Pandemic Guts Men’s Church Attendance
The good news: People are returning to church
Church attendance is rebounding from lows recorded during the 2020 lockdowns. But the resurgence is being led by women, while men are more reluctant to return, according to a new survey from Gallup.
The polling firm asked 1016 adults in May of 2022 the following question:
Did you, yourself, happen to attend church, synagogue or mosque in the last seven days, or not?
Twenty percent said they had attended in person, while an additional ten percent said they’d attended an online service. From the article:
When this question was last asked, in December, slightly more Americans were still attending remotely (16%) rather than in person (13%). In contrast, last May, just 3% of U.S. adults said they had attended a house of worship in person, while 28% had done so remotely. Across the entire year, the proportion using some means to participate in a worship service stayed fairly steady near three in 10.
The Bad News: Attendance still at a record low
The thirty percent attendance figure ties a record low. From the article:
“Gallup has measured Americans’ attendance at religious services since 1939, when 41% said they had been to a place of worship in the previous week. By 1955, the annual average for the measure in the U.S. had risen to a record-high 49%. After a slight decline in 1967, each yearly average hovered near 40% until 2014’s 36% reading. In 2019, before COVID-19 affected the U.S., the annual average was 34%.”
The women are back. Where are the men?
These numbers would suggest a churchwide adult population that’s at least 60% female. From the article:
Women were only slightly more likely than men to report attending a religious service in 2019, but when the pandemic hit, that gap grew as men’s participation dropped more than women’s. While women’s attendance has since recovered completely, men’s is significantly lower than it was pre-pandemic.
Here are the numbers:
Before the shutdowns (in 2019) 36 percent of women and 33 percent of men said they’d gone to church.
As of May 2022, 36 percent of women again said they went to church, but only 24 percent of men said the same.
In other words, about a quarter of the men who attended church prior to the pandemic shutdowns no longer participate in a weekly service (either in person or online).
In raw numbers, that’s about 11 million missing men. (In reality, the number of missing men is probably in the 5-6 million range, since people tend to over-report their church attendance by a factor of 2)
Why are men staying home?
Why are men trickling back to church, even as women surge back in? Here are some possible reasons:
Women miss the social/relational aspects of the church more than men do
When church buildings were shuttered men who had gone to church their entire lives experienced Sunday as a true day of rest for the first time. They may reluctant to give that up.
Online church services are not must-see TV. Men may have gotten out of the church habit simply out of boredom.
Getting men back is going to be one of the biggest challenges the church faces in the next few years.
This blog was written and posted with permission by David Murrow.