It’s Sunday Morning and where are all the men? I have a few ideas: golfing, playing ball, washing their car, watching the tube, mowing the lawn, or maybe sleeping; one place you won’t find men, for the most part, is in church. And if you do? You will generally see them gathered around the coffeepot in a church fellowship hall. A gaggle of men are talking with animation and passion, joking and bragging in the way of males. The topic? Not God! Sports, of course! “How ’bout them HEAT! D’ya see fight last night? Amazing! Hey, Joe, sorry about your Phillies! Maybe they’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 praise & worship song 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, or father.
Just recently, I finished reading a book about why men’s ministry is the largest unreached people group among our churches. In most Christian churches, 87 percent of the leader positions are men, but less than 40 percent of the adult congregations are men, at least two-thirds of ministry teams in modern day churches are women, and 20 to 25 percent of married, church-going women attend without their husbands. WOW! These statistics alone shout to our churches that Men’s is NEEDED!
Is the changing dynamics of today’s young men creating a chasm between their interest and engagement in the church? What does it cost us when half the church’s gifts go untapped? I’ve wrestled with this question quite a lot in my own work. Conversations are stirring in the church world about our inability to engage the 21st century male.
“I don’t know where I fit in the church.”
“I feel like I don’t belong because I’m a man, and everything the church does is for women and the elderly.”
“I don’t want to just serve in the sexton or maintenances’ ministry, but I don’t know how to get involved in other ways.”
Before I came to find my kingdom purpose (Men’s Ministry), I felt this way, too. I wrestled with identifying ways that I could serve using my gifts of leadership and administration. Many of the obvious opportunities to serve weren’t places where I felt comfortable or gifted to serve. So while I served out of obligation, I never felt like I was fully alive in service to God. I remained silent thinking I was simply the unusual one.
I know…I know… It is challenging and somewhat embarrassing to admit that our beautiful, evangelistic, power–packed churches are missing an element, but let’s be real. We need MORE WORSHIPPING MEN! In my personal opinion, you cannot have a thriving church without a core group of men who are true followers of Christ. If the men are dead, the church is dead. Some of the fastest-growing churches in America are also those most successful in reaching men. Just think about this: it’s worship tyme, and instead of our precious women leading in praise and worship; it’s the MEN who step out!
What would church be like if the majority of the worshippers were men…Not just males taking up pew space, but strong, practical men who were truly alive in Christ? What if the men who were there were not just there to please their wives, to fulfill religious tradition, or to go on a power trip, but they were COMPLETELY SOLD OUT TO GOD in WORSHIP!
If I may be blunt: today’s church, if not careful, can develop a culture that is driving men away. Almost every man in America has tried church, but two‐thirds find it unworthy of a few hours per week. For some reason, men hate to admit weakness or neediness, and if they do need some therapeutic tyme, they head to the wilderness, the workplace, the garage, or the corner bar…But not to the church. They will watch their heroes in the stadium or on the racetrack, but church is one of the last places men look for God.
Jeremiah 5:5, “I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.”
More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only two out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
Men’s disinterest in Christianity is so consistent around the world; it can’t be explained by pride, father issues, sin, or distraction. Neither can we say, “Well, men are just less religious,” because this is untrue. Majority of the Leadership (Pastors, Elders & Deacons) in Christian churches are men! Male and female participation are roughly equal in Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Of the world’s religions, only Christianity has a consistent, nagging shortage of male practitioners.
Although males have not completely abandoned the church, “MANLY” men are slowly disappearing. Tough, earthy, working guys rarely come to church. High achievers, alpha males, risk takers, and visionaries are in short supply. Fun‐lovers and adventurers are also underrepresented in church. Respectfully, these rough and tumble men don’t fit in with the quiet, introspective gentlemen who populate the church today.
The question that stands to be asked is, “Why is the 21st century church having trouble reaching men?” I do not have all the answers; however, I think this question should be considered by all pastors and leadership teams for the well being of your local assembly. In researching this, I have found a few possibilities and nuggets of information that each of us should ponder and consider.
1. CONNECTING: Is your local church able to connect with MASCULINE MEN? I’m talking about tough guys, born leaders, men who might not wear a suit and tie, who maybe can’t play an instrument, and who maybe haven’t been raised in the church. Can you still connect with these men?
2. FEELING NEEDED: We must understand that men need to be needed. Once our local churches CONNECT with these tough guys, we must create opportunities for them to feel needed. Obviously, we know that men need the church, but the breakdown seems to be occurring in the concept of the church needing men.
3. LET THEM ASK QUESTIONS: A Gallup study found that young, well‐educated males are the group of Americans least likely to be fully spiritually committed. The reasons for this show that they want a church where they can ask questions and critically think for themselves. If I may respectfully add, there is a fine balance of proclaiming the truth with boldness and not making people feel evil or dumb for disagreeing. My suggestion is to allow these men to ask uncomfortable questions in the appropriate setting. Do not discourage men from asking questions, ENCOURAGE THEM! When they ask questions, it opens a door for you to build relationships with them and an understanding for them.
4. TARGET MEN: If you want to grow the number of men in your church, be INTENTIONAL and STRATEGIC in doing so. Look at your monthly church calendar and ask yourself some questions, what activities and events TARGET MEN? What is going on this month that would give me an opportunity to invite other men?
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:8-10
8. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10. But (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.
In today’s tyme we have women who are willing to be modest but we seem to be lacking men who are willing to be worshippers. There is absolutely nothing like a WEEPING, WORSHIPPING man who LOVES nothing more than to magnify the name of JESUS!
This article is an attempt, not to just call men back to the church, but rather to call the church back to men. We cannot afford to lose our men! We need Men’s Ministry reaching like never before to the lost men of our cities. This will require us to take a good look at what we are doing as churches to reach men. The hard work and effort will be well worth it!
I fear that our lack of awareness of the changing dynamics of today’s young men is creating a chasm between their interest & engagement in the church. Will you consider how your church can reach them better and allow their God-given gifts to thrive for the Kingdom?
*Resources: Matt Perdue, Jenni Catron, Christianity Today http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/ChurchAndMinistry/menhatingchurch.aspx, www.christiancentury.org