UCCF: Only Girls Allowed?!

I’m not sure Levy’s going to get invited to speak at Word Alive this year. Or ever! He should be. But I suspect his latest post on Reformation 21 may be the penultimate nail in his coffin. If not the final one! It’s all about UCCF training women to lead women. You can find it here. It’s very short; a little over 200 words. But you can say a lot in a few words! And he has.

I know nothing at all about the current student scene. Students aren’t a massive part of our gospel ministry at Christ Church Balham. Most of the Christian students St George’s Hospital go to St Nicholas’ Church, Tooting, Shofar (a South African Charismatic Church on campus) or their own home church if they live with their parents in London. We have a few. They’re terrific. And we’d happily welcome more. But it’s not what God has us doing at the moment. And so I don’t know a whole load about what’s going on in UCCF. But I agree with Paul, wholeheartedly.

It echoes my own experience. Donkey’s years ago, when I was a freshman student at the University of Warwick, I ventured into the Christian Union. I was a young man, recently converted, sent to university by the Royal Navy and already part of the university rugby team. I was met by a female dominated CU. They were lovely. But they were women, with lots of hair as I remember (it was the early 90s – think Jon Bon Jovi soft perm). I looked around in vain for the blokes and the lads who’d take me under their wing and help me grow. And it’s not like I didn’t need it. Those early months at Uni were a mess. I desperately needed someone to get hold of me and help me put the Christian life together. But there was no one. There was a wonderful UCCF Staff Worker called Jenny Brown. She was great. But she couldn’t disciple me or the other two lads that I’d dragged along with me. It’s what we needed. We were all newly converted or woefully untaught. All three of us had been selected by the Armed Services because we were thought to have leadership potential. That could have been put to good use, one would imagine. But it wasn’t until well into our second year that, in God’s good providence, we stumbled into Saltisford Evangelical church and a godly pastor called Nigel Lee decided to give us some of his precious time. At that point and being recruited for Christian summer camps we started to make progress. From that summer camp, a man named Rupert Mackay travelled up from London to come and read Romans with me. That was some commitment but it was hugely formative in my Christian life. And kept me from making more mistakes than I did. It was that sort of input that we were crying out for. But there was no one to provide it.

It was only when Krish Kandiah (and whatever happened to him?) pitched up and was appointed Student President that things started to change at the Christian Union. He was mature enough in his own Christian faith to be able to disciple his peers. But that was too late for me. I used to look with envy at the personal work ‘done’ with friends at Oxford and Cambridge. They had guys who invested in them, discipled them and trained them for service. It was a missed opportunity at Warwick. There were guys to be trained but there was no one to train them. If Levy’s right (and he tells me he usually is) then a new generation of student work is making the same mistake.

49 thoughts on “UCCF: Only Girls Allowed?!

  1. Dave Bish (@davebish) December 15, 2011 / 8:23 am

    Two reasons why there are female leaders in CUs/UCCF

    1. Gifted people who can do quality gospel ministry with men and women – we’re not Islamic and don’t need to segregate men and women entirely.

    2. Where are the men anyway?

    And to be fair – our staff team is usually fairly 50:50 (slightly more men than women actually), and with most CUs having access today to a CU Staffworker and one or two Relays there’s usually male and female support available, not to mention countless church leaders and student workers these days (the latter of whom could be CU Staff if they wanted to be / their churches encouraged them to do it).

    Quite apart from that Paul should meet the “regional team leader” in his area – she’s brilliant and could teach him a lot.

    • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 11:14 am

      Thanks for your comments. You’re in a significantly stronger position to comment than me. And I recognise that.

      We agree at a number of points
      1. No one who’s met Lavy doubts that he has lots to learn.
      2. It’s great that female students are getting training and experience in discipling women.
      3. There need to be well trained women on UCCF staff teams.
      4. The local chruch has a significant part to play in supproting CUs to do the work of ministry, especially evangelism.

      But my point was simply to echo Paul’s point that unless we have male staff leaders who can disciple men in CUs who then disciple younger men (say freshers or those younger in the faith) we shouldn’t be surprised if there are few male leaders in the future. I’m not saying anything ground breaking. I’m simply supporting Paul’s point taht because of a lack of good male leadership during my time at CU three of us faield to receive significant disciplship training that might have made a huge difference to our lives, the lives of other men whom we could have encouraged and the life of the women in CU who finally had some quality men on the scene to help them out!

