Beginning a Men's Ministry...

I remember nearly twenty years ago, sitting across the cafeteria table from my best friend during our freshman year of college. I argued with her, “I’m not telling you men are superior to women or that women aren’t equal in the eyes of God. We’re just gifted differently, and women weren’t meant to be pastors.  It’s not biblical…”

As a pastor's husband now, it's clear God has an ironic sense of humor.

As many of you know, my spiritual journey over the last decade or so has brought me far from my conservative, Evangelical roots. I have repented more than once for the ways my attitudes, beliefs and behaviors wounded others. But sometimes guilt leads us away from healthy engagement with the underlying geography of our past. Sometimes our pendulum swings too far, and we lose sight of where we’ve come from, and ignore important work left to do.

In the last two years, as I have explored what it means to be the father of a little boy, I find myself captivated and consumed by the question of what it means to be a man. In my desire to distance myself from whatever chauvinism or misogyny inhabited my mind before, I tried to distance myself from the particularities of manhood altogether.  

“After all, isn’t gender simply a social construct?  Aren’t we all the same, underneath?”

Watching my son each day, it’s hard to buy the idea that his behaviors and his personality are all largely socially constructed. Underneath whatever he’s observed and absorbed, there is something unequivocally male about him. And stating that idea makes me cringe: “What will you think? Will people assume I’m a sexist? Or insensitive to those who don’t identify with traditional gender identifiers? Is it anti-feminist to talk about maleness at all?” This tension is the natural result of a long history of patriarchy and narrow gender roles. But that shouldn’t prevent us from forging ahead in humility and hope.

The truth is that there are real differences between men and women, and all of us need resources and nourishment for our unique needs. Poet Robert Bly wrote, “where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be.” (Iron John) As I begin my final internship before completing my Masters of Divinity, am humbled and eager to begin exploring the wounds and the genius we carry as men, and help build a stronger, more authentic men's ministry at our local church.

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