Skip to comments.Why do men stay away?
Posted on 10/23/2011 6:23:05 PM PDT by hiho hiho
Gathered around the coffeepot in a church fellowship hall on a fall Sunday, a gaggle of men are talking with animation and passion, joking and bragging in the way of males. The topic? Football, of course. "How 'bout them Devils! D'ya see that pick six in the third quarter? Amazing! Hey, Joe, sorry about your Dawgs! Maybe you'll get 'em next week, if they don't fire your coach first!" In a few minutes, many will wander into worship, the married ones joining their wives. As the first hymn begins, some of them will stand and keep silent guard, staring mutely into space as the women beside them sing.
What is it with men and church? We men are famously outnumbered, to be sure. According to a recent survey, we make up only 39 percent of the worshipers in a typical congregation. This is not just because we die earlier and leave the pews filled with the sturdier gender. The percentages hold across the board, for every age category.
Even when we do show up for worship, we're often not particularly happy about it. This is not breaking news, of course. Study after study has shown that many men who name themselves as Christian feel bored, alienated and disengaged from church. When we drag ourselves to church, researchers say, it is not for ourselves but to fulfill the obligations of our roles as son, husband, father or pastor.
Why are men and the church often at odds? Sadly, many of the answers are as insulting as they are misguided. Some researchers are persuaded that the antipathy of men to church resides at the hormonal level. They argue that men, loaded as they are with testosterone, have a proclivity to impulsive, risk-taking, occasionally violent actionexactly the behavior disallowed in the soft world of worship. Given this theory, what enticements can the wimpy church possibly offer us men when we compare it to the joys of hiding away in a man cave, stuffing our maws with pizza and beer as we watch Da Bears and heading out after sundown to rip off a few wheel covers and rumble in the Wal-Mart parking lot?
Others propose a more political and historical explanation, namely that centuries of male control of the church have yielded to an ineluctable force of feminization. Pastel worship, passive and sentimental images of the Christian life, handholding around the communion table and hymns that coo about lover-boy Jesus who "walks with me and talks with me" have replaced stronger, more masculine themes. One man reported that the first thing he does when he walks into a church is to look at the curtains. One glance tells him all he needs to know about who's making the decisions.
Really? The feminine erosion of the church? As David Foster Wallace said in a different context, this is an idea "so stupid it practically drools." Even sillier are the proposed masculine remedies. One website suggests "Ten Ways to Man Up Your Church," beginning with obtaining "a manly pastor" who projects "a healthy masculinity." This patently ignores strong women clergy, of course, but it also denigrates the capacity of men to recognize and respond to able leadership regardless of gender or stereotypes. I recently visited a church with a chest-thumping manly pastor. After worship, one man in the congregation confided, "I feel like I'm on the set of a Tarzan movie." As for "manning up" worship, I know that if my church begins handing out NASCAR jackets with the bulletins, I'm going to look for a different churchmaybe one with lace curtains.
Still, the numbers don't lie. Men are staying away from church. The reasons are undoubtedly complex, but perhaps a clue can be found in a Christian group that attracts men and women in roughly equal numbers: Eastern Orthodoxy. A cynic might say that men are attracted to Orthodoxy because it is conservative, with an all-male clergy, many of them sporting beards. The finding of religion journalist Frederica Mathewes-Green, however, is closer to the truth. She surveyed male adult converts and discovered that Orthodoxy's main appeal is that it's "challenging." One convert said, "Orthodoxy is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding. It is about mercy, but it is also about overcoming myself." Another said that he was sick of "bourgeois, feel-good American Christianity."
Yes, some churchgoers are satisfied with feel-good Christianity, but I think many Christianswomen and menyearn for a more costly, demanding, life-changing discipleship. Perhaps women are more patient when they don't find it, or more discerning of the deeper cross-bearing opportunities that lie beneath the candied surface. Men take a walk or hang around the church coffeepot talking in jargon about football: another disciplined and costly arena of life in which people sacrifice their bodies and their individual desires for a larger cause that matters to them, at least for the moment. Near transcendence is preferable to no transcendence at all.
I think feminization steeped in libreralism has alienated men from their own communities. In the past such engagement offered at least the reward of feeling appreciated. I think that incentive is severely weakened among all community institutions and this is by design.
