Church: Perfectly Designed for Women?
The typical U.S. congregation is 61% female
Count noses at church this Sunday. If your congregation is typical, 61% of those noses will have lipstick underneath.
Christianity is the only major world religion with a man shortage. Why?
A business guru once said, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” Christianity’s primary delivery system, the local church, is perfectly designed to reach women and older folks. That’s why our pews are filled with them. But this church system offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant. The more masculine the man, the more likely he is to dislike church.
What do I mean? Men and young adults are drawn to risk, challenge accomplishment. This is one reason men tend to gravitate toward church plants with their “grow or die” ethos.
But as a congregation matures the focus shifts from offense to defense – keeping people safe, happy, volunteering and giving. Women instinctively push the church toward becoming a more nurturing, inclusive and loving community. Although our official mission is one of adventure, the actual mission of most congregations is making people feel comfortable and safe — especially longtime members.
Christianity’s gender gap: centuries old
How did Christianity, founded by a man and his 12 male disciples, become the province of women?
There is a pattern of feminization in Christianity going back at least 700 years, according to Dr. Leon Podles, author of The Church Impotent: the Feminization of Christianity. But the ball really got rolling in the 1800s. With the dawning of the industrial revolution, large numbers of men sought work in mines, mills and factories, far from home and familiar parish. Women stayed behind — and began remaking the church in their image. The Victorian era saw the rise of church nurseries, Sunday schools, lay choirs, quilting circles, ladies’ teas, soup kitchens, girls’ societies, potluck dinners, etc.
Soon, the very definition of a good Christian had changed: boldness and aggression were out; passivity and receptivity were in. Christians were to be gentle, sensitive and nurturing, focused on home and family rather than accomplishment and career. Believers were not supposed to like sex, tobacco, dancing or other worldly pleasures. The godly were always calm, polite and sociable. This Victorian spirituality still dominates our churches.
Those of us who grew up in church hardly notice it; we can’t imagine things any other way. But a male visitor detects the feminine spirit the moment he walks in the sanctuary door. He may feel like Tom Sawyer in Aunt Polly’s parlor; he must watch his language, mind his manners and be extra polite. It’s hard for a man to be real in church because he must squeeze himself into this feminine religious mold.
We need to tweak the system
Men, if you’ve felt out of place in church, it’s not your fault. If you’ve tried and failed to get a men’s ministry going in your church, it’s not your fault. If you can’t get your buddies interested in church, it’s not your fault. The church system is getting the results it’s designed to get. Until that system changes, men will continue to perish, both inside and outside our congregations.
Some of you don’t know what I’m talking about. A feminized church? Some guys are happy with church just as it is, and see no need for change. But try to see church through the eyes of a typical guy. It’s intimidating for a man to hold hands in a circle, to cry in public, or to imagine falling deeply in love with another man (even if his name is Jesus).
For the most part, megachurches have figured this out. Many are built from the ground up to attract guys. Enthusiastic men are their secret sauce. And women love them too, because women love worshipping in the presence of godly men.
Your church doesn’t have to be mega to attract men. Any sized congregation can grow by engaging men. Jesus did it; so must we.
‘Church: Perfectly Designed for Women?’ blog post was posted with permission from the author at DavidMurrow.com