Monday, June 19, 2006

Men - Go Crazy!

It’s still the men who are REALLY interested. It has reached a mass male and female audience for the first time as shown by the endless stream of merchandise from pushchairs to tents, but most women can take or leave football. It’s the men who drive the fever, the passion and the wall to wall media coverage. Them, and the kids. For many kids football is the only thing that they see their dads and their dad’s mates get really excited about. Kids love adults getting excited about things – most of the time they are so sensible and boring: “stop running around, be quiet, calm down, I’m trying to have a snooze”. When the football comes on kids are encouraged to shout and wave their flags and jump up and down.

We are role models to the kids around us whether we like it or not and whether we’re parents or not. The only question is what kind of role model we’re going to be. Both genders can be role models to all children, but because boys and girls (to state the obvious to anyone who has any contact with kids) are very different, boys need male role models and girls need female role models.

There have been rumblings over the last fortnight about the ‘feminisation’ of school – the curriculum now suits girls’ style of learning and teachers, especially in primary schools are overwhelmingly female. Therefore, boys, so the argument goes, are bound to underachieve, because the system is weighted against them. What we need is a curriculum that boys can learn through as well, especially in secondary school. In Australia, although boys are behind the girls in the same way as in this country in more academic subjects, they aren’t seen as struggling because of the emphasis put on sport. More hands on learning is needed through apprenticeships and other work which provide a context where older men can garner respect and therefore authority over male teenagers. Before we go any further, let me be clear: there are multiple masculinities and some boys will always excel in the school system and society, but we can’t deny that there is a problem in the way that boys are growing up, coping in schools and maturing just for the sake of political correctness.

There is a stereotype that churches are ‘feminised’ domains too. In this stereotype a few older, weak in character, possibly gay men are in charge of a female congregation who prefer flowers, hymns and touchy feely emotions where everyone is terribly nice to each other. Like all stereotypes, this one contains some truth for some churches, but is far from always being the case. The Frontline Church in Liverpool, amongst many others exhibits a great model of Christian masculinity. Men play stupid, physical, games with each other, are highly competitive and are also demonstrably passionate about God. The church meets in single sex cell groups of up to 12 people (guess where they got that idea?!) with mixed ages. Boys and younger men learn emotional literacy and character development through discipleship and being around older men. Men who show that they can love their wives, give each other a hug and cry whilst still jumping into a freezing cold river, owning five guitars or going ballistic at a football match.

The best thing about Frontline is that, although I’m sure they would be the first to say they’ve got loads to learn, they share what they’ve got. Every week they run a 'Kidz Klub’ for over 500 children with as many boys as girls, as many male leaders as female. It’s telling that it’s only possible to properly discipline and teach the kids when particular leaders have a strong relationship with them. This does happen cross gender, but especially as the boys get older it comes from men. Good relationships beget respect and respect begets authority. It is in this environment that learning takes place. Jesus offers a great model of learning, mentoring and discipleship in the gospels. The church has a huge amount of tradition, learning and expertise that it can offer society when it comes to masculinity, male role models and mentoring relationships. Let’s freely give through our churches, projects, schools and time the good news that we have and show the next generation of boys and young men that we’re crazy about more than football.

This article was first published in a free monthly newsletter called 'IMPACT' run by the Christian Political Forum, which takes a thoughtful look at political issues and events. If you want to sign up email .

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