Let’s be honest. Nobody cares. Nobody really wants to provide spirituality services to heterosexual white males. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, while white males dominate spiritual leadership, they are among the most under served spiritual consumers. Think about it for just a moment. We regularly see advertisements for every demographic imaginable from spiritual providers – except white males. There are groups, retreats, Bible studies, book studies, discussion groups, classes, and just about anything else you could think of for women, women of color, people of color, LBGTQ community members, people with addictions of every type and stripe, newly divorced women, women who have been abused, and on and on.
Worse yet, there is rarely an effort made to reach out to men in a way that might hold meaning for them. Telling most men that we are going to get together to hold hands, pray, sing, maybe do some proscribed hand gestures while we sing, and then talk about our feelings, is a huge non-starter. In fact, it would take a lot of effort to come up with a bigger non-starter. Why does this happen? I want to suggest that it happens because while men fill most of the leadership positions in spiritual organizations, women hold most of the programming positions – and their skill set isn’t really suited to doing the kinds of things that might reach men in spiritual need. That’s not intended to be a criticism of anyone. With notable exceptions, the reason you wouldn’t want a man in charge of the knitting circles at the local church is that same reason you don’t want women in charge of the Friday morning men’s breakfast.
I want to say quite clearly that both of those situations need to change, but in the short term we might want to make some temporary changes to how we think about our programming.
Somewhere along the way, spiritual organizations started programming for what I am going to call niche markets. The had learned that spirituality isn’t a one size fits all undertaking, which was important. They failed to realize that if an organization only offers specific programming then large groups of their constituents are going to be missed. Every organization needs to offer regular opportunities for people to come together and say what they need. I promise you that if you have an organization that includes people with children, you need to be offering fathering classes regularly. Parenting classes are essential as well. You also should offer classes that help men identify ways to seek validation other than their employment. Groups of men who mentor other men are essential, too. We need to get our men in touch with their feelings and able to share them, but we need to do it in a way that won’t scare them off before we get started.
Why? Why should we care about men’s spirituality? We need to care about men’s spirituality because a man’s spiritual state impacts his entire family, and beyond. That means you, too.