A man walking away from church

As religious engagement continues to dwindle, faith leaders are determined to get men back in the pews. But will they be successful?


In the movement for gender equality, women may still be getting the short end of the stick in many areas. However, research shows that church isn’t one of them. If anything, women are the ones dominating the spiritual show.

That’s right – by almost every measure, women are more religious than men. When looking at Christianity specifically, it’s not even close. A  Pew Research Study found that 72% of U.S. Christian women insist religion is “very important” in their lives, compared to just 62% of men. More than 60% of those attending weekly church services are women.

A gender gap among ChristiansThere’s more. Roughly eight-in-ten Christian women claim with absolute certainty that God exists. Only seven-in-ten men say the same. This disparity is reflected in prayer statistics: nearly 74% of Christian women say they pray daily, while just 60% of men report doing so.

But we’re not just talking about people of faith; these same gender dynamics hold true for non-believers as well. More than a quarter of American males identified as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” compared to only 19% of women.

While these may not sound like huge differences, try running the numbers across a population of 300 million. If we assume half (150 million) are men, that means roughly 39 million men are religiously unaffiliated. In contrast, only about 29 million women feel the same way.

10 million fewer men interested in religion is hugely significant – and as pews become increasingly dominated by women, churches are being forced to take notice.

Why Men Are Keeping Away from Religion

So, what’s behind the widening religious gender gap in this country? The answer is complicated, and there’s little consensus among experts regarding the root cause.

Some social scientists have speculated that women are simply more biologically inclined to hold religious beliefs. They theorize that women possess certain genetic and psychological traits that promote greater religious identification – traits not found as commonly in men.

Other scholars pin it on social dynamics. Unlike men, women were for decades discouraged from pursuing higher education and joining the labor force. Thus, while men were off getting exposed to new ideas that challenge traditional religious beliefs, women remained sheltered from them. Although much progress has been made, the theory holds that women are still playing “catch up” when it comes to these secular ideas.

How Churches Are Responding

As religious engagement continues to dwindle, faith leaders are focused on one thing: getting men back in the pews. But their success will likely depend on what’s causing this to happen in the first place.

For example, if the theory about genetic traits does in fact explain the gender gap, then churches simply need to find better ways to appeal to men and capture their attention. However, if there’s a direct link between exposure to secular ideas and diminishing religious beliefs, then faith groups should indeed be worried.

If the latter proves to be true, then it’s only a matter of time before women become affected by those same external forces that have caused men to turn their backs on religion.

A man handcuffed in prisonWhat Are Men Doing Instead of Church?

Some experts are concerned that fewer men in church could be harming the fabric of society. Without a grounding influence in their lives or a place to target their energy, some men take up lives of crime.

According to FBI statistics, U.S. males commit nearly 90% of the country’s homicides, 88% of its robberies, 83% of its arson attacks, and 79% of its aggravated assaults.

Those are staggering numbers.

Part of this disparity can likely be chalked up to men naturally being bigger risk-takers, having more testosterone, etc., but are those the only factors? It would be interesting to know how many of those criminals were active in their religious communities. If you asked the experts to guess, they’d probably say not many.

Of course, others argue that connection is nonsense; crime will happen no matter what. But could increasing church attendance be part of the solution?

 

31 comments

  1. Guairdean says:

    People want to belong. In days gone by, there were no social clubs, no gyms, no real gathering places except the local saloon. Even then, the average town probably wasn’t large enough to support a saloon and the average income wasn’t enough to allow more than a rare visit from the average citizen. Wives and mothers saw the church as a safe place to gather, belong, and be involved in the community. Women saw churches as a way to turn a town into a hometown. Men saw church as a social club and a way to keep their wives and mothers happy. As the old saying goes: “Men may have tamed the West, but women civilized it.” Now, there are many activities that beckon to every desire. Movies, social clubs of every type, and a big box hanging on the wall that provides entertainment on demand. Women still want to create a home, and a hometown, and see church as a way to provide social interaction in a setting that creates a good future for their children, and somewhat of a retraining influence (he at least has to hear the message they want him to hear once in a while) on their husbands. People have networking parties to meet new faces and make new contacts. These used to be called Church Socials.

