Missing Men at Church: Why You Might Be Pushing Them Away
“Make my facility comfortable for men.”
Occasionally over the past few years, my design team and I would hear this request from pastors as we began to create new ministry space for their church. I didn’t think much of the requests at first because we naturally designed spaces with both genders in mind. But during one particular meeting with a church, the pastor began quoting statistics from David Murrow’s book, Why Men Hate Going to Church.
I also found them on Murrow’s website (ChurchforMen.com):
- The typical U.S. congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61 percent female, 39 percent male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.
- On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
- This Sunday, almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
- Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
- Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
- More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christians. But only 1 out of 6 attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
- Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.
Now my curiosity was at full tilt; I ordered Murrow’s book. When it arrived I pored over every page, and my eyes were opened to the serious challenge of missing men in the American church. Suddenly, I understood why we were being asked to create “man-friendly” environments. Pastors are trying everything to draw in the sparsest demographic: 18- to 30-year-old men.
Why are there so few men in the church? GotQuestions.org says it may be in part because, “Many churches, knowingly or unknowingly, create a feminine atmosphere with their décor. Floral arrangements, pastel colors, frilly curtains, and pictures of passive, pastoral scenes make for a peaceful ambiance, but they tend to make men feel disconnected. Some churches attempt to appeal to masculine sensibilities by changing their décor to something edgier, darker, more robust, and less nurturing.”
Masculinity is the other missing “M” in churches, says Murrow. Why Men Hate Going to Church outlines how our churches tend to satisfy the feminine emotional profile while leaving testosterone at the door. It’s no wonder a pastor recently asked me, “Can you make my lobby look like a Buffalo Wild Wings?”
In an excerpt from Murrow’s new book, How Women Help Men Find God, he asks, “Ribbons. Flowers. Quilts. Lace. How has this become the default look for the local church? In what way does this dewy décor reflect our mission?”
He tells the story of John Eldredge and his church. Very few men were ever visiting the prayer room. When the pastor asked a group of men why, they answered, “Because it’s so feminine!” The pastor challenged his men to redecorate, and they replaced all the soft accessories with swords, shields, Celtic banners, and tomahawks. The church’s prayer ministry team tripled in size because of an influx of men.
Now that we see the problem, next week I’ll outline some dos and don’ts for creating a “man-friendly” space.