A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

No Girls Allowed: How Boys’ Clubs Form in Our Churches

Numbers 27:1-7 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.  And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them.

Men are men and women are women. The Lord created us male and female. This fallen world in rebellion against the Lord actively perverts sexuality, and that to mankind’s ruin. Sexual immorality of all kinds is to be rejected by every Christian. Clearly that is God’s will for us – our sanctification.

Yet there is another form of distortion when it comes to male and female, and we find this example not only in the world but in our churches. I call it the boys’ club. Most of us experienced it when we were kids. No girls allowed signs posted on the treehouse or bedroom door. To be fair, I think I have seen some no boys allowed signs too! There is an early rivalry between the sexes which gets even more complex when puberty hits.

We see examples of the boys’ club in the news and in this world every day. Recently of course you have seen it in all its ugliness in the NFL – Ray Rice and all that. Ray and his teammates, his buds and bros have been and remain an example (with a few exceptions) of maleness gone wrong. How are women spoken of in an NFL locker room? Probably the same way they are spoken of in college locker rooms and high school locker rooms. And if they get out of line, well, you take them down just like you do an opponent on the field. It’s easier than in a game though because there are no refs and no rules – and for the most part, as we have seen lately, no penalties.

Boys’ clubs, locker rooms, and the church.

This boys’ club/locker room mentality toward women is present in most local churches. It functions as a paradigm through which Scripture is filtered – and distorted. Men are men. Women are women. But this is equated with “men have privilege, women are inferior.” Following God is for men. Following men is for women. After all, men are the pastors, men are the elders, men do the praying, men are the husband/father priests of their families (or so goes this mentality).

Now, whatever your personal take is on what Scripture teaches us about the roles of men and women in the local church, some serious thinking on your part will reveal that the boys’ club most likely exists in your church. To a much greater extent in some than in others – but it is quite pervasive. In the church, men are primary and women are secondary. [We can’t get into the other side of this issue, i.e., when the girls’ club mentality crops up in a church. Some people think this is the solution to the boys’ club. It isn’t. Because remember, we are all – both male and female – born into this world as sinners. We all in our sinful flesh desire power and control for our own kind].

Common examples of the boys’ club are usually touted under such titles as “men’s retreat,” or “men’s ministry,” or “men for Christ,” or, well, “Promise Keepers.” There are many more such names I am sure. And the thing sounds good on the surface. Wives see their husbands off to these events praying and hoping that some miracle will take place there to transform their husband. What could be wrong with something so noble? I will tell you. They usually have a speaker – a man – who is supposed to be some walking, talking example of what a Christian saint should be. He’s a jock, or used to be. He pastors a “dynamic” church. His wife has written books and so has he. And he tells these men gathered there how to be men. How to be warriors. Courageous. How to be…well…just like him. How to hang with the guys in prayer groups.

Now, the more neurotic men, that is to say, men with a conscience and who sincerely want to follow Jesus Christ and love their wives and children, how do they come away from boys’ club meetings like this? I can tell you. I am a neurotic. They come away feeling defeated. “How can I ever measure up to that? I never was any good at athletics. My company, my church, my career isn’t blossoming like that guy’s is.” So he goes home defeated and feeling condemned.

But then there are men who leave such events “empowered.” Oh yeah. The Spirit of the Lord has come to them. They have a role now and they gladly step up to the plate. The problem is, the role as they see it is a complete distortion of Scripture. For this kind, it is about power and control over women.  It is about guys being guys and women, well they better learn what God says about being women. Somehow, “husbands love your wives” gets tweaked in this boys’ club climate and in the mind of this latter kind of man. God’s Word gets morphed into some mutation of truth that exalts the man over the woman.