  2. Alicia says:

    Going to church has nothing to do with crime rates. One does not have to go to church in order to have a moral upbringing. Also, how does that explain the “good Christians” who went to women’s clinics, killing staff and patients in the name of “Jesus” to “save babies”?

    Instead of focusing on who is or isn’t going to church or praying, we should focus on how our children are being raised. From what I see, many of this new generation are raising their kids to be spoiled brats only out for themselves. We need to bring back respect for others. That’s what’s lacking: respect. Not religion.

  3. Wesley W Brown says:

    alica you cant say it better now days kids having kids and its left for the parnets too raise their kids we need to teach the kids,on how to be kids their our future

    1. bob says:

      Wesley: We need to teach kids how to be responsible, respectful, compassionate young people. NOT teach ’em how to be kids. Proper parenting requires kids being taught Christian precepts, values and lifestyle. But, that type of parenting starts with the parents living authentic, Godly lives.
      Why don’t men go to church? Because ‘church’ doesn’t sufficiently appeal to them. ‘Church’ needs to demonstrate changed, powerful lives, the reality of the living Jesus, and a tangible purpose in life. ‘Church’ must challenge men with issues where ‘the rubber meets the road’: finances, health, teen problems, jobs, relationships, and God’s call on a man ‘s life. It’s a shame that the women are leading the way toward things spiritual.

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        Why shouldn’t there be more religious women than men, on the average. One side is always bound to be greater than the other. I bet it’s not only in this country. I bet there are more religious women than men throughout the world, and always has been, sometimes more than others. Beliefs have been known to change too. They might change numerous times during a persons life. If they take that poll again right now I bet the results will already be different, although still in favor of women. I think it’s called the way of the world. We ca’nt control others. We might lead by example, and otherwise accept others as they happen to be. What difference does it really make anyway ? It’s not like we’re in a contest where the most religious gender wins the grand prize. People are people it’s plain to see. By far most of the people in this world believe in a higher power. It makes me feel good to know that I’m part of the majority.

        1. Carl Elfstrom says:

          P.S. I don’t go to church anymore either. All that preaching gives me a headache. It’s also not a good place to find a girlfriend. Trust me, I know.

          1. Dana Hoffman says:

            Amen! Brother Carl. I dont attend church anymore either. I pray at home and my tiething goes to help people in my community. I have a hard time going into these buildings called churches and having a man stand behind thee pulpit telling you youre going to to hell for a number of reasons and then to add insult to injury they throw in there by the way we know our staff is molesting children and the church is ok with that, Im not ok with that and therefore I chose to help those that I can in my community and I can pray as many days and as many hours as I want and not have to be told by man if I dont do as he says that I will be damned to hell.

      2. Alicia says:

        Sorry, Bob, but one doesn’t need “Christian precepts” in order to teach their kids to be decent human beings. Jesus has nothing to do with this. It has to do with respect, responsibility and knowing that our actions have consequences.

        I don’t need to be Christian to know that I should hold the door open for a person walking in a building behind me. I don’t need to be Christian to know not to invade another’s personal space (be it their bodies, property, or possessions). I don’t need to be Christian to know that when I have a job, I need to DO that job to the best of my ability. I can teach my kids all these things without being Christian.

        Your comment shows what I find so annoying about many Christians: that it’s THEIR way or NO way. Perhaps you should learn that it’s not spiritual beliefs that make or break us.

        1. Dark Gray says:

          One doesn’t need to go to school to learn how to read, either. It’s merely an efficient way to impart that particular skill to large numbers of people.

          And if you think that being a decent human being consists simply of holding the door open for other people, not invading their personal space, and doing your job to the best of your ability . . . well, perhaps you might benefit from going to church.

        2. Tom says:

          Alicia…i continue to find it interesting that so many “Christians” avoid acknowledging the things that Christ really taught…and one needs nothing from religions to act in a loving, caring, compassionate, forgiving way…the organized religions will eventually fall away, just like their predecessors…Peace…Tom

          1. Tom says:

            Joseph…does it not bother you that you are so nervous about what I write that you must censor my writings?…why can you not allow this to be an open forum…simply stating the ULC is open to all beliefs is just lip service; your “moderation” is emasculating the point of the blog…Peace…Tom

          2. Universal Life Church Ministries says:

            Hi Tom,

            Nothing you’ve written has been censored. Sometimes our system automatically flags comments for moderation, resulting in a delay before they are displayed on the site. Thanks for your understanding!

