Wanted: More men in church
Attend any church across Jamaica and there is one familiar sight that will greet you - women who always outnumber men in these services. In spite of the many outreach tried by some pastors, the paltry numbers of men gracing the churches tell its own story.
Although young boys will attend Sunday/Sabbath schools, the minute they touch their teenage years, they are happy to leave that particular habit behind.
Dr Patrece Charles, executive director, National Parenting Support Commission who was speaking in the first in the series of Family and Religion Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's Kingston offices last week, shed some light on the problem.
"My problem is I have three boys and my difficulty is getting them to maintain their interest in a stable place in church, they are bored. The way that the Church engaged me and my siblings - brothers also - is very different now as far as engaging 21st-century children," she said.
According to her, a different approach must be taken as the individuals who are in the church are likely to be saved.
"It's the ones who are outside of church that the Church needs to find. You are doing your job yes, but your job needs to extend now to the communities for those individuals who are on the corner and have no reason to walk through those doors because they are probably afraid that they going to explode," she said.
Gospel singer Jabez - a father of young boys himself, agreed that the Church is definitely facing a challenge when it comes to attracting young and older men.
He said even his sons complain when he takes them to church that they are bored. He compromises by allowing them to take their tablets giving them a half hour break when the boredom becomes unbearable.
"I don't think enough is being done (or) that we have the right tools and strategies to attract especially young men in the Church. I think pastors and leaders must sit together and find out what is lacking to get them more interested in church," he said. While acknowledging that the Church is a "spiritual place", Jabez said it needs to be wholesome in order to attract the younger set - specifically the men.
"As they grow up and reach teenage years, they stop going to church and focus on different stuff. We have to find ways to keep them enthused and interested. If we don't do that, sooner or later, the Church will comprise only young girls and women," he said.
The Drinking From My Saucer singer said churches that are thriving and have good participation of young men should share their programmes with other leaders as "now is not the time to be selfish ... . A nation is at peril so combine forces," he said.
He also said before any solution can be entertained, church leaders must find out what the problem is and his advice is for them to get into the schools, partake in devotions and speak to the young men, getting insight and using it to adjust their approach.
Joseph Emmanuel, singer and assistant parish youth director in the Church of God of Prophecy in Kingston and St Andrew said in his opinion that, collectively, as a church, enough is not being done to address the situation.
"However, there are individuals and specific groups and churches that are doing extremely well in this regard," he pointed out.
Emmanuel added: "Some churches are disconnected from the community - that is they are in the community, but are not actively involved in the lives of the young men. One fundamental principle of affiliation is relationship," he said.
According to Emmanuel, the Church is expecting young men to automatically want to come to Jesus without "getting out there" and "establishing significant relationships".
"The traditional mono-thematic approach of screaming down the pulpit loses its appeal for most young people who were not accustomed to that style of preaching. What is needed, rather, is not Bible study, but sessions that facilitate reasoning/conversation where young men can be properly and actively engaged," he said.
Observing that some of the fastest growing religions in the world feature reasoning or conversation as a key component of their religious activities, Emmanuel said it would not hurt to follow that formula in attracting potential new followers.
"As a Church, we must understand and adapt to the needs of the current generation, then improve our evangelical approach," the singer noted.