      Thanks for your comments. I think we’re after the same things.

      • Levy December 15, 2011 / 12:17 pm

        Perks, my friend, at the risk of being pedantic but I think you mixed up point 4 didn’t you?

        Uccf may have a role in supporting local churches to do the work of ministry especially evangelism

      • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 4:46 pm

        I agree with you. Local church first, para church after.
        I repent.
        I think what I meant was that since students have a ready made context in which to do evangelism, the churches of which they’re a part have a responsibility to train them for that ministry.

  2. Andy Hutch December 15, 2011 / 8:30 am

    Amen Brother! Great blog and totally agree from my own 1990s CU experience! Have to say, Paul Levy’s comment that CUs are “the equivalent of a work prayer group or a Christian’s arts and crafts club” is perhaps a little overstated?

  3. serena December 15, 2011 / 9:57 am

    That’s all well and good, but my experience of a UCCF CU was that women were ONLY allowed to lead women. God forbid a woman should show leadership or an aptitude for preaching… The men may have been outnumbered but they held on to power very carefully, all in the name of being ‘biblical’, of course. I left and attended a chapel where people were loved and welcomed regardless of gender.

    • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 11:19 am

      Serena. Thanks for commenting. This was not intended to be a post bashing evangelical feminism (which I think is an oxymoron – but that’s an argument for another time!) I simply wanted to support Levy’s point that we can’t expect there to be potential male leaders and prominent numbers of men in our CUs unnless there are men on UCCF staff who can disciple them. I’m all for having loads fo women in CUs and for having all of them trained in ministry; capable of giving talks, running Bible Studies and so on. I married one such woman and our church flourishes because fo many women who were trained and gained their first experience of ministry at CUs because of UCCF. I just want to ensure that the guys don’t miss out as well.

  4. Michael Shaw (@mikepcshaw) December 15, 2011 / 10:00 am

    I am not too sure about the female leadership aspect, I have been to CU’s, while working with students a few years back, that, because of the Conservative Evangelical bias, stuggled wth women speaking at the front to mixed groups (on one occasion when a female guest preacher for a mission week was asked to speak, the CU president refused to attend).

    What I do know is that many CU’s create a micro culture within Uni itself, one that often leads to exclusion of others. On one occasion at a well attended mission week event, lots of guests, great speaker, great food, a rather enthusatic member of the CU annouced they were all going to play “musical chairs” and I watched as a group of lads on one table, beer cans in hand left the room, followed by a number of others, while the CU members all started getting the chairs arranged for the game.

    • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 11:22 am

      Michael, thanks for your comments. This wasn’t a post about the approriateenss fo female preaching. It’s simply a plea to make sure that UCCF are discipling men by appointing men to positions in UCCF, whcih Levry said isn’t the case in London! I whinced at your description of ‘musical chairs’!

      • Lauri December 15, 2011 / 2:50 pm

        Perks with respect that is a very strange way of going about making that point. Levy’s post talked about the “feminisation of evangelicalism” and since you wholeheartedly agree with him, both posts are essentially about evangelical feminism, and the criticism of UCCF is a vehicle for it.

        Aside from the fact that your experience is not normative (as you have admitted), that London is a place where people can gain discipleship outside of CUs very easily, and because you where thankful for Krish, who holds a far more moderate view on women in leadership than your do, why not focus on the substantive problem which Michael outlines. This is that Christianity as most, if not all Evangelicals portray it and have been taught to behave by it, is irrelevant to our culture? Address that point first, then we can start worrying about genitalia.

      • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 4:43 pm


        I appreciate your respect!

        Strange is my modus operandi.

        My point is not meant to be essentially about evangelical feminisation or insipient UCCF feminism. So perhaps my ‘wholeheartedly’ should have been appropriately caveated! (However, he may have a point in that regard but it’s not the substantive issue at stake). Levy’s point is well put in a later comment he’s made on this blog. He writes, ‘If you look at the London staff page on Uccf site there’s 7 women, 2 men and for the relay workers, it’s 2 girls one guy .My simple point is that if you’re going to reach guys you need guys to do it, anybody disagree with that?’ I think he’s got a point. I think he’s right. And my blog post was illustrative of what happens to student blokes when there are no men to disciple them.

