Much has been written in recent years about church growth. A good deal of the literature has looked at the question of men. I think most of you are aware that women attend more and participate more in churches, and especially young adult men are leaving our churches in droves. Some of them come back when they get married, but most of them stay relatively uninvolved compared to their wives.
believes that our church-culture is too feminine. « Man up » the services, and we will attract more men. He has a point. But I would like to propose a deeper problem.
I think the problem with our churches is that we are not DOING anything. What I mean to say is that the church is not involved in mission. Of course, the pastor is always telling us to do evangelism, and we throw money at Missions now and then. But we as a church – we as western Christians, and our churches individually – we are not really doing anything.
Let me put it this way. Imagine the church – your church, or the Western church – as an army. Now, an army on home assignment has plenty of work to do just to maintain itself. There is rollcall, physical training, and endless duties with personal health, interpersonal conflict, and resource management.
However, a Army detachment which is not actively deployed is not « on a mission. » They’re not doing anything. They haven’t been assigned to take this hill for their country. They haven’t been assigned to safeguard this beachhead. They haven’t been told to do anything. They’re just « there. » They’re « doing stuff » but not really « doing anything » at the same time. Get it?
That is where many churches are right now. And they have been there for as long as I can remember.
Now downtime is necessary. If an army was always advancing, always fighting, always doing, they would have no time for inter-personal growth. However, if an army goes months and months, years and years without actually « doing » anything, it will inevitably start to loose focus. They become hyper bureaucratic. They become obsessed with discipline and weight training for physical fitness’ sake. They get in-focused and fixated on internal conflicts.
That is what I think is happening in our churches.
Somebody recently asked me what I thought the primary mandate of church leadership was. The first thing out of my mouth was, « survive! » I instantly regretted it. But I also knew it was true. Most churches exist to survive, and to encourage Christians to survive. We are an army on standby, and we have been here for generations. But surviving is hard business, especially when you are talking about soldiers who have been trained to fight.
What is church today? Well, there are lots of interpersonal social issues. There is also a lot of teaching on how to become a strong Christian. People are told to evangelize, and they are told to raise Christian families. I am not saying any of this is wrong.
But what I am saying is that a type A, driven type of man, looks at all that we say and do in church and asks, « yes, but what is the point? Why should I put money and energy into this? What am I DOING? » And they leave. Hence, there are fewer men and almost no type-A men in churches.
Survival is sissy stuff. Men want to accomplish something. Anything. We hate feelings, and we HATE wasting time. We want to pour out our our lives, our money, our passion and our creativity into something that matters. Church matters, God matters, souls matter. But the church doesn’t really seem focused, or directed enough. The best and most creative of our men have been burned out or frosted out of the church long ago.
As others have pointed out, it is not normal for the Christian church to be lacking in men. This has not been the norm through church history, or around the world.
It seems as though this is a largely western, recent problem.
No doubt there are many factors to this problem. But if we are going to talk about gender, and make such dangerous generalizations about men, then here is where I will weigh in.
In general, the men I know are « doers. » They want to sacrifice, work hard, fight and win. They wanted to get from point a to point B, to slay a dragon, climb a mountain, fix a dam, earn a pay check, save a soul, conquer a stronghold, win a battle.
By contrast, woman are more content to maintain. They are comfortable talking about feelings, negotiating inter-personal networks, keeping busy, and being social.
I know I am on dangerous territory here. Let try to avoid the inevitable harsh comments by my token disclaimer: yes, there are always exceptions to the rule. Yes, some guys are very good at relationships. Yes, some women are type-A and driven too.
But I think you will agree that across the board, on average, women fare much better with the « maintaining » aspect of church. And I believe that is a large part of the reason why they are a dominant number in churches that are « not doing anything. »
And so it is that when a Church gets off-point, when they forget that they have a mission in this world to save souls, when they stop making definite plans for outreach and missions, when they stop setting ambitious goals for growth and realistic steps in how to get there, then it will be a natural occurrence for the population to lean every increasingly towards a female constituency.