I don’t like men’s ministries for the most part. What I have found as a pastor in the last decade or so is that because Scripture presents both men and women as Christians, full heirs of the promise in Christ, my ministry to them is really the same. I teach both men and women (and young people as well) with the realization that they all need the same thing – God’s Word. I don’t teach our women’s study some simple, shallow, “how to make your hubby happy” nonsense from a publishing house giant. Nope. I teach them Romans. I teach them biblical theology. Why? Because they are saints, fellow heirs in Christ, indwelt by the same Spirit every Christian is led by.

I am sure that our readers can help me explain the operations and mentality of this boys’ club thing in our churches. It is a difficult and slippery thing to pin down. But I suppose what I am trying to say is that so often what parades as “men’s ministry” in our churches simply ends up promoting the boys’ club mentality. And that is bad news for women in general, and abuse victims in particular.

48 Comments

  1. Abuser-husband attended a men’s marriage seminar (and brought home a set of DVDs from that ministry for us [really for ME] to listen to, watched the movie “Fireproof” with me, had marriage books given to him, and attended Promise Keepers. ZERO repentance on his part. As a matter of fact about a year after attending Promise Keepers I found inappropriate emails between him and other woman, was screamed at that he was going to discard me, and was violently physically attacked.

    • And while he did these things to me, he had framed hanging on his office wall “The 7 Promises of a Promise Keeper”. Seeing that was a slap in my face and it sickened me.

      • Celestebella, you are not the only woman I have heard of who was married to a paid-up t-shirt wearing member of Promise Keepers who was in an adulterous relationship with another woman and had no qualms of conscience about it at all. 😦

  2. Benda R

    I don’t know about the boys club. There is a men’s bible study/prayer night at a man’s home, but his wife is there and she doesn’t seem controlled at all. It does concern me when conversations come up where the husband was asked if his wife could go away with her brother for a college football game. She was happy because he gave his, “blessing”. What if he said “No”? Then what, she stays home? Another time a woman asked her husband if they could go to another church in town where no one knew them as they were coming into town from a vacation. He said absolutely not. Her response later on to this situation was, “sometimes I would like to be the man”. I have to wonder if the good old boys club of sorts is in private conversation or they had a sense of entitlement before being part of the church.

    I know the pastor has a big issue with growing the head count in the church. I personally think the more you have, the more problems there will be. I remember Ps Powell saying something to the effect of when the church is so big that he can’t visit everyone in their home at some point, then it is time to start another church. I tend to agree with that.

    • I’m going to attend the smallest church I can find after living with Christian abuser husband.

  3. MeganC

    “I don’t teach our women’s study some simple, shallow, “how to make your hubby happy” nonsense from a publishing house giant. Nope. I teach them Romans. I teach them biblical theology. Why? Because they are saints, fellow heirs in Christ, indwelt by the same Spirit every Christian is led by.”

    Amen, amen AMEN! Thank you, Jeff . . . for who you are!

    • Denise

      I totally agree. Women’s groups also made me swing from feeling empowered to being defeated. What ever happened to “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” kind of stuff? I’ll take Romans any day.

  4. StandsWithAFist

    “I teach them Romans. I teach them biblical theology. Why? Because they are saints, fellow heirs in Christ, indwelt by the same Spirit every Christian is led by.” It seems I don’t like women’s ministries for the same reasons you give about men’s ministry. I am always dismayed when churches have “seminars” for women that promote silliness over substance, trivia over truth, prattle over prayer, chit-chat over theology, gossip over grace, men over mentoring. It makes me crazy how dumbed-down it can be, & how pointing it out is viewed as being a party-pooper. I don’t “need a man” & my life’s goal is not defined by finding one, so why does the church emphasize a woman’s worth as “following her man”?? If I could say anything to men who believe that, assume that, or teach that, it would be ,”Please–just show me Jesus & get over yourself already.” For the women who believe they are defined by a mate, I would say “seek His face”, not man’s, so get your theology straight! Great post.

