Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why men hate going to church - reflection on David Murrow's book

 The book, Why Men Hate Going To Church by David Murrow has very effectively shown how the growth in the church has historically ebbed and flowed depending upon the attendance of men in church. He has also showed readers that there is a strong tendency for men to avoid church for a number of reasons.
First, In a “pop quiz” Murrow asks the readers, “Which one [of these lists] best characterizes Jesus Christ and His true followers?” Try it out…

Left Set
Right Set
Proving oneself
Goal oriented
Loving cooperation
Personal expression

              After showing this chart to hundreds of Christian and non-Christian men and women, more than 95 percent choose the right set as the best representation of true Christian values. Murrow then explains that he “culled these lists from chapter 1 of the best seller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” The left set includes the values of Mars and the right set includes the values of Venus. He continues to explain how this is a common reflection of how people in our society perceive Christ to be more feminine and reject the values found most often in men. This definitely provides some food for thought.
              Many women were involved in the early church during and after Jesus’ earthly ministry. They were a key element of traveling band of disciples as they went out to spread the news of the kingdom. But, was Jesus’ ministry style feminine? No, He stood up to the chief priests and Pharisees, He overturned tables in the temple, He fell asleep in the hull of a boat during a great storm, and he was the leader of a group of very manly men who faced death for their beliefs.
Was the growth in the early church due to a greater focus on loving and comforting values more regularly associated with women, values of harmony, floral designs, passivity, and sensitivity? No, it also had great focus on a kind of faith that was risky, powerful, aggressive, and required heroic sacrifice. It was mission driven and project based, there was a beginning and an end and every day offered new adventure for Jesus’ followers. Men and women were given different roles and served a different purpose in the activity of the early church. These were based on the personality, physiological, and social differences of each gender to bring the greatest growth period in the history of the church.
              Not only do men need to be in church, the church needs men. Studies have showed us that “when a mother comes to faith in Christ, the rest of her family follows 17 percent of the time. But when a father comes to faith…the rest of the family follows 93 percent of the time.” Any given Sunday, there are 13 million more women in worship than men in every age category (61% women, 39% men). Today 20-25 percent of married women attend church without their husbands. The male participation, or lack thereof, then produces an uneven expression of the church, leaning heavily to those who participate more – i.e. women.
              George Barna found that women are more likely than men to participate in (shown in percent more likely)…discipleship 100% more likely than men – Sunday school 57% – leadership 56% – small groups 54% – discipling others 46% – devotions 39% – volunteer 33% – read the Bible 29% – attend church 29% – share faith with others 29% – donate 23% – to pray 16%. Men are also less likely to participate in organizations within churches, such as LWML, which is why these womens’ organizations are so strong, yet virtually non-existent among the men.  So, not only are there less men, the men who are present are still being out volunteered by women in almost all of the program ministries and spiritual disciplines of the church. Women also purchase 75% of Christian consumer products (books, music, gifts). The church has become something more commonly associated with women, which is why men avoid church, opting to stay home, watch sports, or go fishing, golfing, or work in the yard.
Honestly, I may not win points among the women…including my wife, but I’m not writing this to win points. I am, and David Murrow is, trying to get people to see something that can make a major difference in our congregation’s ministry to the community. In order to address this tendency in the Christian church and our own congregation we can do a few things that may make a difference. Show appreciation for the men in the congregation, give men something to do during events, learn about how Christianity might be able to stretch into a more aggressive, sacrificial, powerful, and risky faith.
Fathers’ Day is coming and we hope to involve men in the building of an outdoor grill and counter for barbeques. Men are competitive, so we want to install some horseshoe pits for men to play horseshoes during church fun events, and we have been talking about having a monthly “Shooting At the Range”, for those who like to send projectiles through the air at over 1000 feet per second into a target. There are many other insights and tons of information on men’s ministry at, or you can always read a copy of Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow.
Lastly, a note from the Murrow reads, “the answer is not a male-dominated church. I am not advocating the ‘submit to me, woman,’ brand of Christianity in which men are kings and women are pawns. Not only is this model unbiblical; it doesn’t create spiritually mature men. The answer is a balanced approach…that allow both masculine and feminine expression in the church.” Murrow says that the book isn’t primarily written for pastors and church leaders, he wrote it for laywomen…that may be you, so give it a chance “before you throw it across the room”.