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Manning Up (free sample)

The scarcity of men in our churches is nothing short of a crisis.
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Note: This article is included in our download series, Ministry to Men.

Next time you're in church, perform a little experiment for me. Look around the sanctuary and count the number of women. Then count the men. If your congregation mirrors the national average, 6 or 7 out of every 10 people in the pews will be female—meaning only 3 or 4 out of 10 will be male.

Visit a church during the week and you'll find the ratio of women to men even more lopsided. Women make up 70 to 80 percent of participants at midweek activities, a phenomenon that prompted one pastor to comment, "If it weren't for the postman, every visitor to the church during the week would be a woman."

Facing the Reality

In some churches, single women outnumber single men 2-to-1. Married guys are staying home, too—25 percent of married women who attend church do so without their husbands. The gender gap is just as wide for young people. An estimated 90 percent of boys will leave the church before they turn 20. Many will never return.

Of course, every church is different. Some have large numbers of actively engaged males. But by and large, men are missing en masse. They are dropping out—and staying away—in ever-increasing numbers.

So, what's behind this trend? And how can we reverse it?

Some cry conspiracy. The church has been feminized to keep men away, they claim. Emotive sermons and flowery choruses have made church unendurable for the average guy.

Though I do not see evidence of a conspiracy, there is some validity to this critique. I agree that, on the whole, many church services better meet the needs of women than men. Consider an average Sunday morning. It involves getting dressed up, socializing, singing, and sitting through a sermon. For women—those expert listeners and master minglers—it's a dream come true. For many guys it can be a marathon.

Yet let's not let men off too easily. An emasculated church may actually be the consequence of male absence, not the cause of it. If men want man-friendly services, there is something simple they can do: get more involved!

Besides, not every aspect of a typical church service is geared toward the softer sex. There's still a place in the church where men outnumber women—the pulpit.

Just think of how many football illustrations and baseball metaphors a churchgoing woman must endure in her lifetime. Ninety-five percent of senior pastors are men. So chances are, if anyone's needs are being overlooked in the Sunday sermon, it's probably those of the women.

Spiritual Dimensions

Ultimately, poor church attendance may be symptomatic of a larger problem: a general lack of spiritual vitality among modern males. Nowhere is this dearth of spiritual life more apparent than in the home. In my parents' generation, an image of a father, Bible in hand, leading his family in devotions was not unfamiliar. Contrast that with the picture of the modern Christian male: a spiritual stand-in who snores through the occasional sermon before retiring to the sofa to let cable television wash over him.

There's no doubt that we need to change our methodology to attract men. Thankfully a dialogue on how to do that is emerging. We should be part of that discussion. We should welcome suggestions and be open to change. However, as you read about the methods outlined in the following articles, remember that this crisis is spiritual at the core. Many men languish in a spiritual stupor and will be awakened only through God's work in their hearts.

It may seem odd to single out such a large segment of the population, but I believe that right now the enemy is winning the battle for men's souls. If we hope to turn the tide, we must advance on our knees. So I'm urging you to take this issue seriously. That may mean changing the way you do ministry. It will certainly mean praying for the men in your church and community. But in the end, if we're faithful, we just might see God stir men to become the spiritual champions he created them to be.

—Drew Dyck is managing editor of Leadership Journal; adapted from "Pray for Men," Charisma magazine, 2008. Used by permission of the author.


  1. Have you noticed a lack of men in churches? What about in your own congregation?
  2. What are some of the factors behind the low numbers of men in the church?
  3. What kinds of changes need to occur in order for the trend to reverse?
Topics:Accountability, Christian life, Growth, Spiritual Leadership, Transformation
Filters:Christian education, Elder, Men's ministry, Mentoring, Pastor, Prayer, Small group leader
References:1 Timothy 6:18

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Displaying 1–5 of 9 comments

Roger Marks

August 16, 2012  7:40am

Sorry, the last post is Roger Marks not annonymous.

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August 16, 2012  7:38am

My post numer 2 is going to be hard for ministry leaders to take especially if their ministry is their identity, but unless they die to self and allow God to own the church, all it will be is a religious club for like minded people. Being a force for God in his Kingdom will be a figment of their imagination. This is emphasised by the fact that in most churches, and I didn't say all, 95% of their income is spent on themselves. In other words, it is in business for themselves.

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Roger Marks

August 16, 2012  7:34am

And finally and most importantly, get rid of this stupid idea that only those who are paid to be a christian can minister. Apart from it being totally contrary to scripture which teaches the priesthood of ALL believers, not a select few and the gifts and the operation of the Holy Spirit is for everyone, not just a few, don't preach, discuss with everyone invited to contribute. Ask a different MAN every week to introduce the topic and then leave it open for input from anyone who wants to have a say. When it comes to ministering the gifts, say prophecy, healing, words of knowledge, we invite EVERYONE to get involved if they think they have some thing from God. To keep minitry to a select few send a very clear message to the men. I am not wanted and you don't need me so that means...why should I bother to come. Bottom line, the professionalism of ministry and the church is turning men away. It has become an every minister church, not an every member church.

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Roger Marks

August 16, 2012  7:24am

I don't presume to have all the answers and moving the chairs on the titanic probably won't make any difference, but as a man who has been a christian for 58 years and have held several leadership positions, as far as I can see there a few obvious moves that the church has shut its ears to. One, most men get up early during the week to go to work. On the weekend, getting up early is a chore and unfair to them. So the first thing to do is ditch the Sunday morning meeting. Our meeting starts at 4/5pm and our congregation is 80% men. Two, not all men are available at the same time so vary the day you meet. Sometimes we meet on Saturday and sometimes on Sunday. We are going to start a support group for unemployed men that will meet on a weekday afternoon. It is known as lateral thinking. Three, get rid of the hymn, prayer sandwich or the songs, communion preaching sandwich. men are not watchers and expecting them to sit and do nothing to keep paid christians happy is ridiculous

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Charles Bledsoe

August 15, 2012  1:16pm

I can see where the lack of men in church is the result of both how the church does ministry and the men's lack of personal devotion and discipline. So what then can the church do to encourage men to participate in worship, various ministries and service projects? Simple. We must feed them. I don't mean provide meals. I mean we must offer men what catches their attention and attracts them. We must provide opportunities to men that catches their attention and motivates them to be involved. It's like fishing. You offer the fish what he likes and place it where he can see it so he will decide he wants it. The church cannot change men's minds, however we can offer ministries they find interesting, challenging and encouraging so they will decide to join the team. Patience is the key to success in Men's Ministry. Realize men are not quick to embrace new things because the desire for comfort outweighs the desire to serve. Men must believe what they gain is worth what they invest.

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