  5. rdeesjoy

    I have seen much of what you have seem about the “boy’s club” and what StandsWithAFist has seen in “women’s ministry.” I used to think we need to do away with all segregation. Men and women can teach and learn side-by-side and from each other. I have come to appreciate men’s groups and women’s groups as part of the whole church participation. The problem is not with men’s retreats or women’s retreats per se. Do those retreats take seriously each person’s ability to Follow Jesus? We should not water down the Gospel. We can have fun. Let’s be on guard against having “fun” at the expense of others (Men’s locker room talk, Women’s tea party gossip) let us expect great things if each other. Are we all being taught Romans? Wrestling with Job together? Do we listen past what our culture says to what God is saying to us in our culture when we read the Bible together?
    Even in the most disciple-egalitarian church, the will be some locker-room-ishness and some tea-party-ishness. Hopefully we are in churches where everyone is on a journey of Christ-transformation. Some will be more comfortable with cultural expectations of men and women and the attendant behaviors. Some will be less so. And others less so still. And even the most egalitarian in our midst may say things like “Happy marriage, happy wife.”
    I know – I’ve been in churches where the idea that Christ challenges our cultural manhood/womanhood is so alien. I’ve been in churches – so many – where the idolatry of tradition (whatever that tradition is in the church) keeps Christ in the periphery rather than center.
    I also have been in churches who didn’t take tradition at face value but interrogated it as Christ would. Then made honest attempts to be more like Christ – even the forms of a tradition remained. So, a coed retreat might be the new tradition. Maybe a women’s retreat might happen, too, but for women to dig deep and go deep with Christ and each other. (And ditto for men.)

    • Hi rdeesjoy, welcome to the blog. 🙂

      BTW, you might like to check out our New Users Info tab.

  6. Katy2

    Great post Jeff. So true, so true.

  7. Thank you so much for this. I am encouraged. I have hated this aspect so much at church. I have given up on the idea of ever finding a church where it isn’t this way. I would rather attend a Bible study with my hubby than a class on how to be more womanly, whatever that means. In fact I have boycotted classes like that while my arm was being twisted to attend.

    An unfortunate accompanying element I’ve noticed is that there tends to be a lot of hierarchy among the men too. Right now the young and/or most vigorous men dominate and lead up front and push the other men to join certain classes and do certain activities in order to become leaders themselves. It reminds me of the shepherding movement in the 70’s. Manly men are supposed to have disciple notches on their belts.

    I have protested this element as well, but I’m just a woman, of course. (I have been volunteering in many different ministries at my church for over 30 years, but still . . . only a woman after all.)

    • Jeff Crippen

      Becky- When the Promise Keepers fad was at its height, much pressure was put on me to endorse it and send all of our men right on down to the PK gatherings. I wouldn’t do it and I had other pastors calling me and telling me I needed to get on board. It was just another typical “christian” fad promoted by people who just had to create something “big” and call it a work of God. Besides the doctrinal problems I saw in it, I reject what I call “crowd control” methods allegedly done in the name of Christ. What I mean by that is you get a crowd together, then you get some high-powered speaker and performers and you tell the crowd to do things. Stand up. Clap. Yell amens. You know the drill. Such things are completely devoid of Christ and the results last maybe a day or two – well, the apparent “good” results. The bad effects linger much longer.

  8. Ann

    This article stated what many of my “soap box” lectures have said. I have often compared churches to the Little Rascals’ “He-man Wimmen Haters’ Club – no gurls aloud.” When a church ends with a BC – Baptist Church – or a BBC – Bible Baptist Church – we know that the BC is really Boys’ Club.

    I have only been to a few women’s retreats, and will never go again. I have never seen anything as unbecoming of a Christian as the things that go on there. One of them had a session where basically we were to tell our deepest secrets to total strangers, forcing women into an artificial closeness that had no possible outcome other than a lot of gossip. I don’t fit in with that at all. I don’t need to know these things about another person unless she wants to tell me. What good did that exercise do? Beats me. (BTW – I made something up. If it ever came back around to me, I knew where it came from.) My DH finds no interest at all in men’s groups.