We just had our “tithing” sermon at our church today. Talked more about all of the good things that are happening and can be done with our gifts than about any “guilt trip” about it. Preacher says that it had been two years since he gave his last “tithing” sermon - and that sounded about right.
Oh, and when the plate goes around, it is always announced that “If you are a guest here - just let it pass by you. You are our guest.”
At the church I grew up in, the pastor figured that to have men come it had to be on time and short services. Services were 50 minutes long. Perhaps a 5 minute sermon! 10 minutes in between the services to move the hundreds of cars in and out (five services). I now appreciate longer services - but the lack of punctuality bugs me a lot.
A lot of men get out of the habit of worship when they’re young and single because the teaching about sexual abstinence outside of marriage is too hard for them to accept. When they get married and have kids, yes, maybe then they’ll go back. But maybe not. The years have passed and they’re out of the habit. It’s hard to get back into that state of submittedness, unless there’s a real wake-up call, or unless the preacher is really, really anointed and knows how to touch hard hearts.
My church is evangelical presbyterian. Best I can tell, we are about 50-50 in the gender ratio. Straight uncompromising gospel every Sunday. Membership is booming.
Liberals are welcome there, but I haven’t met one yet.
Bookmark for tomorrow morning.
Men do not put up with other men telling them how to worship.
The priest does not face the congregation in the Latin Mass. It’s just as it was before Vatican II.
It’s not anti-female. The church used to be male dominated. It smelled of rich incense, the buildings were solid, not decorated with fru-fru. In the last 50 years the church has become feminized, out went the chanting, incense and solid-oak paneling — in came love songs, scented candles and yes, curtains.
I have noted that when something bad happens men need a formal dignified ritual. At 9/11 fireman escorted the bodies of the fallen colleagues out with great care and ceremony. The great unceasing ritual at the Tomb of the Unknown reeks of testosterone. On the deck of the Titanic the true men did not fight the women for life jackets, they changed into their dinner jackets to meet their inevitable fate with dignity. This is since of order is something that males understand and need.
If the premise of this article isn’t drivel, as some have suggested, I think you’ve hit on the problem.
Catholic or Protestant, the Mass or the Lord’s Supper, too many church meetings have drifted away from Christ.
The Lord’s Supper is the gift and work of God, given to the Church as the central organizing principle for corporate worship. It centers us upon the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucifed, so that in all things He may have the preeminence.
Any church that ignores the Lord by neglecting the Lord’s Supper is bound to become cold. And for Protestants that usally means their worship either drifts into arid moral discourse or it turns to the excess of fleshly exuberance that is the modern praise format centered upon musical entertainment.
Women don’t need ritual? Excuse me?
And the unceasing ritual for the Tomb of the Unknown is about respect, not Testosterone.
Has the Church changed? Yes, because the “men” refuse to actually learn about Christ, and worship as a family, like they are supposed to.
The Titanic? This is the best example you can come up with? Women and children to the lifeboats. Please.
That was a different time, when men actually thought women were the weaker (physically :which in upper body strength most are: mentally, which most women have more sense than men in a wide variety of subjects). A belief that for most, disappeared in WWII when the women were left to take care of the homefront, and actually build the weapons of war.
So, let’s stick to the actual subject.
Has the Church changed? Yes, because the men refuse to actually learn about Christ, and worship as a family, like they are supposed to.
Careful, you’re scaring the men. :)
A large portion of men in the industrialized world are no longer men.
Look to the developing world, where Christianity is rising. Those men there are men.
Churches which have many ministries have high retention rates for males. My own is luke that and it is very successful in keeping men attending and growin in His word.
It is also the only church I have ever attended in which discussions of guns and hunting are quite acceptabe and common.
I love my church and each week I Can’t wait to get there t lead worship in the choir.
If a Roman Catholic priest’s sermon went longer than 10 minutes where I went as a kid, it’d be a record. They were always way too short and fairly light on substance compared to the sermons I listen to today.
Orthodox Priests are allowed to marry and have children. But not Orthodox Monks who remain in Monasteries and visit the Churches infrequently.
I’ve always thought that celibacy in the Catholic Church was an attractive cover for gays and pedophiles. What other institution exists where they can they go that offers men and boys that are restricted from interacting with women?