        I have no idea whether my experience was normative. I suspect that it may well have been very common outside of the universities that had theological colleges who provided a ready supply of Ordinands to do the work of discipleship.

        Krish and I overlapped and knew each other, but I’d deserted the CU by then and became involved with Christians in Sport. But he did a great job in restoring biblical truth and missional priorties to the CU. I have nothing but praise for what he did, which he did as an undergraduate.

        Let the record show that I’m not currently worrying about anyone’s genitalia.

        As to the irrelevance of Christianity to our culture, i’m not so sure. But perhaps you could blog something constructive on that.


      • Lauri December 15, 2011 / 5:22 pm

        Have you not read my blog?

      • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 5:39 pm

        never; does that make me a bad man?!

      • Lauri December 15, 2011 / 6:56 pm

        I guess that was a rhetorical question with a rhetorical, yet slightly misleading answer as I know you have read my blog… 😉 But it wouldn’t make you a bad man if you hadn’t, you would have just missed out on some gems. 😉

  5. Ali December 15, 2011 / 10:45 am

    I’m not sure what point you are making here. My understanding of UCCF’s policy is that women could not be appointed to lead a CU. Reformation 21 is a forum for reformed theologians who believe only men can have authority over other men – in such reformed circles the outlet for women who have leadership skills is to lead women so Levy’s comments would be in keeping with their theology and, I think, with Word Alive’s general theological position on leadership.
    If you hold similar views then this explains why you would be uncomfortable with a woman leader discipling you – just as some women find male leadership unacceptable – but many women and men are comfortable with either gender so let’s not generalise. You haven’t made it clear why you weren’t discipled by anyone – did you raise this issue with Jenny Brown? Were you not offered the opportunity to be discipled or were you not prepared to be discipled by a woman? Those are two different issues and I am left unclear exactly what the problem was.
    You also haven’t made it clear why men weren’t leading in your CU and you seem to imply that three new Christians could have been put to leadership use in a CU surrounded by women who sound considerably more mature than you in your faith. I’ve seen what happens why men are given early spiritual authority that is way beyond their experience simply because of their gender and it is not to be recommended for them or those they lead. Thank God you and the CU were protected from that.
    You say that ‘a new generation of student work is making the same mistake’ – it would be helpful if you could clarify what that mistake is? Can I also ask that if men aren’t going along to a CU then what are the women supposed to do? Disband? Or proceed in their absence and get on with the mission?

  6. Levy December 15, 2011 / 12:04 pm

    No one doubts Levy has lots to learn.
    If you look at the London staff page on Uccf site there’s 7 women, 2 men and for the relay workers, it’s 2 girls one guy .My simple point is that if you’re going to reach guys you need guys to do it, anybody disagree with that?

    I’ve never met the staff leader for London of Uccf, if she wants to come to Ealing I’d be happy to meet her for coffee. She would to pay of course, the para church must serve the local church.

  7. Indi December 15, 2011 / 1:09 pm

    The university CU I went to in the mid 90’s had a strongly male leadership model, so gifted women were unable to get involved or develop their God given spiritual leadership gifts. As this was the model in the churches I attended too, until leaving my job and church to train for the ministry, all I had been able to do was take up the offering and read a few times. Thus is took me as a woman much longer to get into ministry at all.

    I believe that men and women leaders need to be calling the church/Christians to a life of mission and adventurous faith. This will by necessity involve an element of risk, of giving up control, of leaving our comfort zones to follow Jesus as our Lord and captain. This is not a male or female gospel, but is essential for all of us if we are to live distinctive lives that speak prophetically into both the church and the wider world, whilst calling others to live under Christ’s leadership as his disciples.

    • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 5:03 pm

      Thanks for your comments. I’m sorry to hear that strong male leadership at your CU and church meant that they didn’t value women’s ministry. I think it’s possible to be both strongly evangelical and hot on women’s ministry; like Jesus, and Paul (the Apostle not the diminuitive welshman mentioned in the blog post). The women in our chruch play a central and crucial role particularly in discipling other women and lots are involved in discipling children. They’re pure gold. And many of them set an example of deep personal piety that many of us blokes would do well to emulate.