    Seeing ourselves as brother and sister in the Lord above all else, we can see no need to separate ourselves into an artificial environment.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Ann – Ha! You are a kindred spirit. Once I went to visit a church when we moved to a new town and were looking for one. In the Sunday School class the leader soon announced that we would all be pairing off one on one and “sharing our biggest struggles” with the other person. Oh yeah, right. So this guy I never saw before comes up and we sit down and I’m thinking – “I’m outta here first chance.” We were supposed to give each other our PHONE NUMBERS so we could check in with one another during the week. So, being so unspiritual and sinful, I gave this guy a superficial answer AND a fake phone number, and I never ever went back to that place again. The weird thing is that those scenarios leave YOU thinking that you are really the problem because if you were really a mature Christian you would be able to do these things. Turns out that the leader that invented this nonsense is the whacko!

    • Sunflower

      Love it! Little Rascals. 🙂

  9. Suzanne

    This article really interested me. I had never thought about the topic of segregation in the church (separate ministries for men and women), but now that I do I’m struck by the idea that it’s not only unnecessary but that it could lead to spousal abuse (or encourage it). We are Christians, not Muslims; we don’t require men and women to be separate outside of the church, so why do we do this in the church? There is one Gospel for all, both men and women. So why do we feel led to segregate the sexes when we learn about Jesus? I have experienced the boys club mentality in church but I’ve also attended classes where men and women studied the Bible together. I have to say that I prefer the coed approach. If nothing else it teaches men that women are just as capable of following Christ as they are, and that they don’t need any human being, including a husband, to do that. Is there a verse in the Bible that tells believers to separate the sexes? If so, please let me know.

    • “Is there a verse in the Bible that tells believers to separate the sexes?”

      That’s my question too! I have not seen one such verse, except perhaps the place where older women are told to train younger women [trigger warning for those of you who have sat under the Patriarchal distortion of this] —

      Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5 ESV)

      But even that verse does not imply sex segregated groups. It could just as easily refer to an older woman giving one on one training to help a younger woman learn how to be a good wife and mother and housekeeper.

      Some young women may not have had much of a chance to learn those things and not seen it modelled in their families of origin. Think of kids who grew up in the so called ‘orphanages’ (maybe dumped there because their parent(s) could not afford to raise them). Think of slaves in the days of the Roman Empire who were only required to perform one restricted task in a household or farm, but were later freed (which often happened as a slave grew older). Think of children abandoned on the rubbish heaps in the ancient world who were picked up by slave traders to be raised and then sold as sex slaves. Think of modern sex slaves and children who have been sex trafficked. Think of children who have been sexually abused and so traumatized that they have not had a chance to develop normally and learn life skills in the normal way. Of course, much of that applies to both male and female children, but I can still see a special role of older women to help younger women who have come out of such horrible backgrounds, helping them learn how to do the basic things of running a house and family.

      None of that implies these dippy sex-segregated studies and retreats and ‘men’s breakfasts’ and such like. It is foolishness, there’s no biblical warrant or precedent for it. Did the apostles and disciples in the book of Acts or any of the NT epistles gather in sex-segregated groups for bible study? No.

      These groups usually fosters shallow superficial thinking in the people who attend them, but the church looks awfully BUSY and SUCCESSFUL because it has all these ‘programs’. And don’t even get me started on Mothers Day!

      But if those groups were to focus on studies like:
      Raising awareness of the unspoken assumption of male privilege in society and culture, and how Christian men can mindfully recognize and resist those assumptions and practices.
      Raising awareness of the hidden epidemic of domestic abuse, and how non-abused women can best support their sisters who are suffering or have suffered domestic abuse.
      . . . then we would be getting somewhere!

      But I can tell you, I am sick and tired of making funny hats out of newspaper or playing ‘guess the baby’ competitions at women’s dinners. Spare me!

