Girl talkA recently released study seems to have blown a hole in one of the central premises of my book: that women are more verbal than men, which makes gals more comfortable in our wordy churches.

The study, published in Science found that men and women spoke virtually the same number of words during the course of a typical day. Researchers studied college students by placing an electronic recorder in their pockets. The device took a 30-second sample of conversation every 12.5 minutes.

At the end of the day researchers added up the words spoken, multiplied by 25 and had their answer: women outtalked men, but only by a little bit: 16,215 words per day vs. 15,669. The study also found women tended to talk about people and relationships, while men discussed concrete objects.

So this the final word on the subject? I suspect not, for several reasons.

First, the researchers studied college students. The men who choose to go to college are, by definition, the verbally limber. They must be proficient in reading, studying, and receiving input from a lecture – or they quickly wash out of the university.

Second, the study ignores women’s appetite for conversation. Last week my wife logged two 90-minute phone chats with friends, focusing on a wide range of topics. My phone calls with buddies typically last no more than 5 minutes, and focus on a single topic. Once the business at hand is done, we say goodbye. Teen girls will stay on the phone for hours. So will a teen girl and boy. But two teen boys get on the line, say what needs to be said and get off.

Maybe the oft-quoted statistic that women speak 20,000 words in a day vs. men’s 7,000 is an exaggeration. But the fact remains: women are – generally speaking – more comfortable in a wordy environment than men, even though men’s raw verbal capacity may be higher than once believed.

Now, on to church. How much of church is spent either talking or listening to someone talk? How much of that talking centers on relationships? By contrast, how much time do we spend accomplishing goals or working with concrete objects?

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, but we’ve softened that: it’s now a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Even though this phrase never appears in scripture, it’s the number one way we present the gospel today. Why? It’s a better fit for the feminine heart.

Men are failing to engage in church life because their brains are not suited to its highly verbal style. And our conversation and vocabulary center on relationships. When the church returns to the visual, hands-on teaching style favored by Jesus, men will understand and respond. A renewed emphasis on mission, concrete objects and an accompanying de-emphasis on relationships will help men engage as well.