Millions of American women are asking:
- Why can’t I get my husband to go to church with me?
- Why are the men in my church are so passive? So spiritually immature?
- Where are all the single Christian men?
- Why won’t he study the Bible or pray with me?
- My husband goes to church but it doesn’t seem to affect him. Why won’t he let God change him?
- Why, after inviting Jesus into their little hearts, are my sons resisting church?
- I’ve been praying for a father/son/brother/uncle for years. Why won’t he come to the Lord?
Perhaps you’ve asked these questions yourself. You are not alone. Every Sunday in America, more than 60 percent of the adults in our worship services are female. Almost a quarter of America’s married, churchgoing women worship without their husbands. Midweek gatherings often run 70 to 80 percent female. The young, single man is practically an endangered species in church today.
What about the men who do show up on Sunday? While some men get it, you’d have to say the majority of churchgoing guys are passive, bored, or clueless. Let’s face it: men just aren’t into church like women are.
I studied this problem for three years, and wrote my findings in two books titled, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” and “How Women Help Men Find God.” I discovered that Christianity’s gender gap is no accident. There’s a very good reason women are thriving and men are dying in our churches. To illustrate, let me tell you a story.
I know almost nothing about plants, but greenery is my wife’s love language. One day I decided to surprise her with a planter, and being a cheapskate, I thought I’d create my own. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a small flowering Azalea, some ivy, a decorative pot and some potting soil. I put the whole thing together and presented it to her after dinner. She was impressed – for about 2 weeks. That’s when the Azalea started looking rather sickly. Its blossoms fell off and its little leaves turned brown. But the ivy was flourishing– same pot, same soil, same light, same water. I was puzzled.
I called a friend who is a master gardener. As I told him what I’d done, he began to chuckle. “Azaleas need a little acid in the soil,” he said. “Regular potting soil is perfect for ivy, but your azalea is starving to death.”
In the same way, our churches provide ideal growing conditions for women – but men are starving to death. Men are not thriving in our churches because we are not providing the right soil for their masculine hearts.
What do I mean? Today’s church offers the things women crave: safety, relationships, nurturing, and close-knit community. Women instinctively understand the unspoken rules of church culture: be nice, sensitive, cooperative, nurturing, and verbal. The modern gospel is every woman’s fantasy: find a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally.
On the other hand, men need adventure, challenge and risk – but these things are discouraged in church. Although our official mission is one of adventure, the actual mission of most churches is making people feel safe and secure. Men are born risk-takers, but churchgoers are a cautious bunch. Men are all about doing, but the emphasis in today’s church is on becoming. Sadly, a man who tries to bring adventure, challenge and risk into his congregation is more likely to receive a rebuke than a pat on the back.
And what’s a man to do? Volunteer opportunities in the local church revolve around traditionally female roles: childcare, teaching, music, hospitality and cooking. Men who want to serve in church often end up attending meetings or passing out bulletins. Where is the adventure in that?
Men are dying for a leader, but today’s Jesus is a lover. He’s sensitive, caring and beautiful. Our praise music invites men to express love for Christ in romantic language no man would dare say to another. Jesus barked, “Follow Me!” but we’ve softened that; it’s now, “Have a personal relationship with Me.”
As a woman, you probably don’t notice anything feminine about your church. But men do. The moment they walk in they feel hesitant and out of place. Can they articulate their discomfort? Of course not – they’re guys. They just know that church doesn’t feel right, so they skip it – or go passive. Men are unwilling (or unable) to squeeze themselves into the feminine mold we expect of the modern churchgoer. Can we blame them?
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute. I’ve always believed the church is too male-dominated, harsh and legalistic.” Sadly, some churches are led by male dictators, but far more common are comforting churches where the top priority is making everyone feel loved and accepted. We gather. We worship. We love one another. Satisfying to you…boring to him.
Women, does this depress you? Upset you? It should thrill you! Why? The pressure’s off! If you’ve failed to reach your man with the gospel, it’s not your fault. And you can stop blaming him, too. The modern church system is not designed to meet his needs. Of course he hates it! No amount of praying, prodding or preaching is going to get your man interested in church, because it’s not designed to interest him.
Now, here’s some really good news: you can take action. You can change things. You can learn to say yes to masculinity on Sunday. Let me be frank: women across the country are getting fed up with the ladies’ club atmosphere in their congregations. This is one reason young women are abandoning traditional congregations in favor of contemporary churches: they like the emphasis on mission instead of tradition. Increasingly, women welcome challenge and risk in their walk with God. Women are demanding adventure and supporting change – even change that hurts people’s feelings. And women are finally letting men be men – instead of expecting the church to tame or redecorate them.
Women, here’s my challenge to you:
- Are you willing to support changes that make your congregational life more meaningful to men, even if those changes upset people? Even if those changes make you a bit uncomfortable? Will you stand behind your pastor when the heat is on?
- Will you consider the needs and expectations of men and boys when planning church events?
- Will you support non-traditional ministry that appeals to men (carpentry, auto repairs, foreign mission trips, etc.)? Would you be willing to give up some women’s or children’s ministry in order to divert resources into male-oriented ministry?
- Are you willing to re-design Sunday school from the ground up, with boys’ needs in mind?
- Will you introduce young men to a wild and manly Jesus, instead of gentle Jesus, meek and mild?
- Will you allow your church to offer man-only opportunities (without feeling discriminated against)?
As you read this list, you may have thought, “I don’t want to change the culture of my church. I just want my husband to be saved.” But as we’ve already seen, the soil is not conducive to his growth. Even men who are born again, baptized, and filled with the Spirit are shriveling up and dying in our churches. God made man for adventure, and if he can’t find that in church, he’ll find it somewhere else. He may attend services, but his heart will be elsewhere.
Women, it’s time to change the soil in your church so men can come to life. By working adventure, challenge and innovation into your church culture men will grow. So will you.
You may be thinking, “I can’t change my church culture. I’m only one person. I’m powerless.” Not so. Women have great power to change the culture – if you band together. Gather your friends and discuss HOW WOMEN HELP MEN FIND GOD (get it here). Brainstorm ways to make your church fertile soil for men. Present your ideas to church leaders, and promise to stand behind them if people get upset. Most important, pray and seek God and His adventure for your life. You change a church one life at a time. Start with yours.
Women, I know I’m asking a lot. But what price would you pay to see the men in your life walking with God? Would it be worth some discomfort on your part? Are you willing to sacrifice a few sacred cows to reach men?
One final observation. Research indicates that over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church today will abandon it by their 22nd birthday – many never to return. It’s time we faced the truth: among males, our church system is producing more backsliders than lifelong followers of Jesus. Our generation must recover the church’s ancient, masculine voice. There is no time to lose. The boys are counting on you.