This fourth and final post will speak about some of the implications for ministering to this sub-culture.
For Christian Churches
The main implications that appear for Christian churches in St Ives is the issue that people in the sub-culture have a high level of denominational affiliation, but without the church attendance. Meaning that, a high proportion of people (41.6%) identify somewhat with the Anglican Church, but the church attendance at the Christ Church St Ives and St Ives Family Church do not even come close to this figure. The overall attendance of Christ Church could be identified as being closer to around 1,100 people.
The implication is that, those who are in the sub-culture who are not active Christians simply do not see it as being of much worth to them. Perhaps through their past experience of religious education, they feel affiliated with a particular Christian denomination but they feel that active participation in religion had a time and a place in their lives, and that time was in the past. Regarding this feeling came a few remarks from Richard, who feels like the religious education he received from Barker College taught him really good morals for how he should live his life. But apart from that, he never felt like he actually needed to become a Christian. So a solution for this would be to show the sub-culture the relevance of Christianity for their lives today. It would be effective to show them, it is not a thing of the past that taught them morals for how to live a comfortable and thought out life, but that Jesus is not really concerned with their morals, but more concerned with them accepting him as their Lord and Saviour.
Another barrier for this sub-culture could come from how Christianity is portrayed by the media; media that they are constantly consuming and basing their judgments on. An example of this came recently in the form of a tweet from a prominent Christian leader in Australia, Jim Wallace, the leader of the Australian Christian Lobby. His tweet, which was written on Anzac day said “[I] Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for — wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”. Even though he deleted the offending tweet and posted a retraction of the statement soon after, it still caused outrage within the Australian community, and was picked up by news agencies in Australia. Homosexuality is an issue that has been identified by younger demographics, but it could also have implications for the demographic covered in the study.
The individuals in this sub-culture are constantly basing their decisions on the things that they see and hear, and this is another area in which the Church needs to be attuned to when engaging with this culture. The Church, and the Christians in them, need to be ready to discuss and speak about these topics with individuals in this sub-culture. A failure to do this effectively could result in the Church being regarded as out of touch and unaware of what is happening in the world.
For Christian People
The implication for Christian people is for them to be making friends with the men in this sub-culture. This will mean going out of the Christian culture, and Christian structures to meet an engage with people. This might be a difficult thing to engage in because of time constraints, but this year the men in my church have been actively joining various, typically, secular organisations in the St Ives area in a hope of becoming genuine friends with men in the sub-culture. Real examples of these are.
- The P&C association of all the local public schools, in particular the school our church meets in, St Ives North Public School.
- The local Lions Club.
- The Local soccer team.
- Running the school féte during government elections.
Though there are plenty of other opportunities that present themselves, these four focus areas that our church has concentrated on have reaped returns for the kingdom. We have had numerous people, not just from this sub-culture, come to Christ through becoming friends with Christians in these groups. This exciting reality brings another implication for Christians. This implication is a pastoral one.
When someone from this sub-culture becomes a Christian, it is not just enough to leave him to be a Christian. These men have already lived large parts of their lives, and will probably have things that they now regret doing. This new guilt is mixed up with the new joy that they now feel because they are now one of God’s people. The more mature Christian person is in a good position to care for the younger Christian.
Another area of pastoral awareness that Christians should be aware of is the family of the man. This is especially relevant if the man has a non-believing partner, and even more complicated if they have children. The man will need support as he develops as a Christian, women in the church will need to get to know, and invest time into becoming friends with the wife, and the kid’s church leaders will need to welcome the children, and also introduce them to the same Jesus that their father has recently come to believe in.
During this study, I have been reminded of the importance of interacting with non-Christian people in this community. There are many ways that my Church is currently interacting quite well with the community around them, but there is always more work to be done. St Ives is a growing suburb, with new units being built all the time. Due to this, the suburb is facing a large culture shift. The hardest job of the Christian church will be to keep diversifying the way that they operate evangelistically in this change.
This third post will mostly speak about the education and the influence of religion of 6 men who I had the pleasure of interviewing for this study. Their names have been changed so that they remain anonymous, because of this I wont be able to post the complete interviews.
Education and Learning
The worldview of this sub-culture also highly values education and the pursuit of knowledge. This was observed in the high value that they place on providing a good education and opportunities for their children. Example of this were observed in the sending of their children to private high schools, providing after school tutoring for their children in the area of Mathematics and English, the importance placed on learning other languages and external music lessons with professional musicians. In the interviewees, this emphasis on education came directly out of their own experience of being educated, as 4 out of the 6 interviewees attended a private education institution.
