A Mandate for Man Dates: Figuring out Masculinity in the church

My friend Chase posted this article on a term I started using about four years ago – the Man Date, or Dude Date.  The authors claim to have invented it; obviously they haven’t been hanging around me.

They should get out more. 🙂

I ask male students on “man dates” for a living.  It’s awkward.  What do most young men think when a campus minister like me asks them to grab a bite or coffee?  Exactly.  Awkward turtle.

Typically my day involves some sort of “man date.”  We can dress it up spiritually and call it discipleship, or if you are hip and postmodern you can call it “spiritual formation.”


But it’s just not normal until I have explained it to most guys and they eventually get it.  Then I tell them to have man dates as well, and they realize how awkward it is in our culture.  Eventually they get it.

Tomorrow I’m doing something that I have considered for a long time, but now just finally am doing it.  We’re launching the first men’s ministry with InterVarsity at Northwestern with an event called, “Dude Food.”

Why launch a men’s ministry?

I have thought about this a lot over the years.  I lean on the egalitarian perspective rather than complementarian in scripture – although I’m typically an equal opportunity offender.  I can argue either way if you want me to, and I bet I’ll win.  I know both sets of scriptures, and read books from both sides of the issue, and my conclusion is that both positions can be justified biblically.  I choose one because I believe in God’s purposes of redemption include the junk of our genders, and that the gifts he gives for the sake of the church aren’t specified by gender.

[Besides, anyone who says women shouldn’t lead in the church has neglected to observe that without women “serving,” (that’s Jesus’ code word for leading, by the way,) 99.6% of our churches wouldn’t run.  To be honest, if as much energy was put into developing young men as there is writing about this issue, I don’t think we’d be the position we are in: a lack of young male leaders in the church.]

Why do we lack male leaders?  Why do all campus ministries ask the question, “where are the men?”

I’ve swam in several Christian Communities over the years, and I’ve made several observations that answer the question, “Where are the men?”  I know that women often feel a double standard in this – that men are able to lead because they just decide to show up, and that is wrong. I hope to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem in this.

But the problem is that less and less men are showing up – and that’s bad for both genders.  Why don’t men show up?

1. We are misjudged. I’m smarter than I look – it isn’t hard. And I know when I enter a church I get this feeling that I’m being labeled as one of four things: a potential husband, a project to fix, a patriarch for the young boys in the church, or a predator trying to pick up chicks.  And I’ll be honest – I know men who are like each of these four “P’s.”

Now, we need potential husbands for women and patriarchs for our young boys.  And men do have their issues that need to be fixed – but we are more than our issues, and women would be advised not to take on projects as boyfriends.

[The predators I could do without.  They are just creepy.  If my sister was still single and dated one, I’d probably want to beat the crap out of him – in the name of Jesus, that is.  I confronted on playa in a church as he worked his way through the circuit once and just said that needed to stop.  He didn’t like me very much.]

But all in all, we need to be seen as persons in need of real relationships that go beyond sports scores and superficiality.  More men I know need this than ever, but they don’t have a venue that understands them well enough to engage them in it.  Why?  That leads to number 2.

2. We are misunderstood. Most young men have to deal with some level of anger in their lives.  And while I understand both women and men have to deal with anger, but men’s anger is considered dangerous – because sometimes it actually is.  Especially in the Christian community where we are expected to be “nice guys.”  And nice guys don’t get angry.

Ever listen to the music most young men listen to?  I don’t care what genre you pull from, I bet you that at least half of the demographic deals with anger (or sex…but that is another topic for another time.)  From hip-hop to hard rock, you’ll see that many young men are working out some kind of anger.

Why are video games so popular among young men?  We get to work out our anger, and often times we do so in a way where we shoot something and win.  It’s the same with sports – they are controlled safe place that can be mastered as opposed to the uncontrolled world around us.  And that world of uncertainty and messiness stresses us out.

But unlike women, who are more developed relationally, the stress from our lives is only compounded through out inability to connect with other men – as evidenced by the uncomfortableness of the “man date.”  So where does that leave us?  Number 3.

3. We don’t feel like we belong. When we walk into a church or a fellowship, sitting in a circle talking about our feelings is not exactly what we are looking for.  I have learned to do this because this is what it takes to be heard in a Christian community, but it is certainly learned behavior.

When I was growing up, and if I hurt something, I can still hear the adage from my coaches in my head, “Rub some dirt on it and you’ll be fine.”  Many of us were taught that when something hurts, you suck it up and deal, ignore the pain, and get back out there.  When other people start talking about their pain in life, which is a very common occurence in the church (and should be), men’s natural inclination is to either flee or tell others to fix the problem – rub some dirt on it – both of which are not really accepted in the church, and for good reasons.

But most of us don’t know another way…until we are taught.

This is why I’m trying to figure out a new way of doing ministry to men – enacting a mandate for man dates, if you will. I’ll take suggestions, if you have them.

I mean, if it can work for Fight Club, it can work in the Kingdom, right?

1 Response to “A Mandate for Man Dates: Figuring out Masculinity in the church”

  1. 1 Chase W September 18, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Nice post, Andy. The four P’s is funny…of course that because its so true.

    I’m fine with man dating as long as it serves a mutually understood purpose. Spiritual formation is a good one. Crisis management would be another. So is having a conversation with an old friend who you don’t see so often. Blind (or nearly blind) man dating just for the sake of going on a man date is what I don’t go for. Some dude you met once or twice wants a relationship to take off from a man date. Turning down a man date can be harder than the romantic date I think. I mean in some respects philos love is more awkward to turn down than eros love. But still, it kind of makes you appreciate what women must go through.

    Good luck with the men’s group. I think its great idea.

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September 2008

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