Our parish was large and we had three resident priests. One was seven to ten minutes, the other two were fifteen minutes. The first priest drew big crowds even at 8:30 AM on Sunday.
I hear "Social Justice" all the time at our masses, it makes me cringe.....and of course they are pro-illegal immigrant as well.
Most churches spend the entire service trying to get men to act like women. Then they wonder why men don’t come, or come under protest....
But wait! “As David Foster Wallace said in a different context, this is an idea “so stupid it practically drools.” Even sillier are the proposed masculine remedies...”
Metro-sexual writers shouldn’t discuss men in churches.
Many of the Catholic Churches are into Social Justice and may as well be an arm of the DNC.
Pray for America
“Men need to grow a pair, and actually start acting like Men, and not d#cks. “
Men WITH a pair, who already act like men, are not wanted in the feminine church.
deception does not draw ‘all men’ unto itself.
I don’t know what it’s like with churches, but in non-orthodox synagogues, more and more women are “in charge,” even if the actual rabbi is a man. And the more women who run things, the less men feel like being involved, or that they belong. This is totally sexist but when men are involved in the congregational hierarchy, other men gravitate more. Worship and community should not be completely run by women.
The truth is that Men don’t want to miss the Ball Game, tinker in the Garage, or miss the next episode of Tool Time.
IF Church has become “feminine” it’s because only the woman have the backbone to actually be there.
What is there in a church service for men to do or care about?
Group singing? Yeah, that is what men like to do - NOT!
Listening to someone - often with little experience in life - talk about how to be a better person? Yeah, that is another thing a man wants to do.
Women go to church to socialize with other religious-type women. They talk, compare kids, talk, look at what each one is wearing, talk, get a break from their babies, talk...
That is hardly having backbone. That is what women LOVE to do. They do it in any setting possible. They go to church because, to them, it is FUN.
On the whole, I’d rather go jogging, ride a horse, shoot a gun, or just enjoy doing nothing. Like most men, I don’t want to get together and talk about each other. And I don’t want to listen to a sermon about being more caring, more sensitive, more gushy. I don’t need advice on life from someone who hasn’t lived it. I don’t want to watch a ‘worship leader’ perform, or cry over ‘sweet Jesus’.
Women hear a sermon on caring more and think, “Why doesn’t my husband care more about me?” Men hear it, and think, “When I get home, she’s going to nag me to care more about her.” And why would any man want to be in that spot?
Some of my earliest memories are of siting in church, wishing it was over. Some things never change.
If Jesus is our Creator and he created men to be men, it would seem Jesus Himself is not into wussy-touchy-feely men.
As another poster so aptly put it, game, set, match...
I think the question of why more men don’t attend worship is more of a “western” trend in the U.S. and in Western Europe than it is world-wide.
In the rest of the world, the “third world” countries, being a Christian costs something - sometimes your freedom, your physical comfort - even your life.
There is no doubt that the liberal ideology that has permeated some Christian denominations has had a negative effect on the witness of the Church (both Protestant and Catholic) in our world.
Typically the more liberal the church in doctrine and in message, the less attendance by both men and women. The more Biblically sound the church - the more attendence of both men and women.
I would like to say that this was because people tend to respond to God’s real truth when they hear it. I would also like to attribute greater attendance and growth among conservative churches and denominations to their being more orthodox, teaching sound Biblical doctrine, living sincere (as opposed to hypocritical) Christian lives - but, unfortunately, that is not always the case.
It isn’t the worship style, or the language, the color of the carpets, the “chickafication” of the church, the inexperience of the pastor or priest - it isn’t because one church only sings traditional gospel songs/hymns or another does more contemporary music as the reason why some churches lack growth or experience explosive growth. I wish it were that easy to figure out.
Some of the largest churches where I live ask very little of their membership - in fact, the bigger they are, the easier it is to “hide” from others. Some of these mega-churches are “fuzzy” about adhereing to certain unpopular Christian doctrines - like salvation through Christ alone, the inerrancy of the Bible, unwavering rejection of abortion, homosexuality, sexual purity before marriage, heck - being married before couples live together!
Some of these mega-churches are very “market-driven” in how they present their church to the community (what “programs” the church will establish in order to attract non-church people). The so-called “seeker-sensitive” churches who attempt to conform their church to the culture around them.
