In 1990, two men founded Promise Keepers. From an initial gathering of 4,200, PK exploded during the 1990s, filling stadiums and arenas across the country. In the peak year of 1997, more than a million men attended a Promise Keepers’ event.
But in recent years PK (and other similar men’s organizations) have struggled to draw 2000-3000 men to a church auditorium. In 2012, PK will offer a total of five conferences in small-to-midsize venues.
Meanwhile, a parallel organization, Women of Faith (WOF), continues to grow. This year WOF will sponsor 23 arena events, each with the potential to draw more than 15,000 women. In addition, WOF offers 16 one-day events in smaller venues and 9 Revolve Tour events, which target teen girls.
Even though Women of Faith was launched six years after Promise Keepers, it has the potential to outdraw PK by almost fifty-to-one this year.
Why is this happening?
The numbers are with women. The average church in America draws an adult crowd that’s 61 percent female. Women comprise two-thirds to three-quarters of church volunteers. There are simply more active Christian women in the population (nothing like 50-to-1, but it’s definitely easier to find them).
Women will gather to gather. Whereas men only gather with a purpose in mind, women love to gather whether they have a goal or not. Women love to see friends and make new ones. A conference is the perfect venue for that.
Women are better suited to listening and singing. Studies have shown that women possess longer attention spans and superior verbal processing capabilities. And women tend to be less bashful about singing aloud in public – just look at the gender composition of your church choir.
PK lost its focus on men. A few years ago, Promise Keepers’ core message became Christian-Jewish reconciliation. A lot of men lost interest. Now, PK has returned its focus to men, according to this video posted by the organization.
Feminine reputation. Conferences can be quite emotive. In the 1990s, PK got a reputation among some men as an event where guys hug, hold hands and cry. That frightened a lot of guys. But this was no barrier to Christian women, who don’t seem to mind when tears flow.
Been there…done that. Men think, “I’ve been to Promise Keepers. Why would I go again?” Women think, “I’ve been to Women of Faith. Let’s go again!”
The money is in women’s ministry. Women buy about 75% of Christian products. A women’s event will always draw more sponsors than a men’s event – not only because more people attend, but also because women outspend men on Christian products.
So here’s the $64,000 question: what can organizations such as Promise Keepers do to attract more men? How can they convince guys to part with $59 and a weekend to gather with other men? Can PK ever regain its former size and influence? Or is the Christian men’s arena event something of the past? Comments are open.