Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Gender Gap in Church

Most churches have a larger population of women than men.  Adult women outnumber adult men by almost two-to-one in a typical congregation.  Add in the children and the percentage of men goes down even more.  Why is there such a gender gap?  And why do so few men, manly men, attend church?

Although the pastorate is mostly filled by men, almost every other area of church life is populated by women.  Whenever a large percentage of Christians gather, men are never in the majority.  Not at revivals.  Not at crusades.  Not at retreats, concerts, or even Sunday services.  With the exception of a men’s event or a pastoral conference, there are always more women than men.

With so much female presence and participation, the church has gained a reputation of being a place for “women and children” in the minds of men.  Men don’t go to church because it doesn't feel appropriate to his gender.

Before you beat me up and take my lunch money, hear me out.  I’m not talking about church government here or the differing philosophies regarding the roles of women in the church (i.e., Hierarchical, Complementarian, or Egalitarian).  We have settled that issue at PCC and I’m comfortable with our position, as are the women on our staff.  I’m addressing the shortage of men in the pew and why.

Ministry to men is often the lowest priority.  The majority of ministry is usually focused on children, next on women, and then, if there are any resources left over, on men.  Women’s and children’s ministries are usually the largest ministries in the church in terms of volunteers deployed too.  Why is there such a huge disparity?  Probably because women sign up for things and men don’t.  Nevertheless, this emphasis sends a powerful message to guys:  church is for women and children, not for you.

When men are absent from the church (for whatever reason) the Body withers and becomes anemic.  The church needs men because they possess natural gifts that are just that, gifts to the church.  And their masculinity is not a sin that needs to be repented of either.  God didn’t make a mistake when He made guys – rough edges and all.  He made men the way they are because we need what they’ve got!

That’s why the spiritual development of men should become a top priority at PCC.

Let me be blunt:  today’s church has created a culture that is driving men away.  Almost every American man has tried church, but two-thirds find it unworthy of a couple of hours once a week!

Men’s disinterest in Christianity is so consistent worldwide that it can’t be explained by pride, father issues, sin, or distraction.  Neither can we say, “Well, men are just less religious.” Of the worlds largest religions (Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity), only Christianity has a consistent, nagging shortage of male practitioners?

What is it about modern Christianity that is driving men away?

The short answer is this:  Women and children are the target audience of today’s church.  Why?  Because they are the ones who show up!  Women are much more likely to volunteer, and more often show up for church events.  Without the superhuman commitment of women, the church’s programs would grind to a halt.  Pastors know this, so they work very hard to recruit and retain women. 

Almost everything about today’s church – its teaching style, its ministries, the way people are expected to behave, even our perceptions of Jesus – is designed to meet the needs of a largely female audience.  Church is sweet, sentimental, nurturing, and nice.  You hear words like comfort, intimacy, passion, sensitivity, feelings, sharing and caring.  It’s the language of women and they thrive in this kind of environment.  So do children.

But men hate it.

Few churches make room for, much less model, men’s values:  risk, reward, accomplishment, sacrifice, challenge, change, conflict, dangerous, conquer, and fighting the good fight.  Men prefer to tell you what they think, not how they feel.  Any man who tries to live out those values in a typical congregation will find himself in trouble with the church council in no time.

This is a major reason for the gender gap.  Men don’t go to church because they don’t see their values modeled there.  He thinks church is dull for the same reason he finds chick flicks dull:  neither one reflects his masculine heart.

So who’s right, men or women?  The feminine spirit or the masculine spirit?   The truth is, churches need both.  And that’s the point – there is a shortage of men.

I’m glad to say that PCC has a larger percentage of men than what is typically seen in churches.  Plus, we have a good representation of men from all age groups (young, middle, senior).  And I know some of the reasons why.  See here.

However, I think we can be doing a better job of reaching men than what we are currently doing.  In fact, we must.  We need a ministry to men, for men, and about men!  And I’m not talking about having a pancake breakfast either.  Men must be trained, their values modeled, and room made for their masculinity.  Men need a band of brothers to belong to, spiritual fathers to disciple them, and leaders to lead them. 

There is a life-giving side to the masculine spirit that is missing in churches today.  Congregations need the kind of masculine strength, nobility, and resolve that only men can bring.  And so does PCC.

The absence of men in church has far-reaching implications.  Everyone who has a husband, brother, son, or father who is not in Christ, should be very concerned.  It also has a serious effect on women, because the majority of them will not be able to find Christian husbands.  And those who think that the missing men are not important, should bear in mind that research shows 93% of families will follow a father into the Christian faith while only 17% will follow a mother.

Wanted: A Few Good Men.

I’ll be writing about this some more.

Credits:  David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church

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