Reaching men in St Ives, Part 4

Two weeks ago I posted the intro of a new series of posts, which is about a study that I had recently done for an assignment at college. This is the fourth post in the series.

This fourth and final post will speak about some of the implications for ministering to this sub-culture.

Ministry Implications

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.

Conclusion
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.

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