      • Lauri December 15, 2011 / 7:04 pm

        I can agree with that, just wish that was part of the initial post here, and on the Levites blog post…

  8. Dave Bish (@davebish) December 15, 2011 / 1:50 pm

    “Uccf may have a role in supporting local churches to do the work of ministry especially evangelism”

    Yes, UCCF only has a reason to exist when it exists to serve and build the local church. That’s why the church invented it. UCCF and other good parachurch is what churches create by working together because often local churches can achieve a lot more by partnership.

    So, you should proactively invite Tasha for coffee, and you should pay.
    And if you throw enough money at the work in London I’ll bet we’d gladly recruit a lot more men too. My team of 13 in the SW is 6 male, 7 female – fluctuating either way on those kind of numbers year to year, based on who applies, who is suitably qualified etc.

    That said, I think its fair to say we may lack some male staff because churches don’t fund UCCF as a ministry like they used to, and so staff are severely underpaid… and that makes the job under-attractive to men… Meanwhile churches chronically under-recruit women which makes UCCF work over-attractive to them.

    Whatever the current quirk in London your logic doesn’t really follow.
    If there are more mature women in a CU it’s probably because…
    1. This was true in youth group back home.. i.e. the problem happened years before the students turned up at Uni.
    2. Women are doing better evangelism and reaching friends who are girls (though Christian women have male friends and share the gospel with them, and vice versa… once more we’re not Islamic and segregating are we…)
    3. Young men in the church are wimping out of being involved in a society that exists to reach the University.

    Whether or not the CU Staff/Relay team is male or female, or whether the CU president is would seem to have little bearing on things. 99% of church staff are men in most contexts so male students don’t lack opportunities to be discipled by men…

    @Ali – women lead many CUs and lead them well… and not just where there aren’t men to do it. Students leading students, pick the best people for it whether male or female. No UCCF edict on things like that.

    Lack of men in the church is a much bigger broader issue and I’m not sure anyone has any good answers on this one, wherever they are on the evangelical spectrum… I’m in the most Complementarian church in my city and among our students girls outnumber guys by 5:1. The boys join other churches… or weren’t there in the first place.

    • Ali December 15, 2011 / 2:57 pm

      That’s interesting – when I was at university only a male student was allowed to lead the CU – women were confined to the exec committee and that was a definite edict from UCCF at the time. CUs have obviously moved on.

  9. Dave Bish (@davebish) December 15, 2011 / 3:20 pm

    Ali, obviously I don’t know when you were a student, but the example being cited in the post above is a good 20 years old, and I’m aware of other examples of women leading CUs around that time.

    People err.

    CU staff will push student leadership and evangelical unity, and evangelism but I can’t imagine any of them giving definite edicts on whether the CU president should be male or female….

    That said in this whole debate – I long to see young students (Christians and non-Christians) well discipled – male and female alike, and I’d like to think that today there’s a lot more of that happening than has ever been the case…

    So if I was The Urban Pastor or Paul Levy I think I’d want to be substantially more encouraged than discouraged about the state of UCCF, student mission etc than discouraged.

    Students need discipling and are being discipled – do some slip through the net? Yes. Is that good? No.
    Is a slightly over-female London UCCF staff & relay team cause for alarm? No. A cause of a problem? No… I mean, come on… really???!?!

    And to be honest, if my student experience was that I floundered for a bit and then got discipled by Nigel Lee and then ended up in the same CU as Krish Kandiah I’d be dancing down the streets in joy rather than bemoaning anything of my student experience. What a privilege!! Please throw your encouragement behind those involved in the work today rather than implying that my sisters are the problem…

    • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 4:28 pm

      I didn’t mean to imply that our godly competent sisters are part of the problem. And on a fair reading, I don’t think that I did.
      But how do you respond to Levy’s substantial point in one fo his comments? He writes this, ‘If you look at the London staff page on Uccf site there’s 7 women, 2 men and for the relay workers, it’s 2 girls one guy. My simple point is that if you’re going to reach guys you need guys to do it, anybody disagree with that?’
      Is that a sensible way to structure the London staff team to reach and train men?

      • Ali December 15, 2011 / 4:44 pm

        To be honest you did sound a little dismissive of your female dominated CU when I read it. You write: ‘They were lovely. But they were women, with lots of hair as I remember (it was the early 90s – think Jon Bon Jovi soft perm). I looked around in vain for the blokes and the lads who’d take me under their wing and help me grow.’ All you are commentating on is their looks and gender nothing about their faith and ability to teach you. You say that the UCCF staff worker is ‘wonderful’ and ‘great’ but don’t say why she couldn’t disciple you or point you in the right direction. You do sound as if women are just fluffy footnotes to the life of Christian men. Sorry if I am misreading you but I have read your article a few times now and does sound a bit patronising.

      • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 4:52 pm

        I meant to be colourful not dismissive or patronising. They were lovely. I’m pretty sure I tried to date most of them (is that going to get me in trouble?) They did have lots of hair. And it was a female dominated environment. That was not a context in whcih we were going to flourish. They couldn’t disciple me. Neither could the brilliant female UCCF staff worker. I was a young man. Young men need older men to train them in mature masculinity. We didn’t have that.

    • Ali December 15, 2011 / 4:34 pm

      The CU I was part of was in Wales about 20 years ago – the specific institution had better remain nameless but it was heavily influenced by the Brethren students. We had a President (male), Vice President (male) and a Lady Vice President (female!) plus a mixed exec. I was very involved at leadership levels and we were definitely told it was a UCCF policy – it was a ‘hot potato’ issue at the time which is why I remember the outcome so clearly. I have actually just emailed UCCF to ask them about this issue – if I get a reply I will let you know.
      I really regret spending so much time and energy with the CU as does my husband who was President in his final year and went on to represent Wales at a regional level afterwards. As Michael points out, the CU can become a micro culture and this is what we were encouraged to be. Our idea of mission was to draw others into it rather than go out to them. I don’t want to be overly negative though – the LVP was a relatively new Christian from a secular background and she still says the CU was a lifeline for her. People did come to Christ and get discipled – probably in spite of what we were doing – God is gracious!
      I really don’t want to knock the amazing work that is going on now or went on in the past, but I must confess that, if I was doing it all again, I wouldn’t get involved with the CU – I would commit to a local church and join secular uni societies so I got to know a wider range of people on their terms not my own.

      • theurbanpastor December 15, 2011 / 4:45 pm

        Thanks for your comments. I’ve lost count of all the things I’d do differently if I could live my student life over again!

  10. Levy December 15, 2011 / 5:02 pm

    Dave, Dave, Dave,

    I think my issue is do you agree that it’s difficult to reach and disciple lads with women? That is the core of my argument.

    As for the plea for Uccf to have more money, it didn’t come as a great surprise but I think you’ve got to ask the reason why churches have stopped funding uccf. I expect the answer will come back it’s the churches fault!!

    I’ll email Tasha and pay for coffee I promise!!

    My one other concern is when you say the Church founded Uccf. The question is which churches founded uccf?, when you say ‘the church’ founded it, do you mean individuals or do you mean denominations or congregations? There surely is a difference, a couple of guys in my congregation are going into business but I’d be unhappy with saying ‘the Church’ founded it.
    I’m blissfully unaware of the history of uccf but when you say the church that implies an accountability which I don’t think there is, is there?

  11. Dave Bish (@davebish) December 15, 2011 / 6:38 pm


    I think what I disagree with is that having a slightly unbalanced staff team in London means there are no men doing discipleship or evangelism, or that it’ll prevent men being reached… or that its why there aren’t male student leaders… CU members are members of churches and in general the leaders of those churches are male, so there are plenty of examples available to inspire, disciple, model leadership…

    Is there a need for men to be involved in our work? Yes… I hope so! And on a national level I think the numbers are pretty even so again I don’t buy that having female staff is the cause of any particular problem.

    The make up of the team reflects the make up of the applicants…. the work isn’t structured against men, but for reaching students. Maybe some staff exchange between churches and UCCF would even the numbers out a bit more, but might not change what’s actually happening on the ground much.

    I’m also going to hazard a guess that there are a number of Male Associate Staff on the London team who work voluntarily with us, and probably even up the balance significantly… which might make the whole issue moot. In any case the make up each team varies massively year to year – and the London team was much more even last year…

    On the church/uccf question… I think we’ve sought to stand accountable to the church in general locally through relationships and nationally through a broad spectrum trust board and panel of advisors comprised of church leaders. At the end of the day practically speaking UCCF is just a name for people working together to see church build by reaching students. I don’t believe in any other kind of parachurch movement than one that is for the church.

    If UCCF is a subset of the evangelical church then if there aren’t enough men in CUs, UCCF etc… then its not because there aren’t male church leaders because most church leaders are male, but probably because male led churches also tend to have more women than men in them… and the question is why would that be the case?