  10. Retha

    As I read this on gender segregation in church, my thoughts go back about an hour. My church will vote soon on making the Belhar confession one of its statements of faith.
    The Belhar confession was written in apartheid South Africa, on the need for unity, not segregation, in the church. Although racial unity was in mind, the confession is written in more general terms.
    It states among others: “any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.”

    I agree. On race and gender.

  11. rncsd

    the boys club in church laid hold of my husband.

    First it was the PKeepers movement of the ’90s, which with only 5-6 years of marriage under our belt I thought was going to be a good thing for my kids and I to have a dad and husband who was devoted to love use and care for us. Instead he came home from one of those events with “I’m not going back to that… I can’t live up to that”.

    Then other typical stressors of family and life fell our way which sent us reeling. And a new mens’ club movement emerged to suck my husband into church more than into our lives at home. PKeepers never taught my husband to keep his promise to love honor and cherish. ( I only recently read the list of what they believe. I finished it with the picture of boys pricking their fingers and making a bloody pact between them. imo the PK movement took my husband’s devotion away from his real bond at home and moved his bond to the pastors/church ).

    Now the kids are gone and he is right back into his mens’ group mentality. Actually now “a leader”. So the man who was never around for us or became a leader at home is functioning in the eyes of the pastorship of a 330 member congregation. Inside his Bible is a sticky note with “what is said here stays here” et.al. read to newbie men joining their weekly click. Why should the pastor or five men know more about what aches and pains my husband has daily? What right do men have to know more about my husband than I do — the wife who walked the aisle? Boys club. Real. Disastrous. Yes. imo and experience. Living the consequence of the movements or waves.

    Sad for the marriage and family that could have been ( at least in my dreams twenty seven years ago ) if the church had not stepped in and taken my husband and my children’s father away from us. I am praying something breaks the current wave, trend or stronghold. Whatever you want to call it. It is not God ordained. Not the God that I know and love. Somedays I wonder if it is curse related. That doesn’t make it any better to think that. That the curse on women has infiltrated the church. Why can’t men see that?

    In summary getting back to the article above. I saw both scenarios of what can happen to a man in these movements. First the dejected, out, sinner, worthlessness. Now the powerful king of the hill. From his chair next to mine “are you trying to teach me?” Stopping me in my tracks from delving deeply into conversations with him. ( I have a BS, MS and working on a PhD ). I get this article. Can these articles get to the men? Please. Get to their inboxes or emailed as links. Subversive tactic maybe. But something has to give. Because we women who live with these men are hanging on. Jesus. Master. Savior. Friend. Redeemer.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Rncsd – This is very, very well said. Thank you. Your insights here from hard experience are excellent and instructive. Your questions are valid. “Why should the pastor or five men know more about what aches and pains my husband has daily? What right do men have to know more about my husband than I do-the wife who walked the aisle?” They have no right. I have seen this thing happen over and over and over. Men who are at best negligent and failing at home become leaders in the church! They somehow present themselves to the pastor and church board that they are pillars of the saints. Myself and our elders have had to confront I don’t know how many such men over the years and the vast, vast majority of them refuse to listen, repent, and change. Instead they leave, go to another church, the pastor of that church NEVER calls us to ask for a reference and before long, guess what? They are leaders in that church.

    • Welcome to the blog, rnmcsd. 🙂
      That’s very interesting to hear your how one man can be discouraged and then, later on, presumptuously empowered by men’s ministry.

      • rncsd

        Barbara and Jeff with your experience, maybe I can finally ask a question burning at the back of my mind. Not that I always want to hear the answers. But here goes. I think you are able to tell me the truth on this and I should hear truth. Do men who are living an ignoble life at home with their wife/children feel some kind of protection from accountability or being found out or discovered as sinful if they position or posture themselves as visible pillars on Sunday morning for an hour or two? Is leadership a safe place for men who discover that if they are a ‘leader’ that truth is hidden? Or safe from anyone thinking that their wife or children’s side of the story just can’t be credible?

