Shortage of men on GO trips linked to campus demographics

GO Brazil team meets to practice sharing their stories and to discuss the Christ-centered purpose of the +mission trip. The team is comprised of nine students, only two of which are men, reflecting campus demographics. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Elizabeth Waibel

Preparations for Global Outreach trips are in full swing, with fundraisers and meetings being held to prepare students personally and financially to travel with classmates on mission trips to other cities or countries.

David Carothers, assistant director of student mobilization, said Campus Ministries had fewer men than women sign up for GO trips at first, though more men signed up as the application process progressed.

“Every year it will be the case that we could have more people sign up, but specifically more guys,” he said. “Initially, the applications from the guys were less than we needed, but it turned out pretty good.”

Carothers said fewer men than women sign up each year,  reflecting enrollment numbers. According to the student handbook, about 40 percent of Union students are men and 60 percent are women.

This year, 58 men and 102 women signed up for GO trips, about the same ratio of men to women as those who attend Union overall.

Carothers said some trips go better if more men go because manual labor is involved or because arranging accommodations is more difficult if a team has only one man and many more women. He said both male and female team members are important if GO trips are to be as effective as possible.

In the United States as a whole, women are often more active in religious activities than men. A Gallup poll tracking church attendance in the first part of 2010 found 47 percent of women said they attend church at least once a week or almost every week, compared to 39 percent of men.

In 2007, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recorded a similar difference in the frequency of church attendance between women ad men. They also reported 63 percent of women said religion is very important in their lives, while only 49 percent of the men surveyed answered likewise.

Carothers cautioned, however, against drawing conclusions about participation in GO trips as fair indicator of students’ spiritual health.

“Biblically, it’s important for guys to take very seriously the need to carry out the Great Commission,” he said, but added that GO trips are not the only way to fulfill that goal. He said many students are involved in other ministries through other Union-sponsored trips or their local churches.

“I wouldn’t try to draw the connection that fewer guys than girls sign up for GO trips, so that means all the guys on campus are spiritual slackers,” Carothers said.

He said both men and women have reasons for not applying to participate in a GO trip, ranging from financial concerns to simply not wanting to give up their vacation time.

“The money issue is pretty intimidating,” Carothers said. “Some students aren’t called to go on a GO trip; I think they’re called to other ministries.”

Women have a rich history of involvement in Southern Baptist missions. Lottie Moon, former missionary to China, is one of the most recognizable of these figures.

The Board of Foreign Missions, as the International Mission Board was then known, appointed its first single woman missionary in 1849, less than four years after it was established.

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