    @Ali “I would commit to a local church and join secular uni societies so I got to know a wider range of people on their terms not my own.”

    Arguably, if you were in a CU today that’s what it would look like… along with living life on life with some Christians in your department/hall etc. modelling what knowing Jesus looks like together…

  12. peterdray December 15, 2011 / 7:06 pm

    Hello there, another (male) UCCF team leader here…

    I don’t want to add too much more to the wise comments Dave has been making but I know that Tasha, my equivalent in London, would *love* to appoint more men. From my conversations with her, I have heard her saying that student ministry has the perception of being ‘the soft option’ in London, whilst “real men” do local church ministry.

    In the North East, where I lead the team, we have the opposite problem. My team balance has a male skew. For the two vacancies in my region this year, the ratio of male:female applicants was 5:1.

    No doubt London and the North East both have local factors that affect those who apply to join us. Perhaps in London Paul could encourage godly men gifted in student ministry to apply for the CUSW vacancies as they are advertised next year….

  13. Levy December 16, 2011 / 1:05 pm

    Thanks Dave for your points. I’m not sure Perks or I are alleging that no discipleship or evangelism is being done amongst men. We do disagree on how the best way is to get that done.

    On the accountability question I appreciate what you say…

    ‘’I think we’ve sought to stand accountable to the church in general locally through relationships and nationally through a broad spectrum trust board and panel of advisors comprised of church leaders.’’

    Although I’m not sure what that means, the church in general locally!! and there is accountability of a trust board and panel of individuals which is fine but that isn’t the church either.

    As for Pete’s point wanting me to encourage guys to apply for uccf work in London. I expect it to be very, very unlikely. I’d always want to encourage young men and women to work for local churches if at all possible.

    Anyway there’s the work of the church to be getting on with and not mucking around on blogs!

    • Lauri December 16, 2011 / 1:34 pm

      Levy! What about some Dutch Calvinism and some integrated world view thinking here man!

      Perks, what the Levite says here at the end of his comment is exactly the type of emphasis which bedraggles evangelicalism: “I’d always encourage young men and women to work for the local churches if at all possible.” He might be responding more to the local church vs general Church point that Dave is happy and quite appropriately so to leave ambiguous, but the point about how we inform our young peoples vocation and that we should reinforce the assumption that church work is the best sort of work a christian can do, leads to a chocking insularity. And I am not just saying that people need experience of the “outside world” (as I am sure you would recommend to those seeking to become ministers). What I am talking about here is to encourage the faithful to work in and through the world, to help us navigate what the meaning of our vocation is and how we are to apply biblical principles in the place we work, whether that is in a local church setting, at University or in public life. Do that, and the evangelism will come a lot easier because people are drawn to folk who show salt and light in their lives and have a confidence in their world view and apply it consistently to their work. That is damn hard work and you cannot cut corners.

      Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant Levy, forgive me if I am wrong but if I am right, don’t throw pearls before the swine at church, through them out in the world to bring home the bacon.

  14. Levy December 16, 2011 / 1:57 pm

    one more comment, thanks Laurie,sorry I wasn’t clear, I’m all for a bit of Dutch Calvinism.

    What I meant is for those thinking of full time Christian work (I know that phrase is problematic but I hope you know what I mean), I would want to encourage men and women to be in the local church doing that wherever possible not in a para church context.

    • Lauri December 16, 2011 / 2:14 pm

      Thanks Levy. I had my suspicions that might be what you think. There is no such thing as full time Christian work, as I think your problematising the comment make clear. There is work that focuses on the church body and there is work whose focus is elsewhere. Pastors work in both directions as do Missionaries and Disciple makers who work in the University context. Being fixated with frameworks of thinking like “the local church” while forgetting the bigger picture leads to a rigidity. I am not a fan of parachurch organizations either, but I think unless they are giving communion they are not a para church org, but a group of people working towards the same goals you have, all you have to do is think of UCCF as a group of people who work as Missionaries to Universities to encourage the community of faith there.

      As for that emphasis in an Anglican church, which CCB is an attempt at, sort of denies the history of Anglicanism and its relation to the state. But that is another point besides. Personally I think CCB should stop the false attempt and join the IPC… but I am sure there are other issues with that as well.