      • Do men who are living an ignoble life at home with their wife/children feel some kind of protection from accountability or being found out or discovered as sinful if they position or posture themselves as visible pillars on Sunday morning for an hour or two?

        Yes. It happens quite often in our observation.

        Is leadership a safe place for men who discover that if they are a ‘leader’ that truth is hidden? Or safe from anyone thinking that their wife or children’s side of the story just can’t be credible?

        Yes indeed. The more status they have as a leader in the church, or the ‘right hand man’ of the main leader, or even the guy who chauffeurs the venerable old leader round to churches where he does guest preaching spots, or the guy who makes himself so useful to the church by being the volunteer handyman, plumber, painter, or who regularly volunteers for the team that goes on hurricane clean up and rescue missions, the more klout he has in the church and with the other power brokers in the church. All those kinds of roles give an abuser more disguise, and make it less likely that his wife will be believed when she (with shivering trepidation) discloses how he treats her behind closed doors.

        It’s called recruiting allies. The abuser recruits allies in the church, in the wider extended family, in the legal system, wherever he can find them. And the church is one of the most naive places in this regard. Especially with the wooden teaching on male leadership and its extreme version Patriarchy — churches all too easily buy the nice guy presentation of the abuser hook line and sinker.

      • Yes. The answer to all your questions is Yes.

        These things should not be so, but with the state of the ‘c’hurch, they are so.

  12. JoAnna

    Hmmm. This kind of strikes at why I prefer non-segregated ministries in church.

    It is such a *complementarian* thing to do, ie have one group for the men because they are supposed to be the spiritual heads over the wives and another group for the women. “Women’s biblical resources” sounds like women need a *special* kind of (pink) biblical resource. Ppl will say it’s because men and women have different struggles. Of course they do in *that* paradigm! The role expectations leave both genders feeling inadequate.

    I have heard countless women cite the reason they avoid women’s groups (like MOPS) is “because I just don’t fit that mold. . .and they’re so cliqueish” Now this doesn’t pertain to just one particular group. It’s the model in general! Jesus did not exclude women from participating in his club. Mary sat at his feet. This was defiant on her part *because* that was the place of a disciple, a place reserved only for men who learned from a rabbi. Martha was upset with Mary for shirking her proper duties of cooking and serving, but Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better and He wouldn’t take it from her.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Joanna – yes, the Bible was written to Christians. Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, married or single, young or old. The New Testament epistles clearly are addressed to “the saints at …..”. For myself, I simply do not have the energy or the desire to launch all kinds of programs targeting various groups.

    • and welcome to the blog, JoAnna 🙂

    • Seeing the Light

      JoAnna, what you wrote about Mary and Martha is so beautiful. It really hit me, and I thank you.

  13. Not Too Late

    Thanks so much this post, Pastor Crippen! I have felt that way too, but every time I try to articulate it or bring it up with others, even abuse survivors, I feel shot down. It’s as if I was entering misandry territory, and that’s not what I intended. Abuse recovery is not about male bashing, but there’s something about acknowledging the root of some of the behaviors that Christian husbands feel entitled to, and church culture has a lot to do with it. it’s so pervasive and insidious that most people don’t notice it, and I didn’t either, until recently.

    I was happy to find a little church after I left my previous one. My heart sank when they announced they were starting a mens ministry (and watching Courageous), and I didn’t know why I felt that way. I think subconsciously, I smelt a rat and shivered at the thought that these new brothers I had found were going to be filled with the same sort of teaching as the family that let me down.

  14. Another thing: Those men’s breakfasts. I always thought they had more interesting topics and speakers than the women’s events, and I wanted to attend them for that reason. But as a woman, I couldn’t!

    • Not Too Late

      I heard about a male who tried to sneak into a womens conference by wearing a wig and a dress (he was eventually ushered out), so you could also try to sneak into a mens breakfast!

