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.
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.
share this page
Also of Interest
Finding Focus Through Spiritual Disciplines
Resources for centering your mind and heart on the important work of church leadership
Faith and Work
Help people understand the essential connection between their work and their faith.
Evangelism for the Ordinary Church
Just because your people don't like to evangelize doesn't mean they can't share their faith.
Why Isn't the Church "Efficient"?
An executive looks at why churches don't run like businesses.
Join the BuildingChurchLeaders.com Facebook groupFollow us on TwitterSubscribe to the Building Church Leaders RSS feed
Meet Our Editorial Advisors
More from Christianity Today