  15. Sarah S December 16, 2011 / 11:41 pm

    At my Uni in Scotland the CU in my time always had a male president and a female vice president and a mixed exec.

    I think the underlying point your trying to get at is that there is not enough christian men-doesn’t matter which age you look at but from teenager years onwards the number of christian females out number christian men. So first issue get those teenage men believing. Second point is that many CU will be heavily female-A reflection of the wider reality in the church. Most churches will consider themselves to be successfully if they have 40:60 ratio of men to women. The average is 1 in 3.

    Therefore if Levy has spotted a potential problem and impact then he should be involved with the solution. Ie provide men from his local church to help pastor/grow the men in his local CU! He might struggle providing that resource as his church will probarly struggle for blokes and providing that role of discplineship in his own church.. If there is close to a 50:50 ratio-I might just move church (sorry perks).

    I understand the point that if place is gender biased one way or another it can scare people off. Who hasn’t felt uncomfortable walking into the room and either been surrounded by girls or only men. There will be a tipping point (not quite sure what the ratio is). If the gender bias scares people off it makes the situation worse and not better.

    I really liked my CU it help me grow and become a Christian and that happened through relationships-hence the issue if young male christians struggle to find that in their local CU. No relationships, no growth.

  16. MichaelA December 19, 2011 / 12:40 am

    Pastor Richard, a courageous and thoughtful post, well done.

  17. Dave Bish (@davebish) December 19, 2011 / 1:05 pm

    I think we’re probably done here, but I wanted to add a thank you for raising the subject, getting me thinking freshly and for conversations and connections its sparked offline.

  18. Ali December 21, 2011 / 1:05 pm

    I think we are pretty much done here as well but as I have just got a response from UCCF about their position on women in leadership I thought you might like to see it. This is what they wrote:

    ‘As you will note from our website, Christian Unions are student-led, and choose to affiliate to UCCF. It is the student members in each CU who determine the leadership structure for their CU. As such, the members will seek to make wise decisions as to which members should be put forward for election to take on leadership responsibility, and provide best leadership for the context and situation that they are in.

    To reiterate, UCCF does not prescribe a leadership model upon CUs, requiring only that CUs are in full agreement with our Doctrinal Basis, which is also available for consultation on the website.’

    This, of course, explains why some CUs appear to ban women in leadership and others encourage it hence my own confusion over the matter. It was presented as UCCF policy to my CU by the most vocal dominant members of the CU but it was their own views they were pushing. It’s a shame we didn’t know that at the time.

  19. Robert Slowley December 21, 2011 / 1:27 pm

    Thank you for this excellent post. It chimes well with my experience in a UCCF CU.

    It’s a shame so much firepower has been spent by commenters here on other issues, or trying (unintentionally I suspect) to maneuver the discussion elsewhere.

    You’re right of course, it’s obviously the case that a lack of men in such positions is going to lead to fewer men being discipled.

    • theurbanpastor December 21, 2011 / 3:09 pm

      Robert, thanks for your comment. It did becoem a more wide ranging discussion than I had first intended! I had to keep going back to see what I’d written in the first place to try and work out how what was being said related to what I’d written! Still, fruitful discussion in many places, I trust.

  20. Marcus December 21, 2011 / 2:08 pm

    A very interesting set of reflections. Nobody would be surprised if I back Dave Bish in his comment that underfunding in missions tend to under-incentivise male workers there, and lack of opportunity in churches tends to under-incentivise female workers there.

    Paul’s point is well made, however. When churches adopt a pastoral mentality rather than a missional one it is no surprise when inter-church (and extra-church) agencies spring up to fill the missional gap. And, once going, it can be very hard to reconcile the two again when churches decide once more that they want to be missional.

    My plea is for churches first to recognise why a student ministry like UCCF got going in the first place – because of critical lacks among evangelical churches (of which there were very few). And to recognise why, in many places, the inter-church agency still represents the best option for mission (ie churches being non-missional).

    But them crucially, to honour the folk for what they have done and are currently doing. Not just constantly point out all the flaws simply because you think you can do it better yourself. I think back to the first people who taught me to preach and do student mission. (In my humble estimation!) I think I am now better equipped than some of them and can see some flaws in the way they do things. Should I speak negatively of their work for the Lord, for that reason? No, I should rejoice that they have done their best for Him and for the churches and missions they serve. Rather than dismissing as inadequate, I should invite them to come with me, doing everything I can to encourage them. Why be negative about someone else’s service when they are doing their best and when you could encourage them instead?

