I have been aware for a long time that many of the spirituality and arts programs I am involved in tend to draw mostly women to them. Our Awakening the Creative Spirit program this year is 12 wonderful women (last year we had two great men participate out of 13 participants). Our Monthly Gatherings which average 15-20 tend to usually be all women.
I thought this was perhaps due to the combination of spirituality and the arts. I was very surprised when I started teaching at the School of Theology and Ministry this fall that out of my 29 students, only 4 are men. When I asked the class if this was the usual breakdown for Seattle U, I was told they were surprised to have that many men there. A curious phenomenon to me, because my class is required for all degree students, so it includes those seeking a Master of Divinity in addition to those pursuing degrees in spirituality or pastoral ministry.
I adore working with groups of women, but I also love the energy men bring to a group and wonder what would attract more men to these kinds of programs. I am beginning to wonder if we are experiencing a slow pendulum swing and in twenty years or so we will have men finding that church leadership and spirituality is too feminine and doesn’t reflect their experiences.
So this is a request to hear especially from men about participation in spirituality programs. Do you participate in retreats, classes, or workshops? What kinds of programs draw you? I know I have at least a few male readers like Ron, Antony, Jorge, and Rich (all of whom have wonderful blogs and worth a visit). I invite your feedback and other men out there reading this.
I also would love to hear from women if they have any ideas or insights about this as well.
Are you experiencing this imbalance of men and women in spirituality programs in your corner of the world as well?
-Christine Valters Paintner
I don’t have a good answer. While my pastor relates well to the blue-collar guys who make up a large portion of our demographic around here — he’s into cars and motorcycles and do-it-yourself mechanics, and he’s also a volunteer firefighter, and has drawn several families to our church through that — back when I belonged to a much different parish…large, highly educated (next door to a university) and affluent…we also had healthy gender parity. It may well be cultural…I grew up in a milieu where everyone, male or female, was expected to go to church, to go through religious instruction, to be engaged in the faith commuinty…but I’ve certainly met people in whose church culture church was considered “women’s work,” that manly men let the li’l woman attend to on behalf of the whole family while they went golfing or slept in. Go figure.
Greetings HPW, glad I could inspire something that has been brewing in you.
LC, it is good to hear of parishes like this! I wonder what is behind this dynamic. It reminds me of a lay ministry program I used to facilitate that was also predominantly women, two men out of ten participants. Perhaps some of this is deniminational and/or geographical.
Interestingly, my own parish is pretty much split 50/50 male-female…although the dynamic here is that the women take the initiative in matters of worship planning and leadership, while the men gravitate toward church council and physical labor in service to the church (we’re building a new addition, and saving money by trying to do as much work as possible by ourselves.) In my lay ministry program we have a few more men than women. So — sorry to the individual who seems to think that churches that practice gender equity drive men away, but it isn’t happening where I live.
What a great question! I am not the one to answer but this dovetails nicely with something I’ve been meaning to write about the death/dearth of Women’s Fellowships. Thanks for the prompt!