These churches ofentimes thrive while other, more conservative churches seem to just struggle on or even lose more and more attendence.
The point is - growth doesn’t always mean that a church is doctrinally sound. Many of the churches (sometimes called cults) experience tremendous growth.
But, as I mentioned previously - this is mostly true of what is happening in western countries like the U.S. and western Europe. We often hear that Christianity is “losing” to other faiths, like Islam, or eastern religions - but just the opposite is true. Christianity is outgrowing all other faiths world-wide, but only in the third world countries or even in typically hostile countries like China. Eastern European countries have experience growth in Christianity as well.
Everyone has their own theories as to why Christianity is losing ground in America and western Europe, but I think what is obvious is that many people in our country do not feel the need for God. We pretty much have what we want when we want it (for the most part). There is little if any real “cost” of discipleship because our people won’t put up with very much interference or inconvenience in their lives or their familties lives.
Church attendence had better be convenient and as “cheap” as possible or it’s deemed too intrusive. Soundness of doctrine is not so important, but rather how much does a church want more and more of MY time and MY money?
Doctrinally sound, Biblical churches are seen as archaic, “out of touch” with the times, “narrow”, “bigoted”, - too hard.
After all, being Biblically sound or correct doesn’t guarantee that people will respond positively to you. Moses led by God’s power and command, yet many rejected his leadership and authority. Jesus Himself, from our typical view of “success” was a total failure in His ministry. He was rejected by most people toward the end of His earthly ministry - even His own disciples left Him when He was arrested and crucified (note it was the women that stuck with Him, at the cross - and, it was three women that found the empty tomb - it was also a woman who first saw Jesus resurrected). He was even betrayed by one of His disciples.
My point is that not everyone will “endure sound doctrine”. The Apostle Paul tells us that in the last times people will reject all Godly authority. All we can do is keep on telling the truth to whomever is willling to listen. We must leave the rest to God.
And this is a recent phenomenon of the past 100 or so years.
And men sing and participate because they don't need choir-boy voices but can be men.
I'm going to stay away from English language masses.
Incidently, here in Poland they have altar-boys but no altar-girls. The women are in charge of saying the psalms, and all the activity around the Church (and of course the babcie rule in the homes!), but the mass is a proper blend of manly men and feminine women.
It's not only Western society or even Christian society. I've seen the same happen to Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians in India, Shinto/Buddhists in Japan and even Moslems in France and England.
I am sure that is part of it.
But, as a kid my parents sent us off to Catholic School, morning mass etc. Come Sunday, Mom would go with us to mass, but Dad never showed up in church. Never...and yet he was the one ‘forcing’ us to go.
That’s how it is in my parish, too, Mondo! Isn’t it wonderful to have the Mass back without the geeetars and felt banners and tambourines?
Thank you, Pope Benedict! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
PS: Here on Long Island, there are 3 parishes that offer the TLM weekly and on Holy Days, and one that offers a Low Mass every Monday (that parish is working to have a Sunday High Mass too, but the altar boys and schola still need more training).
We don’t have a TLM-only parish, though. I think our Bishop wants to have it spread throughout the diocese in an organic manner. I think it’s working, too, because we’ve had at least 2 more parishes inquire about starting TLMs in their churches as well. The word is spreading!
Ooops! Forgot to mention that my husband, who always squawked at going to Mass because of the chaotic, happy-clappy services squawks no more.
He really appreciates the serious and reverent tone of the TLM and looks forward to Mass every week.
“Everyone has their own theories as to why Christianity is losing ground in America and western Europe, but I think what is obvious is that many people in our country do not feel the need for God.”
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”
“The truth is that Men dont want to miss the Ball Game, tinker in the Garage, or miss the next episode of Tool Time.”
No prob. After church move grills and flat screen
TVs into the parking lot, tell the guys to bring their tools and have an auto maintenance day for single moms and people who can’t afford it.
I was baptized in the Methodist Church and confirmed there. I sang in the church choirs for 10 years with perfect attendance (got an award for it). Ours was a large church and we had a Minister, Assistant Minister, and Minister of Music. The latter man, God rest his soul, gave me an appreciation for church music of the great masters I enjoy to this very day.
