Female Missionaries Outnumber the Men
For every one man on the mission field, Nik Ripken sees seven women. In tough areas where safety is threatened, Nik explains, the ratio of women to men increases. Still, it’s a misconception that God calls more women to the mission field than men. What’s causing the gender disparity in male and female missionaries?
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Men Tend to Become Pastors
Many mission organizations actively recruit men and seek to address the gender imbalance in the mission field. Yet the underrepresentation of men in the mission field compared to women remains a complex issue. Nik suggests that men still view the pastor-teacher model as the most common and accepted form of full-time ministry:
Men who want to do ministry only have one model. If they want to do ministry full-time as a profession, and they want to have remuneration for that type of service, they only have the pastor-teacher model to fall back on.
Cultural and societal expectations around gender roles can play a significant role in shaping career choices and opportunities. American men may be expected to provide for their families through more traditional career paths, whereas women may have more freedom to pursue alternative career paths, including mission work.
Nik explains that Christian organizations inadvertently train American men to become pastors instead of missionaries:
In layman’s terms, they’ve never applied their trade. Where do you go to learn to be an evangelist and a church planter? You learn it on the streets… Monday through Friday. You learn it by your elders, deacons, and church staff going out and modeling how to plant a church through your home and how to worship in your home.
According to Nik, men need to learn these skills “on the streets” through practical experience and mentorship. Formal theological training and education can provide a strong foundation for ministry. However, men need the practical experience and modeling by more experienced mentors to develop the skills and perspective needed to effectively serve in a variety of ministry contexts.
Nik adds that men face additional challenges: a desire to climb the corporate ladder, anxiety of protecting the family, lack of trust in divine providence, and online temptations.
Churches Must Break Bread Together
Nik reminds us that church staff members should have personal relationships and share meals with one another before attempting to plant churches in foreign nations:
Most of the church staff have not shared meals in each other’s homes. In the American culture, I’ll give us an A+ for raising up and training the pastor-teacher. At best… a D- for raising up and training the evangelist church planter that Jesus was quoted to talk about.
It’s essential for the staff to build community and relationships within the church. The ability to work collaboratively and learn from one another is critical for effective ministry. Creating opportunities for relationship-building and mentorship should be a priority for churches seeking to equip men for a variety of ministry roles.