  15. A little part of my story. My first husband and I had been separated for nearly four years due to him abusing me. He had just recently made a profession of faith and it seemed to me like he had substantially changed and his conversion was real. So I had decided to reconcile with him. We were not yet living together, as he still had his job in another city. But he would visit on weekends. I did not let him stay in my house on those early weekends, because it was so early in the reconciliation process and I just did not feel comfortable with that. So he stayed overnight at the house of another married couple from my church. He went with that husband to a mens’ breakfast on Saturday morning. The teaching was about something to do with husbands loving their wives.

    He came right from that breakfast to my house and came in the front door and walked into the lounge room and gave me a big hug. He did not ask my permission first, and he had not given me such a big hug in the few prior weeks when I had been deciding to reconcile with him. So this hug was a big step up from the kind of physical contact we had been having. It was, I now realize, a gross violation of my boundaries. He did not check first to see if I was okay with receiving that kind of hug.

    But I did not consciously realize at the time that he had presumptuously violated my boundaries. All I knew was that I was immediately triggered into full blown panic. I was trembling and shaking and unable to hardly breathe, I had to go back to bed and my heart was racing for several hours.

    And I blamed myself, thinking I had ‘so much healing to do’ and I was so defective having this emotional reaction I would be a bad wife to him. . . .

    That men’s breakfast gave stupid advice to a man in my husband’s position!

    I talk about this a bit in the interview I did with Dr George Simon which is being broadcast soon — tomorrow, I believe.

  16. rncsd

    thank you Barbara and Jeff. I discovered A cry For Justice on a websearch a few months ago, saved to my favorites, and now it found me again. It is a good true resource. Without going into detail of my story, my goal is sound mental health, healing, wholeness, and clear vision for myself. The recognition of abuse as abuse has been very difficult for me. Typing replies in comment boxes is a new step for me. I have tried and backspaced out so many attempts. I have also found Dr.George Simon ( see something of him in a previous comment) recently and have been watching his youtube segments. Thank you for this resource that has helped me know that I am not alone.

    • The recognition of abuse as abuse has been very difficult for me.

      I think that is true for most of us here, rncsd. Jeff was a postor for about 20 years before he woke up to abuse, and saw how he had been abused by individuals in each of the churches he had pastored. Many of us who were or still are married to abusers took years, often decades, to realise that the primary problem in our marriages was that our partner was abusing us. It is incredibly hard to see it for what it is. So many things work against that realisation. The abuser, of course, will not tolerate such a diagnosis. And the church usually is so ignorant, often willfully so, about domestic abuse that it proffers every other diagnosis under the sun before that one. And even if the church admits that it is Abuse, it gives wrong remedies. . .

      The realization that “This is abuse” is such an enormous, gut-wrenching realisation. You might like to read this post:
      “I am abused” — Those Words are so Hard to Say

  17. bright sunshinin' day

    An example of “men’s club” mindset within the Patriarchal movement is the “Head of Household” meeting. The men go off to a separate room and discuss “hot topics” like who got excommunicated and why (and often, it is women who did not reconcile with their “repentant” abusive husbands who are kicked out), while the women and children are in another room swapping recipes and planning cooking get-togethers. This type of meeting is eerie and often conducted in a “secretive” manner in that the women are not entrusted with the same information. In my view, it definitely promotes unhealthy bonding amongst the men (men’s club mentality) as they wield their new found “knowledge as power” over the women. These Head of Household meetings, however, are just what the abuser craves…easy feelings of importance and acceptance as “one of the boys” and a false sense of headship over the woman. Doesn’t God say that the husband is to lay his life down for his wife and that the greatest among you is the servant of all? This “knowledge as power” is not so easily acquired and a bit harder to swallow.

  18. I’m not at all a fan of gender segregated studies/accountability groups/retreats. The effects at my church are pretty mild in comparison to other churches (our men’s retreats are more about building a big fire and cooking lots of meat- other than a morning devotional it’s far more about just getting to know one another), but I still feel like chunks of the conversations are missing.

