Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why Men Aren't Coming To Your Church--Or Are Bored When They Do (And How Most Father's Day Services Make It Worse)

    It's a sad fact that men are much less involved in church. Some examples...

    • The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories. [1]
    • On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches. [2]
    • This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands. [3]
    • Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants. [4]
    • The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male). [5]
    • Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return. [6]
    • More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church. [7]
    • Churches overseas report gender gaps of up to 9 women for every adult man in attendance. [8]
    • Christian universities are becoming convents. The typical Christian college in the U.S. enrolls almost 2 women for every 1 man. [9]
    • Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry. [10]

    Pasted from <> Footnotes for these citations found there. Sources include US Census Data, Barna Reports, and that author's personal surveys at pastoral conferences.

    This probably isn't news to you.

    Why are men less involved? Is it that men are just inherently less spiritually mature? There's no biblical evidence for that.

    Do we have an anti-Jesus male culture (as almost all of the articles on this topic claim)? Sure. But women have their own anti-Christian cultural influences, too.

    My take on why men don't get involved: It's because typical church is designed to be a passive, emotional experience. We ask our men to come, sit quietly, sing love songs to Jesus--with lyrics about how safe he makes us feel, by the way--and let someone do all the work. This is the opposite of what God wired in the nature of men.

    Men want to be active--to test themselves to see if they have what it takes. Think about how little boys play versus little girls. The girls sit in corners and make their dollies have conversations--for hours. Boys get up and move around, throwing things, poking things, building things, smashing what they just built. Does typical church sound more like how girls play or boys play?

    Also, men want to sing about power and conflict overcome, not safety and the beauty of Jesus' face. Yes, we do love Jesus, and yes, once in a blue moon I need to feel safe. But safety doesn't inspire me to do something with my life. What calls to men is facing danger for a grand cause. Think about the movies that inspire men the most--it's all up to the hero, who must step up and pay the price to challenge the villain. There's a lot of running, fighting, chasing--moving. Women often find all that moving around without talking boring. They watch movies about people who don't get along and in the end realize they love each other. Those characters sit around and have conversations--and end with a kiss.

    Yes, I'm generalizing and there's a lot of exceptions to this. But these distinctions are true for huge portions of people in all cultures in the world. Again, what does typical church sound more like to you--a men's movie or a women's movie?

    However, when you give men something to do--an active, critical role to play in the service--they step up. When every Sunday they get to share their thoughts and challenge someone else's thoughts--like we do in the member-driven church--when they get to be on the team and not just a dressed up spectator--men engage. When they get to decide how much of their money goes to whom; when they get to choose how to minister during the week, even starting their own project if they want; when they get to bring some form of ministry at least every other week--when men are honored as needed doers and leaders, they engage at a level I've never seen in a typical church.

    We don't have a gap between men and women coming and in seven years of leading member-driven churches, I've never seen a gender gap.

    Most Father's Day services in typical churches, in an attempt to get men more involved, inadvertently reinforce the tragic trend. They do things like put a handful of lazy-boy recliners in the front and relieve their men of the few duties they do have on Sunday. They make Father's Day about doing nothing and spectating.

    No man wants to be a part of an organization where he doesn't play a crucial role--where he doesn't get to be active. Let them engage each other. Let them have some healthy dialogue and conflict. Don't be afraid of the conflict. Just teach them how to handle that well. Stop trying to get them to be more like women and let them love Jesus in an active way.

    Oh, and add some fierce, spiritual warfare songs in there, too.

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