Looking After the Men in Your Congregation

Pastors, you are meant to help men to grow spiritually.

Because of our sin, it is very easy for men to become rivals. We see this in the first two brothers born into the world, Cain and Abel. Though they were brothers, Cain ended up murdering his brother (Gen 4:8). There was jealousy even between Jesus disciples (Mk 10:41). 

Self-centred church leaders can see other men, especially the gifted ones in their congregation, as a threat to them. They can therefore be less than helpful towards them. Leaders can seek to subdue other men, to diminish and boss them rather than help them grow. This can lead to a breakdown of relationships and terrible consequences for a church.

Family attitude

As he writes to Timothy, Paul counsels him concerning his attitude as a leader towards other people in the church. Concerning the men he has two things to say. 

First, ‘Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father’ (1 Tim 5:1). When an older man steps out of line it is tempting for an insecure leader to take the opportunity to deal severely with him in order to establish his own authority. But Paul says that is not the way to go. Rather, the leader is to entreat him to repent as if he were their father whom they love and respect. 

Secondly, Paul says to Timothy, who is himself a younger man, ‘Treat younger men as brothers’ (1 Tim 5:1). Calvin comments, ‘So when there is equality of age Paul asks us to display a spirit of brotherliness and to be gentle in our admonitions, so that none can take offence unless he is determined to vent his anger’.[1]

Notice that in all a leader’s dealings he is to have the attitude that the people of the church are his family whom he loves. Such love is particularly required in engaging with ordinary men these days, including Christians.

Men in the contemporary world 

The world has changed for men in recent years. Increasing numbers of males are struggling in one way or another. While elite men are still flourishing, men in general are not—especially poor men and black men.[2] In the USA, 3 out of 4 ‘deaths of despair’ are males—alcohol, drugs, suicide. For the UK, 74% of suicides are men.[3] Christian leader, many of the men you care for are finding things difficult, perhaps without you realising it. Pastor, you are meant, through your preaching and care, to bring the life and fruitfulness of God to these men. Do we understand where many men are these days?

Secularism, with its championing of the individual self, has inevitably set men and women against each other. Women have been abused. We should lament this and generally defend women’s rights. But so much has concern for women taken over the agenda that any idea that many men also might be suffering inequality is met with resistance. The liberals refuse to accept that gender inequality can run in both directions and label any male problems as symptomatic of ‘toxic masculinity’. Those of a traditional outlook are more sensitive to the troubles that men and boys are facing but think that everything can be put right if we turn the clock back to how society was 60 years ago—which is never going to happen. Neither response is helpful.

So, let’s think about how the world has changed for men—what is driving male distress? Three areas:


Boys don’t do so well as girls at school. In a private communication, an expert in education statistics explained to me that across all subjects, 2019 entries for GCSEs, 72% of girls achieved grade C or above (equivalent grade 4 now) compared to only 63% of boys. And the gap has been the same for basically 20 years. (What happens to that other 37% of boys?) Again, whereas in 1970 just 31% of Batchelor degrees went to women in Britain now it is 58%—outstripping men. 

What is going on here? Is it that boys have less incentive to work hard to get a good job these days? Is it, especially in the social media/celebrity age, that ‘success’ in life has so little to do with education—so boys don’t bother? Others think science shows that the crucial part of the brain (frontal cortex) for impulse control and planning, matures about 2 years later in boys than in girls—so we have got boys at school too early and they can’t make the most of it. Then they just get discouraged. So, maybe the system simply is better suited to girls. Whatever the reason, ordinary boys struggle. Do you care, pastor, about the boys who don’t do well at exam time?


The Western world has seen a move to deindustrialisation. But at the same time, there has been a failure to build an economy which creates enough well-paid jobs. In the workplace the occupations most susceptible to automation are those most likely to employ ordinary men. The statistics from the US are that ordinary men work at 70% of production occupations, 80% of transport occupations, 90% of construction occupations—very much in line for replacement by machines and AI robots. Muscular strength is no longer required. By contrast, women make up most of occupations relatively safe from automation—like health care, personal services, education, etc. Salaries have only increased for elite men. In real terms, ordinary men have lost 10% of their income since 1983. Are the elders aware of those men who are facing difficulties at work or getting work?


The male role in marriage has traditionally been defined in terms of being the provider—based on the economic dependence of the family on the male. But the family unit has long been under attack from secularism. That traditional role of father has been largely dismantled as many women gained economic independence and can run a family without a dad. And of course, egged on by a hedonistic godless society, many foolish men embrace the neglect of family—they see themselves as ‘single and free’. But it leaves them not knowing who they are. Previously men could essentially describe their role as ‘providing for my family’—it was a position of dignity and respect—but in wider society, that’s going or gone.

Also, being the provider for the family socialised men—they knew where they belonged. But once the family goes, that sense of home goes too. Divorced men, unless they remarry, are often very lonely. Ordinary young men, perhaps with average or lesser mental ability, become feral. They blame women for their low place in society—and they are wide open to finding their home in a gang. Young men will hear the message from the gang leader, ‘society doesn’t want you, but we do’. So, they find a home in crime and violence. And if boys are not like that, they turn in on themselves and play computer games all day.

Racial discrimination has often made all this worse for black men. Prejudice breeds suspicion. Here is a striking quote from a recent book on masculinity: ‘Effectively the job market in America regards black men who have never been criminals as though they were.’[4]

Church as a refuge for men

Can men find a home in your church? Can men regain proper confidence and self-respect in your church? They won’t regain it under an authoritarian pastors and elders who think their main job is to get their own way and boss people about rather than encouraging people and serving their growth. You will simply be another instrument of crushing these men. True male leadership? We are back to the pattern of the servant-hearted Lord Jesus Christ as our role model who grew his disciples to turn the world upside down (Mk 10:42-45).

[1] John Calvin, Sermons on 1 Timothy, trans. Robert White (Banner of Truth, 2018), 554. 

[2] See Richard V. Reeves, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling (Swift Press, 2022).

[3] Nick Timothy, ‘A crisis of masculinity imperils the foundations of the West’, Daily Telegraph, 30th April 2023.

[4] Reeves, Of Boys and Men, 55.