Why Men Hate Going to Church: Part I – The Gender Gap

Part I of Why Men Hate Going to Church deals with what David Murrow calls a “gender gap” that exists in the church. David Morrow makes a great case for this gap by backing up his premise with extensive data. I tell my students constantly – not that they necessarily pay attention to what I’m saying – that data wins debates. When you are going head-to-head with an opponent, come with a plethora (Ok, I don’t really use this word in class, but some words are just fun to see written out, right?) of weapons. These weapons I encourage them to bring should come in the form of data – statistics, surveys, opinions from people other than their family members and close friends, etc. Basically, I tell them to bring numbers. Numbers are fantastic little things that can’t tell a lie. Sure, we can manipulate them to make them appear false, but that is the context we provide for them.

Murrow does well to come fully equipped with numbers up the wazoo. To illustrate the gap, he took data from the US Census and Barna research to show that of the approximately 84 million US churchgoers, about 61% are women and 39% are men. That means there are about 13 million more women than men going to church. Also according to a poll cited in the book, 90% of American men claim a belief in God, while only 2 out of 6 said they had actually attended church the previous Sunday. (Here Murrow cites a few experts who feel that number – 2 in 6 – is actually a bit high.) And apparently we as the American church tend to be doing much better than in some countries where the ratio of women to men is as far as 10 to 1.

This gap also seems to be widening as time goes on. He breaks down the gap that exists in churches of various sizes by a survey taken in 1998 and again in 2007. In churches ranging in size from 49 to well over 10,000 members, the gap between male and female members is increasing. The gap appears to be the largest in smaller churches, while more men tend to show up towards the megachurch side of the spectrum. In the smaller churches, the largest gap is about 20%.

The data suggests that more women go to church than men. As far as leadership within the church, about 95% of pastors in the United States are male. Yet, the levels of involvement within these same churches tends to be dominantly on the female side of the spectrum. According to Researcher George Barna, women are:

–          100 percent more likely to be involved in discipleship

–          57 percent more likely to participate in adult Sunday school

–          56 percent more likely to hold a leadership position at a church (not including the role of pastor)

–          54 percent more likely to participate in a small group

–          33 percent more likely to volunteer for a church

–          23 percent more likely to donate to a church.

(The list of percentages in the book is far more extensive, but these are a few I thought were interesting.)

A couple of Christian organizations that have been huge over the past few years are Women of Faith and Promise Keepers. Each of these ministering to one of the sexes – I’ll let you figure out which is which. Promise Keepers thrived in the mid-90’s and was able to draw a crowd large enough to fill stadiums. However, in the 2000’s its numbers have dwindled. According to Morrow, “Women of Faith conferences now outdraw Promise Keepers by almost 100 to 1.” Now, this is not to say that because Promise Keepers’ numbers are dwindling that all men are going to hell. But the decline of it, while Women of Faith continues to soar, does seem like it could be a significant indicator of the state of male involvement in the church.

Yes, I’ve included a lot of numbers here, and I know that it’s not math class. I apologize for breaking up your happy holiday by making you relive the agony that was high school math. And I want to make sure to be careful to explain that these numbers are not used to attack the position of women within the church. I do not see that desire in the pages of this book at all. Rather, Marrow makes the point that there is an apparent exodus of men from churches not only within our own borders, but also around the globe. If this is happening, then it only seems logical that we should: 1) make ourselves aware of it, 2) figure out why it is happening, and 3) try to correct the situation. I feel like that is where Murrow is heading with his text.

One thing I do appreciate – and I will do my best in these posts to emulate this – is that Murrow tends to stay more in the realm of descriptive (this is what is happening), and avoids the realm of prescriptive (this is what needs to be happening). His premise is not that,” women are taking over the church, and it’s time to revolt!” Rather, he sees that men are either directly or inadvertently wandering away from churches all across the globe – the numbers to kinda back that one up. And anytime such a large group is being left behind or walking away, we should address the issue.

I hope that you got something out of the information provided. Numbers do tend to be a bit dry. Context will be added soon. In the following posts I will try to get more into some of the reasons why he feels men are wandering off into the woods.

Advertisements