Faith: Gathering Ground




Bob Fraser caught up with Carl Beech (President) and Nathan Blackaby (CEO) of Christian Vision for Men (CVM) to chat about CVM resources and their annual men’s festival The Gathering.

For some time now church has been a place in which many men have felt uncomfortable, and it’s got nothing to do with the seating. CVM President, Carl Beech, explained: “There are very few men attending church who are between the ages of 18 and 35. There are even less working class men showing up. Church activities are pitched largely at the women and children as they are the ones mainly attending.

“Many churches have no events on offer to enable the men of faith to invite a friend to, confident that it won’t put their friend off. Something needed to change in order for men to engage with the message of the gospel and equip the church in that task.”

In his 2005 ground-breaking book Why Men Hate Going to Church Canadian author David Murrow was amongst the first to point out that many churches have no strategy to connect with men. In fact many churches have very few men showing up at all. The same is true in the UK. He researched statistics and established that, in many churches, there are between two and three times more women attending than men. He suggested that the men who do show up seem, on the whole, passive, bored or uneasy.

CVM CEO Nathan Blackaby said: “We looked at the UK statistics and this revealed that those least likely to be attending church are single, working class men. (Source: Office National Statsitcs/Tearfund 2007 BBC Survey) and only 33% of men felt comfortable in church (Source: YouGov 2014/Sorted Magazine) Clearly, a strategy was needed to reverse this trend.”

Styles of leadership, worship and discipleship are also factors, and for many non-church blokes there are fears of being associated with something that isn’t particularly manly. Church scandals and wrong perceptions abound, all contributing to the notion that if you want to meet up and do something with a few mates, it’s unlikely to be in a church environment. And Carl explained why it’s not just a problem in traditional churches with liturgy and pews. He said: “Even in more contemporary church expressions, some worship songs have lyrics which reflect a romantic view of Jesus, which a lot of men will find hard to align with. There was a time when the hearts of men were stirred by a traditional hymn. Those same men would find some of today’s worship songs difficult to sing with integrity.” Well aware of the challenges with men and church, CVM came up with a strategy for a different way of connecting with men.

The CVM strategy consists of four levels of activity

Level One is about creating activities or opportunities to bring men together where there is no great spiritual context. It’s all about enjoying some fun stuff together, building genuine friendship and trust beyond the walls of the church building.

Level Two is about creating events where there is some kind of spiritual input, like a breakfast or a curry night with a guest speaker, when believing men can invite their friends along. Men will often show up if food is on the agenda, and hearing stories of how life has changed after someone encountered Jesus holds the potential to open up a conversation about life and faith.

Level Three is about developing the conversation by perhaps offering a series of meetings where men can explore in more depth what it means to follow Christ. Men might discuss the values they aspire to and the changes that may need to take place in their life, their priorities or their thinking.

Level Four is about helping churches develop an ongoing and sustainable strategy to connect with men and change the environment in church services. Men will bond more readily when they engage in a shared activity, but as many churches have a shortage of men turning up, the starting point for all this connection may need to happen elsewhere.

Nathan enthused: “CVM has a growing number of men’s groups partnering with them, operating at a local level. Some belong to one church, others a combined effort involving several churches. There are also regional events and we also produce high quality resources for use by individuals or small groups.”

The group which I run in the North West has made use of some of these resources and they’ve been effective in bringing a focus and getting a conversation going. In particular Carl’s book 52 Men of the Bible provides enough material for a year’s worth of discussions if you meet weekly, or four year’s worth if you meet monthly.

In addition to hard copy books, a significant amount of CVM’s resources are now downloadable. The Code is another well used resource with 12 game changing statements written by men for men. Each statement looks at what it’s really like to follow Christ wholeheartedly.

CVM have created an interactive platform: Winning Men is available as a Smartphone app. It includes a four level course, top tips for men’s activities, a church audit tool and loads of helpful ideas. It’s all available free, and the platform thrives on helpful interaction, comments, questions and engagement.

The Gathering

In 2014 Carl Beech founded a men’s festival called The Gathering. This has become an annual event which takes place, now somewhat famously, in a field near Swindon. In 2019 the attendance rose to 2400 men.

The Gathering has live comedy, cool cars, a five-a-side tournament, a bar, live music, walking football, axe throwing, Zorb football, inflatable games etc. Alongside that there is worship, relevant bible teaching, life stories, scalextric, bonfires and loads more.

The Saturday night meeting usually has a theme for the dress code and in 2019 it was the medieval age. That experience will live long in my memory. In 2023 the theme was animals!

Photo: The Gathering 2023 Darts Competition with Sorted Magazine’s very own Steve Legg – Steve Legg, Magician and CVM’s John Stockley dressed as a Unicorn!

For more information about The Gathering 2024 visit The Gathering (

All Photos from The Gathering 2023 Courtesy of Bob Fraser

Bob Fraser

Bob Fraser is a singer-songwriter, men’s group leader and Regional Director for CVM aiming to open up conversations about life and faith.

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