"Where have all the good men gone..?"

...is a question posed by Bonnie Tyler but I believe the question that the church should be asking is where have men gone, good, bad or indifferent ? Look around in many churches in western culture and the women out number the men (in the USA for example on average women make up 60% of the congregation). I did my own research to check this out and in a quick head count at church this morning the women out numbered the men 3:2 (3 women for every 2 men). This is in stark contrast to every other major religion in the world where male and female participation is in equal numbers. Far from being a male institution the church’s work is mainly carried out with the support of women, they attend on a Sunday, they volunteer themselves for the churches programmesand they care practically for the church community around them. So where have the men gone? Why are the ones who do attend so bored and disengaged? Why do so many men never wish to venture through the doors of a church in their lifetime and indeed fear doing so?

Not so much a case of women leaving the church but men never arriving

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Jase in his post on the seminar he attended on the decline of the church in the UK suggests that the empowerment of women in culture did not happen in the church and therefore women opted out taking their husbands with them. One of the commentators on this post suggested to me a book called why men hate going to church by David Murrow. I have not yet had time to get hold of the book but my father-in-law had passed me a copy of a talk based on this book which I listened to today. Having heard the talk I really want to get hold of the book and read more as it seems to suggest that rather than women stepping out of church and taking men with them that the church for centuries has become adapt at reaching women, children and old people for the simple reason that they show up i.e. the are the punters in the pews. David Murrow argues that rather than calling men back to the church it is in fact time to call the church back to men.

The church culture thermostat is set to feminine

Murrow believes that as women make up the bulk of the church that they set the thermostat for the churches values firmly to feminine, for example safety is valued over risk, stability over change, preservation over expansion and predictability over adventure. Church becomes sweet and sentimental, nurturing and nice – an environment in which women thrive but men wilt. Murrow contrasts the thermostat of films aimed at men – a hero saving the world from impossible odds – with that of films aimed at women – having a relationship with a wonderful man – think Gladiator (saving Rome) vs Bridget Jones (finding Mr Right). So is it no wonder then that churches emphasise a relationship, especially with a wonderful Mr Right named Jesus and few model male values of risk/reward/accomplishment/sacrifice/action and adventure…? And even if a man tried to do something like that he would get into trouble within 5 minutes – and spend the rest of his time in grudging silence – he just isn’t sure about falling in love with a wonderful man, even one named Jesus.

10 male fears about church

Murrow suggests that men value being/feeling competent (we don’t stop and ask for directions cos we want to be competent navigators) and we don’t feel that competent in a church environment which values qualities of expressing feelings, understanding emotions and singing songs. Men also value competition and realise that we can’t compete with women in this environment so we’d rather not come than compete in something so stacked against us. Murrow highlights 10 things that men therefore fear about church:

1. Being outshone by women who thrive in the feminine climate. 2. Singing in public (look around next time the singing starts at the difference in engagement between men and women). 3. Having to check their minds at the door, not being able to ask questions or use their brains. 4. That the church will brain washing their boys into becoming sissies. 5. Having to become a super husband, their wives love Jesus who is already perfect so how can we compete with that? 6. Church is synonymous with homosexuality – from images in the media off the effeminate portrayal of clergy to sex abuse scandals and then we make man hug, sing and hold hands… 7. Getting less sex – church to them is portrayed as promoting a Victorian attitude towards sex and many Non-Christian men suspect that Christian mates get little sex as a result. 8. Having to get dressed up at the weekends – men like to be scruffy and not sure churches really allow that. 9. Men appreciate excellence and don’t expect to find it in a church. 10. There's already an alpha male in residence called the pastor/minister/vicar – fears that he will never be able to use his own talents in any way that could possibly outshine the dominant male.

Calling the church back to men?

I'm a man and I really value church but I find myself agreeing that I am not very engaged by it. The most engaging thing about church this morning for me was arranging to go out on friday to drink Guinness and talk theology with another man.

So that all said it poses some questions – men what do you honestly think about church and what Murrow is suggesting from his research? Women do you wonder where all the men are? how can men and women find adventure in church? How can the thermostat be adjusted (other than Jase giving up his pink shirts ;)? How can men and women be engaged, excited, competent church practitioners? How can not only these fears be addressed but a balan