Men's study shows commitment, need for growth

10/2/2007

By Andrew J. Schleicher
United Methodist News Service

NASHVILLE — United Methodist men are committed to the church but lack close male support, a new report says.

The Study of Men report was conducted by the Commission on United Methodist Men and will be submitted to the 2008 General Conference, the top legislative body of the denomination. The study was undertaken at the request of the 2004 General Conference.

The report is based on a survey of 1,350 people of similar demographics to the total number of men in The United Methodist Church. The results were presented by Gil Hanke, commission president, during the board's Sept. 15-16 meeting.

The commission oversees the work of men's ministry throughout The United Methodist Church. United Methodist Men has approximately 239,000 members in the United States in a denomination with about 8 million U.S. members.

Among the report's findings, 86.5 percent of respondents attend church almost every week, with 65 percent in small groups or a men's program. Half of those surveyed said they had a strong connection to their congregation that is growing stronger. An additional 26 percent felt as connected to their church as they did in the previous year. Reflecting on a personal spiritual life, 75 percent said they use a devotional at least several times a week.

In consideration of their families of origin, 76 percent of respondents said their fathers were "somewhat" or "very" religious. Also, 42.6 percent said their fathers attended church once a month or less.

While only United Methodist members were surveyed, the respondents thought a "lack of interest in religion" was the top reason the church does not reach as many younger men. "Societal emphasis on individualism/materialism" and "distrust of organized religion" also were widely held beliefs regarding this struggle.

"Only 27.2 percent of the men have a close male friend that knows or supports them," the report states. "The reviewers felt that if a majority of men have difficulty establishing and maintaining a heart-level relationship with another man, a majority would also have difficulty with a heart-level relationship with God." Sixty-eight percent of the respondents also said that the senior pastor could do more to support men in the congregation.

In the months leading up to the 2008 General Conference, the Commission on United Methodist Men will organize a think tank selected by Hanke and the Rev. David Adams, top staff executive, to reflect further on the study and report. The results of the think tank will be published and made available to the church.