    In a men’s group I was in, I remember there were several “male” issues that were brought up. I’d always ask “don’t women deal with this too?” And our leader was quick to say “yes, of course they do”. So I never really understood why they weren’t a part of the conversation. And that’s my frustration. The more we leave the other gender out of the conversation (whatever that conversation is), the more we make assumptions about what is “our” issue and what “their” issues are. And then these assumptions become part of our culture, even though they have no basis in the Bible.

    I remember a guy telling me “I’m sure we’d both agree that we need strong, Christian men around us to encourage us in the faith”. I said “No, I don’t agree with that- I need strong Christians around to encourage me in the faith”. I don’t know why men think that only men have things truly worthwhile to say.

    • I agree with you, Jeff. I have been asked numerous times to go to the men’s small group at our church and honestly, I don’t see the value in it. My wife also feels the same way about the women’s group. We talk about “guy” things (much of which I don’t really care for) and the women talk about women’s things (filly stuff according to my wife). It does nothing to build us up as believers. We prefer to go to groups together, to learn together and to minister together.

  19. Debbie

    You are right on, Jeff. The good old boys club is alive and active at most local churches. The Word of God has the power to address those issues in our lives that need to be addressed without separating the sexes. I want to go to a church where I can look a man in the eye and relate to him on an equal level. I’ve noticed that in many churches neither men nor women can genuinely look one another in the eye. Women run around with downcast eyes to indicate their inferior position (also a fear of sexual attraction), and men avert their eyes lest they have some inappropriate sexual thought. The cure for both men and women is to quit thinking of women as sexual objects and start relating as equals.

    • G’day Debbie, welcome to ACFJ 🙂
      I share the same experience and observations you expressed here.

      • Anne

        I was told by my reform baptist pastor that (even though my husband is able to work — and refuses) I should pay off my husband’s credit card debt (balance has increased over a 3-year period). And…after I bore my heart to him with examples of abusive treatment and informed him that I was afraid of my husband, he still asked him to serve communion and praised him publicly as on who loves God and reverences God’s Word.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Anne- I would be happy to admonish that pastor! The very theology and confession of faith that he professes to believe plainly and loudly announces that a person walking in evil must be treated as an unbeliever, put out of the church, and commanded in Christ’s name to repent. Lawyers can be dis-barred. Physicians can have their license to practice revoked. Pastors? Yeah, well, guys like this one can just keep right on with their spiritual mal-practice and who is going to censure them?

      • Woe to that pastor when the Lord returns! He has enabled an abuser and shockingly inflated the abuser’s entitlement mentality.

  20. Suzanne

    Islam separates the sexes and look what that’s done for the world (and the women).

  21. a prodigal daughter returns

    I keep finding these wonderful treasures of truth at ACFJ and each time I’m moved to tears that there is truth in the earth and that I don’t have to settle for a life lived under a bushel that some power hungry insecure good ole boys created. It is one thing to bury your own talent, it is another thing to drop kick women with spiritual gifts to the curb because women are supposed to be invisible in the boys club.

    • Lea

      it is another thing to drop kick women with spiritual gifts to the curb because women are supposed to be invisible in the boys club.

      One thing that drove me away from the Baptists was their insistence that every man who worked for the church was a ‘pastor’ of some kind and every woman was…something else. Even if the job descriptions were identical. (I do miss the hymnal, though!)

      My new church has a general ‘adult’ sunday school with all ages, male/female, etc and I am really enjoying it. I had gotten to an age/status (single) where I no longer felt I ‘fit’ in any of the sunday school’s offered at various churches. But here is one for everyone. And I am learning so much.

  22. M&M

    I’m so sad to hear of all the weeds growing among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30)……to me Promise Keepers was the reason that my dad go LESS angry and LESS explosive and more loving so I never saw PK as a bad idea until I read all these comments. I’m glad this blog is a safe place for people who had a negative experience with PK, but I wish you could have the same experience I had……

    • Wow, M&M, it’s good your Dad’s character improved with PK. 🙂

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