David Murrow (2011) recently wrote a book called, Why Men Hate Going to Church. In the book he states, “Here’s the truth about men that will thrill you or terrify you. Men don’t follow religions. Men don’t follow philosophies. Men don’t follow ideas. Men follow men” (p. 168). I think Mr. Murrow was specifically talking about how to get men more involved and committed to going to church. But I think the local crisis pregnancy center can also learn from what Mr. Morrow was saying.
Since the 1970s, crisis pregnancy centers throughout the country have primarily focused on reaching out to women either in a crisis pregnancy or offering emotional support after an abortion through Bible study programs and support groups. Historically there had been few attempts, if at all, to get men involved in either of these areas. This is no longer the case. There has been tremendous change in the last five years. Through awareness and education, crisis pregnancy centers around the country are now including men more than ever. However, reaching men is often a challenge, and is the most common question I get when I speak at conferences. I want to address this issue of how to integrate men more effectively in the mission of the local crisis pregnancy center. I will do this by first addressing how to get more men involved during a crisis pregnancy and then address how to reach more post abortion men through healing programs.
I remember as a child the first time I walked into a beauty salon to get my hair cut. I was uncomfortable to say the least. I thought that the beauty salon was for women and especially not for a young male teenager that I was at the time. As I slowly opened the door, I can remember how important the first words said to me were. I would either feel welcome or I would want to walk back out. As directors of crisis pregnancy centers, you need to know that men believe the same way about walking into a center. They ask themselves the question “Is this place for me?” How critical it is in that first encounter when they are worried about their partner’s pregnancy (or possible pregnancy), that they feel welcome. Often times the best person might be another male who can accept them where they are and validate what they might be experiencing. Remember many of these men have grown up without fathers and they have no male role model. How wonderful it would be for these men to meet an older male in the center at that very moment who might be able to provide what their father wasn’t able to, strength and guidance. My first suggestion is to get men involved in your center either as volunteers or employees if you want to be more effective in reaching out to men. One other point to remember is that research shows that men are usually the most influential factor in an abortion decision (Reardon, 2005). Knowing this, getting men involved during this time is critically important.
I also remember as I walked into the beauty salon, I looked at pictures on the walls to see if there were pictures of male haircuts and styles. I remember seeing some and thinking I was not the only one that came in that shop. Maybe there were other men that got their haircut there. My second suggestion is you need to be aware of what your center and literature communicate to a man walking in. You need to think about how the center is designed. What are the colors? Are they gender neutral? Do you include men in the literature? Do you use gender inclusive language in how you advertise what you do? Are there pictures of things on the walls that men might be interested in? It is important to understand that historically men view the crisis pregnancy center as a women’s place. It is going to take some time to change that view.
I now want to address how to be more effective in reaching post abortion men through healing programs. Several years ago a group of us that were involved with the issue of Men and Abortion, got together and had a discussion about whether men connected with the word abortion. We were unanimous in deciding that they really didn’t and we decided than men who had experienced a loss of a child due to abortion, would connect better to the loss of the role as a father. Since then, many of us that are involved in this work refer to Lost Fatherhood versus abortion. Using a different word to describe the loss for men has been very effective. My third suggestion is to use a different label such as Lost Fatherhood versus abortion, if you want to be more effective in reaching post abortion men.
Murrow (2011) also addresses the topic of how church programs are often developed to cater to how a woman is wired and not a man. He suggests that if churches would take into account how men are different prior to developing programs, then more men would stay involved and committed for a longer period of time. For years the only attempt to reach post abortion men, were through Bible studies that were written by women. I am not saying that these were not good. They have helped and are currently helping many men. But this article’s focus is on how to be more effective. My fourth suggestion is to design and develop recovery programs that reflect how men are unique and different than women in how they grieve and recover from trauma or loss. Men tend to be more cognitive and action oriented in how they grieve (Levang, 1998). As a result, recovery programs for post abortion men need to be developed with this in mind. In addition programs need to be shorter in their focus. I have often found that male mentoring programs seem to work better than support groups when dealing with this issue. Men connect better when they are doing things together that are active such as playing golf together. They are more likely to talk than having them sit in a group with other men and expect them to share their feelings about a loss. That model seems to work better for women.
I have worked with hundreds of post abortion men since I began to specialize in this issue in 2003. Many ask me how I was successful in attracting so many post abortion men when most crisis pregnancy centers struggle with getting there or four men to sign up for a group. My answer is that I specialize in treating sexual addiction first. Most people that go to counseling are women. The men that tend to go are usually in a crisis. I meet them when they are in a crisis and the potential for loss is extremely high for them. They potentially could lose their marriage, family job etc. Through long term work in counseling, I am later able to address unresolved grief as a result of an abortion that most likely was contributing to their presenting symptoms of addiction. It is rare that men are going to seek help for an abortion issue alone for various reasons including cultural conditioning. My final suggestion is that if you want to be more effective in reaching the post abortion man, you need to be creative in developing programs or networking with other groups in the community, in which men are more likely to be involved because of other presenting problems. Their presenting problem, such as an addiction, can be a door into working with them on the abortion issue down the road. There are a number of ways where the crisis pregnancy center can become partners with men’s ministries throughout their local area. For example, this might look like developing partnerships with your local support group ministry for men.
In conclusion, I want to thank you for all you do in trying to be more effective in integrating men in the mission of your center. If I can be of any help, you are welcome to contact me through email which firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 503-670-7277.
1. Levang, E. (1998). When men grieve: Why men grieve differently and how you can help. Minneapolis, MN: Fairview Press
2. Murrow, D. (2011). Why men hate going to church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson
3. Reardon, D. (2005). Forced abortion. The Post-Abortion Review, 13(3), 5. Retrieved from http://www.afterabortion.org/pdf/Vol13No3.pdf