By Chris Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Next time you attend a worship service at your church, take a look around. Odds are that you’ll see a lot more women than men.
The typical congregation at a U.S. Christian church draws an adult crowd that’s 61 percent female, or three women for every two men. According to the Barna Group, women “are the backbone of U.S. Christian churches. They are more likely than men to comprise the ranks of churchgoers, volunteers, and Sunday school teachers.”
The prominence and predominance of women in American churches is not a new phenomenon. So, is it a problem? Yes, says David Murrow, author of the book Why Men Hate Going to Church, which has sold over 150,000 copies and spawned a Facebook page, Church for Men, that has over 5,000 followers and a weekly post reach of 50,000 people.
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“I loved God, but I hated going to church,” said Murrow.
Truth is, a lot faithful, churchgoing men are not all that excited come Sunday morning. Quite a few attend out of habit, or to keep their wives happy.”
Or, increasingly, they stop attending. “Even men who are born-again, Spirit-filled, longtime Christian guys are clamming up and dropping out,” continues Murrow. “What’s going on? I decided to do research. What I found was that churches tend to feminize over time. They lose their appeal to men.”
Murrow’s goal is to help churches attract and retain more men and boys. He reminds us that “many have called men back to the church. It’s time we called the church back to men.”
Attracting more men to your church brings four major benefits:
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1. It’s good for your church.
“Research is clear: the bigger your man shortage, the more likely your church is in decline,” says Murrow. “The denominations with the largest gender gaps are also those that are losing the most members.
For example, mainline Protestant churches have huge gender gaps, and they are losing tens of thousands of members each year. Meanwhile, non-denominational megachurches are growing fastest, and they are the most likely to attract men.”
Hartford Seminary regularly conducts the Faith Communities Today survey, a national survey of over 14,000 local churches, synagogues, parishes, temples. and mosques. The 2005 survey results included an analysis of the impact of a gender gap on church growth.
Researchers reported that “a higher proportion of women in the congregation is associated with decline rather than growth.
As was the case for younger adults, the congregation that is able to attract larger proportions of men, who also tend to be less religiously active, is the exceptional congregation—and is more likely to grow.”
Among churches where women represented 60 percent or more of attendees, only 21 percent reported that they were growing. In contrast, among churches where men represented 60 percent or more of attendees, 59 percent reported growth.
The goal, of course, is not male domination of a church.
According to Murrow and others, attracting more men does not result in your church becoming less attractive to women. In fact, the converse is true.
“Jesus showed us how to grow a healthy church: focus on men first,” says Murrow. “Christ loved women and children, but he spent most of his time and energy developing a handful of men. He knew a truth we’ve forgotten: if you transform men, you transform the family, the community, and the society. Draw a man to church, and you often get the family in the bargain.”
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2. It’s good for men.
Men are good for your church…and church is good for your men. Consider benefits of regular church attendance:
It improves your physical and mental health and can even help you live longer, according to a study by Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele.
It gives you a network of friends who not only share your faith but genuinely care about you and look out for you, writes researcher T.M. Luhrmann.
According to a study by The Heritage Foundation, churchgoers are more likely to be married, to have healthy and happy marriages, and to express a higher level of satisfaction with life. They also are less likely to be living in poverty.
- Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers, and teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.
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3. It’s good for families.
As the last two benefits above indicate, church attendance by men provides benefits not just to the men but also to their wives and children. A recent report confirms that religious couples report happier marriages and the highest levels of sexual satisfaction.
W. Bradford Wilcox discovered that conservative Christian men make some of the best fathers. According to his research, active religious men and conservative Protestant men have the highest involvement in their children’s lives. Their authoritative parenting style is linked to healthy outcomes for children, whereas an authoritarian style is linked to negative outcomes.
Murrow produced a video profile of a church that was effective at attracting men. Here are some of the comments by women in the church:
“Yes, there are a lot of men in this church, and they are as open as the women.”
“I grew up in a Baptist church, and we had a sampling of men, but it seems like the women were always the motivators behind it. Here, the men are self-motivated. They want to do what they’re doing. They want to step up.”
“The men are great leaders. They are very open, very friendly.”
“God has touched [my husband] a great deal in the last three years. We talk openly and honestly.”
“In the last several years, [my husband has] become more involved in the church. I’ve seen a change in him. He’s more understanding. He’s more forgiving.”
“It has touched [my husband] greatly.”
- “Things have just totally turned around [with my husband]. We pray together at night, as husband and wife. That just brings us closer.”
The pastor of the church added this: “Today, a 21-year-old son said to me, ‘I like the changes I see in my father. I am closer to him now than I’ve ever been. And it’s because he’s coming to this church.’”
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4. It’s good for the Christian faith.
When it comes to religious faith in America, the fastest-growing group is “Nones”, or atheists, agnostics, and people with no religious faith in particular.
According to last year’s American Family Survey, Nones now represent 35 percent of the population. Among adults under 45, they represent 44 percent. In contrast, Nones represent just 21 percent of adults 65 and over.
What’s the best way to reverse this trend? Get men, specifically fathers, in church.
According to a detailed study conducted several decades ago, a father’s church attendance (regular, irregular, or non-attending) has a much greater impact on the future attendance of his children than a mother’s attendance.
The study found that, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s attendance, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. On the other hand, if a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular or irregular).
Even if a father goes irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s attendance, between a half and two-thirds of their children will come to church, as least occasionally, as adults.
Want to improve the future for the men of your community? For the women and children? For your church? For the Christian faith?
Develop and implement a plan for getting more men in your church.
Chris Bolinger is the author of Daily Strength for Men, a 365-day daily devotional published by BroadStreet Publishing, and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, DailyStrengthForMen.com, and other retailers.
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