    If I don’t, what will happen is that when the next generation surpasses me (which actually happened a number of years back), they will see all the flaws in what I do and dismiss me as inadequate too.

    Let’s (a) recognise the great contribution of others, even if it isn’t quite the contribution we think we would want to make and (b) cheer them on, speaking well of other evangelicals wherever we get the chance. The environment is far too hostile for us to have the luxury of denigrating the ministry of others (which I don’t think Paul was doing). Much better to try to help strengthen them.

    • theurbanpastor December 21, 2011 / 3:15 pm

      Marcus, thank you for your comments. It’s hard to disagree with what you’ve said. I think you’re imploring us to be encouraging and, in my experience, that’s always a word in season. Thanks you. Your analysis of how we’ve got to where we are wrt churches re-engaging in missional student ministry in a way they hadn’t before is helpful (no doubt informed by your previous employment with UCCF). My concern is that we strengthen men’s ministry, which will inevitably mean that churches find our ways of encouraging male discipleship. Paul’s observation is that London UCCF will find that difficult with a predominately female staff team. As Paul said, ‘it’s not rocket science!’ I think he knew he was going to get ‘whacked’ for what he said because that single simple uncontentious point is so tightly inter-related with more delicate and sensitive issues. perks

      • Marcus Honeysett December 21, 2011 / 4:17 pm

        Yes, point well made, as was Paul’s. However the nature of all ministry teams is that they alter in makeup over a period. When I was UCCF London team leader we had periods of numerical male-predominance and (mild) female-predominance, depending basically on who applied to join us. People inevitably do the best the can with the resources and people they have available. The “more difficult and sensitive issues” you refer to are inevitably the things that stop folk at a time of less than ideal balance working it out with friends like yourself, or Paul, to strengthen them when they are weak. Or, the other way around, prevents others from going and offering to help them.

        I vividly recall a leader of a large ministry saying to me “you guys always criticise what I do and my Bible teaching but you never offer to come and help me improve. Wouldn’t that be the better thing to do?” He was right. I was chastened. I think my answer to Paul’s concern would be to say to a UCCF team leader whose team was clearly overbalanced one way or the other “can we work with you to help lift you up in the areas you are weak at the moment.” It is hard to see how that isn’t a win/win situation.

  21. Bryony (@BakerBryony) December 27, 2011 / 8:28 pm

    Interesting… either way you look at it, were ALL hear together… to melt peoples hearts under the truth and grace of the gospel… male or female and to that, i gladly give my life…

  22. Joe public December 28, 2011 / 1:02 am

    I’m sure you’re right: the reason Peter and Thomas couldn’t be sanctified was they didn’t have enough male role models to teach them the significance of the resurrection. I’m sure their unbelief was understandable when only women told them. I’m sure they needed more male headship. Well thank god Jesus was male, eh? A least there was someone they could trust. I’m sure your experience/teaching encourages men that they shouldn’t, nay can’t possibly submit to women’s encouragement and examples in mission or discipleship. I’m sure it’s a fruitful message, and I’m sure your women will pay in their marriages too. Thanks for offering such a humble discourse of self-delegitimation. I’ve heard that love puffs up but knowledge builds up after all. So think over what you say and I’m sure the lord will grant you insight. Never mind the women who are more ready to go overseas for the gospel. Just keep blogging. Thanks again. Yours, A. Male.

    • theurbanpastor December 28, 2011 / 10:25 am

      I’m honestly not sure how to respond to this comment. There are lots of ways I’d like to. But I’ve suppressed them in the interests of godliness! Do I thank you for what you’ve said? How about this, ‘thank you for having your opinion’. I think you’ve missed the point of the post and decided to make another one. You’re entitled to do that, of course. So thanks for stopping by.

    • MichaelA December 28, 2011 / 9:41 pm

      “I’m sure your experience/teaching encourages men that they shouldn’t, nay can’t possibly submit to women’s encouragement and examples in mission or discipleship.”

      And therein lies the problem: ‘Joe Public’ does not understand what he critiques, at a fundamental level, and therefore his critique is a long way wide of the mark.

      • Dave January 27, 2012 / 8:22 pm

        fwiw first hand experience with the London team krishk.com/2012/01/5-learned-inception/

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