I did not leave the Methodist Church — the Church left me. It left slowly, but methodically. Our Minister of Music resigned for health reasons (cancer claimed him); our Assistant Minister and Minister retired. We got a new female to lead the church and the lower slots were filled but divinity school graduates.
The departure of our former church leaders was almost as it a candle, once burning so brightly in the darkness, was snuffed out. The end of the road came when my mother received two rude and insulting letters from the building fund manager about how much she'd fallen behind in her monthly voluntary amount. The second letter reduced my mother to tears and armed with the letter, I went down to the church for a man-on-man talk with this weasel.
As happened, the building fund person was in and we had a rather one way discussion: (1) ‘voluntary’ means VOLUNTARY and not a contractual obligation — it is not a monthly bill (and money was very tight); (2) what right do you have you send out a dunning letter like this, because I'd never seen the like of it before or since; (3) consider all financial obligations you have with me as ended and I will recommend to my parents that they drop the building fund assessment also. I left the church over this jackass. I later learned that he'd had some financial problems (unspecified) and volunteered his resignation.
Some time after I'd been back from the service, my old assistant minister called me about returning to the church (he'd been recalled from retirement to roundup strays from the flock). I heard him out and told him about the business manager (he was appalled), and in the end turned him down.
I have looked for a good replacement for my old church, but none seems to measure up. The local churches preach a pablum of new age psychobabble and liberalism. The kiss of death for me came when our Methodist UME denomination joined the National Council of Churches. Many of the other church denominations in town have similar affiliations. Once I knew the church fathers had aligned themselves with the dark side, I was done. Since then, I have met several people who were in churches that they found immensely satisfying. They were good, upright people and were strong testaments to their faiths. However, my quest continues.
The “Folk Masses” of the 70’s did not help.
When you went to church and found the three nerds from your high school who were least likely to have freinds up their playing guitar and singing...
If the curch will support ministries that involve doing things that men are interested in, they will come of their own accord and stay.
I went to a church in town and found Jesus. The second thing that happened was that I joined the choir the next wednesday. About 45 minutes into the choir practice a guy whom I did not know leaned back and asked me whether I would like to do some construction for the Christmas show. I jumped at it and spent a large amount of time over the next three months making stuff for the show, big stuff. The friends I made in the first three months are some the best buddies I have ever had.
I have also been a shooting instructor for a Bible study. Sound a bit different? Our church honors the role of men and supports their interests in Serving Jesus.
I stopped going when the church leadership (who are men) where the people I would not truth with my life.
I love the idea of a car maintenance day. Car troubles really do mess up the lives of the working poor and single parents. I’m going to mention this to the Knights of Columbus.
Oh, MasterGunner, I can hear your distress right through your post! I am truly sorry.
I didn’t mention it in my post, but my husband was raised as a Lutheran. That has changed (long story; too long for this thread), but if you are looking for a church where men are appreciated and where it is quite unlikely that you will be subjected to “social justice” sermons, may I suggest that you try to find a Catholic church where the Latin Mass is said? I think you will find it quite illuminating.
Here’s what my formerly Lutheran husband said after finally having the opportunity to attend the Mass of the Ages: “Now THAT was church!”
After that one experience, he never looked back.
God bless you, Master Gunner.
PS: I’m not going to lie to you: Catholic churches look for money too, but I have NEVER heard of someone getting a dunning letter.
We do this alot and have a men’s ministry that manages it. It is a very big deal at our church and it is critical for those who do not have a job and have a car that will not run.
Mostly we do light weight stuff, retunes and oil changes, but we throw in for some heavier stuff on occasion.
I highly recommend it to you. It is a really critical service for the families of the body of Jesus.
buffalyguy, I really like the idea of a car maintenance day after church.
That’s a bit of charity that can really impact someone’s life RIGHT THEN.
I think this fits into the Early Church model. If a fellow believer was in trouble, the church was there for them.
I’m not sure how the community wide soup kitchens and charity (random handing out of goods and services) fits into this model. The former had oversight, so when a member no longer needed help they were “encouraged” to become productive again. The latter seems too easily abused by the professional indigent.
It’s simple to do and sometimes you can even teach the women how to change oil and tune their own cars.
It can change someone’s life.