Influence of religion
The influence of religion on this sub-culture is a large one, although there is no concrete information as to why this is the case. The clue comes in the form of identified religious affiliation in the 2006 census data. There are 4 main religious positions that people take in the suburb of St Ives; and unfortunately we have to examine the entire male population as there is no breakdown by age. The influence of Christianity is quite large in proportion to other religious groups in this sub- culture. In St Ives, 57.2% (3,912) of the male population identify themselves as having Christian affiliation. The other main groups are Judaism (14.2%) and no religious affiliation (16.3%).
With this large percentage of individuals indicating that they have Christian affiliation, you need to ask why this is so. Through my experience, there is nowhere near 50% of the male population walking through church doors each week.
The answer might come through the surrounding religious schools that surround the area. Within a 15 minute drive you can easily get to Barker College at Hornsby, Knox Grammar at Warrawee, and Covenant Christian School in Belrose. Not to mention the Catholic run, Brigidine Girls College, a high school, and Corpus Christi, a catholic primary school; both located in St Ives. These five schools are all Christian run, with Barker being Anglican, Knox being Uniting and Covenant being interdenominational, along with the two Catholic run schools.
This method could account for the high number of identifying Christians in St Ives, but where it runs into problems is when you break the numbers down from the large figure of 3,912. The Anglican and Catholic numbers are a lot more that you might anticipate when compared to the Uniting percentage.
The percentage breakdown is as follows.
- Anglican 41.6%
- Catholic 32.2%
- Uniting 9.8%
This second post will mostly speak about the worldview and hierarchy of 6 men who I had the pleasure of interviewing for this study. Their names have been changed so that they remain anonymous, because of this I wont be able to post the complete interviews.
The worldview of this sub-culture is as diverse as the people who make it up. The range of men that were interviewed made this evident with their different verbal responses. Another strong indicator of worldview, was how they go about living their lives.
In the interviews that were conducted, a theme of work being integral to their identity kept coming up for each of these men. But what was surprising to me was that it wasn’t just the work that they were doing that was important to them. The question of how they went about doing their work was also hugely important.
William and Richard are both from a working class background and therefore have a strong worldview and work ethic of success coming mostly from your own hard physical work. This is contrasted by the worldview of James, Tim and Anthony in which you gain success mostly through good decision-making. Completely different to these two groups is Tobias, who measures success, not by the possessions that he owns, but by the impact he has had on the world around him.
Ultimately, a prevailing worldview for this sub-culture could be described as an “improvement” worldview. This improvement worldview means that they are constantly striving to improve themselves and their achievements. This can be professional improvement or personal improvement, working towards their ideal job, or training for a marathon. Irrespective of area, they do these things with all their energy until it is completed. After completion, they will find something else to “succeed at”, and then work towards its fulfillment.
The hierarchy in this sub-culture could be easily classified into two different spheres of life. These two spheres could be thought of as being a Professional sphere, and a Social sphere.
In the professional sphere, the hierarchy is easily defined. In each work place there is a set hierarchy in place. This hierarchy is based on both or either, length of employment and the level of qualification attained by the individual. Individuals in this sub-culture like this system, because it gives them a framework for their self improvement worldview. It also gives them set achievements in which they can work towards.
The social sphere is a little more difficult to describe. While the sphere is still concerned with achieving success, there are many different interests and hobbies with each individual involved in the sub-culture. Outside of the professional sphere, individuals prefer to do away with the rigidity of their Monday to Friday work structures. This might be because of their desire to be involved in activities that they find enjoyment from; training for a marathon, attending football games, playing sport or just spending time with their immediate families. Ultimately they wish to have the freedom to enjoy these activities in a less rigid way than they are used to at work.
It has been a little while. Just over two weeks in fact. I didn’t die, and there isn’t anything wrong. Ive just been super busy with a few things.
Last week I preached at church on Genesis 11:1-9, about the city of babel. Another thing I have been doing has been a project for college titled “Reaching Men, aged 40-54, living in St Ives, with the message of Jesus Christ”. It was 3,300 words of analysis of the sub-culture, and how churches can reach these people with the gospel of Jesus.
This project is something that is close to my heart, and close to the heart of my church. I had a few people express interest in reading what I had come up with. So I thought I would share some of my findings over the next little while, but first I wanted to share some stats with you about this micro culture.
One of the problems that is encountered with using this census data, is that the last census was conducted in 2006. Seeing that there has been no new data collected since, this 2006 data is still the most reliable. The following data is not the only means by which this sub-culture can be analysed, but it also shows us a few important facts that we should be aware of.
- The median age of the suburb is 43.
- The overall population included in this sub-culture is 1,606 people.
- This figure of 1,606 is 23.5% of a total male population of 6,839, and 11% of a total population of 14,210.
- 55.5% of males living in St Ives were born in Australia, with the next two significant places of birth being South Africa at 11.7% and the United Kingdom at 8%.
I hope you will come back in the coming week to see more of my thoughts. And hopefully engage with them.