Churches Striving to Make Unchurched Men Feel Welcome
- Tuesday, September 18, 2007
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Imagine you are a man who hasn't attended a church in years. You enjoy such activities as golfing, hunting and fishing on Sunday mornings. You think it's more beneficial to spend time outdoors with a few of your closest friends than it is to be cooped up in a church building.
Now imagine that your wife has asked you to try going back to the local Southern Baptist church one more time. Do you think the average worship experience will entice you to come back?
Upon entering the service, worshippers sing what sound like sappy love songs to Jesus. The lyrics say things like, "Hold me close, let your love surround me," "Jesus, I am so in love with you" and "I'm desperate for you, I'm lost without you."
After the singing, church attendees hold hands for prayer and hear a sermon emphasizing concepts such as a "personal relationship" with Jesus, having "intimacy" with God and "sharing" their feelings with other Christians.
Finally, at the end of the service opportunities to serve in the church are announced. But these opportunities include only such things as singing in the choir, keeping the nursery, decorating bulletin boards and baking desserts for the next church potluck.
Would you, an unchurched man, find a church like this appealing and comfortable?
If you said no, you're not alone. Increasingly, men are not involved in church.
The U.S. Congregational Life Survey says that while the U.S. population is split almost evenly between men and women, only 39 percent of all churchgoers are men. Referring to Americans in the mid-1990s, pollster George Barna wrote that "women are twice as likely to attend a church service during any given week. Women are also 50 percent more likely than men to say they are 'religious' and to state that they are 'absolutely committed' to the Christian faith."
Lance Crowell, a church ministries associate with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), said the story is not much different across the Lone Star State.
"Even though there are men attending church, more women are connected to their churches at a level beyond mere Sunday morning attendance," Crowell, who oversees men's ministry for the SBTC, said. "Men are not coming at the same rate as women, but even beyond that a large percentage of those who are coming are not truly connecting, serving, and especially not leading."
Many churches, Crowell said, do not realize their ministry style caters almost exclusively to women. But Baptists must reprioritize to reach men and, in turn, transform the church, he said.
"Several leaders in men's ministry have noted how so many churches have catered to women in their style, look and programming," he said. "This is largely because the ones who care the most in the church are often the women. We need to help churches, leaders and, of course, men, see that they are the first step in changing our churches and making a difference in the community."
Leon Podles, in his book "The Church Impotent," argued that the feminization of Christianity began in the Middle Ages. As a new, feminized piety increased in the church, men began to exit, he wrote. According to Podles, this feminized Christianity is dangerous for both the church and society.
"If the feminization of the Church continues, men will continue to seek their spiritual sustenance outside the churches, in false or inadequate religions, with highly damaging consequences for the church and society," Podles wrote.
Despite its feminization, Christianity has the resources to attract men without compromising its message, Podles said. He suggested that in order to reach men, churches emphasize the struggle of the Christian life and brotherly love.
"Christianity has within it the resources that allow it to appeal to men, to show that not only will Christianity not undermine their masculinity, but it will also fulfill and perfect it," he wrote.
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