a Christian gets married, it’s best if they marry another Christian – from biblical teaching (1 Cor 7.39 ; 2 Cor 6.14) and research by the Evangelical Alliance (3)
  • research shows that most Christians want to marry another Christian (4)

Consequences

Singleness

  • 61% of Christians under 35 are single (3). The church gender imbalance (not enough men) plus societal influences (marriage decline) means there are currently more single Christians than married.
  • ‘Spiritual re-framing’: the resulting singleness is too often simply deemed ‘a God-given gift’ whether wanted or unwanted, with no further questions asked, and single people are often told ‘just be content, and God will bring the right person along’.

Dating

  • Dating frequency amongst UK Christians is very low.
  • 54% of single Christians haven’t dated for at least a year and for some it is actually many years since they last went on a date. There are also identifiable unhealthy psycho-social dynamics between single men and single women in the church (4).
  • There’s a massive need for more teaching about healthy Christian dating in the UK church.

 For women

  • The choice: effectively it narrows down to single and childless or marry a non-Christian.
  • Reconciling the suffering of unwanted singleness and childlessness resulting from faithful sacrifice, with a God of love, is a massive challenge for many single Christian women.
  • Infertility: The agony of unwanted childlessness is rarely recognised within the church for married couples, let alone for single people, and there is very little effective support available from Christian networks.
  • The needs of Christian women (who may have become Christians after marriage) who are married to non-Christians are often ignored.

For men

  • There’s a massive need for more effective evangelism, discipleship and ways of doing church – and CVM are in the forefront of pioneering this.
  • Christian men are not good at intentionally discipling their mates regarding the whole area of relationships with women.
  • Research shows that single Christian men are often passive in their relationships with women (4). There is generally less of a need to be mature, responsible and committed in forming/developing relationships. Many are paralysed by choice or anxious about being proactive.

For children and young people

  • Fewer children are now born to Christians in the first place (more Christian women are not having children because they are single).
  • Spiritual fatherlessness: the lack of men in church means that fewer are able to learn from older male role models, or see healthy Christian relationships and marriages modelled.

For mixed marriages (one spouse is a Christian and the other isn’t)

  • Women are more often the Christian partner in a marriage where a Christian is married to a non-Christian: 32% women compared to 13% men. (3)
  • And yet according to research “Having a Christian spouse is a significant factor for a happy marriage. Over 90% of Christian couples expressed happiness with their marriage, while only 66% of those in a mixed marriage did so”. (3)

Christian marriage in the future

  • If trends don’t change, only 11% of grand-children of members of today’s church’s will have a Christian father & mother (2)

The solutions

The ENGAGE vision

“To make singleness or marriage a genuine choice for all Christian women and men, through a church which is gender-balanced and teaches about healthy Christian singleness, dating and marriage.”

For the purposes of Engage, “Christian marriage” is everything a marriage between a Christian man and Christian woman can potentially be, when God is at its centre.

The ENGAGE network

  • Is a national network of Christian organisations and relevant ministries, including CVM, Evangelical Alliance, Holy Trinity Brompton, Christian Connection, SingleChristians.co.uk, Romance Academy (for young people) and others
  • Raises awareness of the issues for young people and adults
  • Brings experts together to find and implement solutions
  • Works to connect men to Jesus and the church to men
  • Promotes teaching about healthy Christian singleness, dating, relationships, marriage and parenting
  • Takes a balanced approach to support children/young people, women and men

Get involved!

For individuals, churches and national organisations

  • Pray for change
  • See our website engage-mcmp.org.uk for lots of resources to use about healthy Christian singleness, dating/relationships, marriage, young people’s relationships, men’s ministry and lots more
  • Sign up for our news/resources email
  • Get in touch via the ENGAGE website and like/follow us on Facebook

The FAQ

If we promote men’s ministry, won’t people think we’re discriminating against women?

ENGAGE is often asked a variation of this question, and here are some of our thoughts…

We think men and women in the church should equally honour and encourage one another in all our varied lives and ministries.

Neither CVM nor ENGAGE partners want women to be discriminated against, but at the moment, one of the biggest ways that church is discriminating against women is by it not being possible for all those that want to get married to a Christian and have children to do so. That’s injustice. That’s what is causing heartache for many, many Christian women (particularly those aged 30/35+). That’s what we’re working to overcome.

So…

  • Do single Christian women want there to be more men in the church so that, like Christian men, they have a genuine choice about whether they one day marry a Christian and have children? Yes.
  • Do Christian women married to a non-Christian husband want him to come to faith? Yes.
  • Do Christian women married to a Christian husband want him to grow in his faith? Yes.

Interestingly, a well-respected national Christian female leader recently said (unprompted, and not to someone from CVM) “I’m an egalitarian feminist, and when Christian women are talking to me about the lack of men in church, I tell them to support Christian Vision for Men.”

When we see the reality of the gender imbalance, we can see that promoting effective men’s ministry doesn’t mean discriminating against women or promoting stereotypes. Quite the opposite in fact. And obviously, men should be promoting women’s ministry too!

The International Women’s Day 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange – so join ENGAGE, CVM and our friends in boldly making a difference for Christian women!

Annabel Clarke

Chartered Psychologist / ENGAGE Co-Chair

 

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