            ULC

          3. Tom says:

            Joseph…thank you very much for writing…in order for me (and, I presume, others) to understand the ULC concept of moderation, I will appreciate your advising as to the parameters for “automatic” “moderating”…it is hard for me to understand, when I am repeatedly selected for “moderating”, while i write almost exclusively about love, caring, peace, compassion and forgiveness…I agree I do not support organized religion, but if I understand the principles of the ULC, this should not be a cause for “automatic” “moderation”…I will greatly appreciate your/the ULC response…Peace…Tom

          4. Universal Life Church Ministries says:

            Tom,

            We value your voice and appreciate your contributions on our forum. Your comments are consistently thoughtful, respectful, and in line with our conduct policies.

            To offer a quick explanation: our system automatically screens comments for lewd language and potential spam. A member of our team will then manually go through the queue and moderate appropriately.

            However, we’ve noticed the system will occasionally flag completely acceptable comments (such as yours) at random. We are not sure why, and it’s something we’re looking into. We try to approve these comments as soon as possible.

            We are a small team working hard to serve a large community, and we appreciate your patience and understanding.

            Best regards,

            ULC

  4. James says:

    See if I can keep this short & maintain clarity. As a collective, Men in church claim it makes them feel “less of a man”. Should I ask… Is lack of church the cause? Yes, but only in part, and in some cases a smaller % of cause. This is like asking. Which toothpick in the drivers cargo of “toothpicks” broke the axle of the truck. From the pot hole of life he hit to then overload, It’s all a part of the end result. Government laws & corporate influences hold a vast majority of the general direction of the Emotional, Mental, Spiritual & Physical paths kids (we all) take. It is a complex algorithms we set up, a web of egos that start the laws of… “cause-&-effect” that put us where we are today & where we will be headed. it may be tough to deflect humans current trajectory of a spiral of repetition into the abyss of the messes we make. Teaching the kids starts w/ the thoughts we have during impregnation of our partner. PS: Karma takes to long in many cases.

  5. rabbi jim says:

    Greetings all! Being a man, I am very faithful to God. I am not faithful to religions or churches, however. Faith in God the Father is pure and simple, without dogmas, doctrines, rules, and regulations. Sholom and have a wonderful day!

  6. bob says:

    Alicia: Excellent! The world needs many more parents like what you illustrate. Sadly, many Christian families fall short of your description of a good family. But, your last paragraph concerns me.
    Basing my observations on God’s Word, the Bible . . . .you will eventually discover that your spiritual beliefs DO ‘make or break’ you!
    Meeting a righteous God’s requirements for eternal (spiritual) life through Jesus’ work on the cross IS a ‘make or break’ choice.
    This ultimatum is not a Christian’s ‘THEIR way or NO way’; it’s the loving God’s WAY. And, JESUS is the only ‘WAY’!

    1. Donna Rae Gahrman says:

      Amen!

  7. Tom says:

    Joseph…this is the most specious article i have seen on the blog, for several reasons: (1) identifying with an organized religion has little to do with belief in God…(2) being loving, forgiving and compassionate does not require organized religion (3) why do you speak of christians, when the ULC is in no way a christian religion (4) mafia figures are often church-goers (5) there will be no true, unbiased peace in the world until organized religions are gone…they are autocratic, prejudiced and divisive (6) more and more people realize they can be spiritual people without organized religion…i will give you credit if you do not “moderate”/censor this comment…Peace…Tom

  8. Tom says:

    Joseph…i see i amimmediately censored for believing organized religion is not a good thing…while i believe the tenets of the ULC are truly universal, and not prejudiced, i can not say that about your censorship of my comments…if you are literally doing the censorship, you are not a proper representative of the ULC, which should enable all positions and debates…Peace…Tom

    1. Universal Life Church Ministries says:

      Tom,

      We are not in the business of censorship, and we certainly value all opinions. Please see our reply to your comment above.

      Thanks,

      ULC

  9. Thomas says:

    For men there is no obvious quid quo pro with religion. You can go to church, attend other functions, make offerings, pray then get nothing for it. You life does not improve. Nothing goes your way. I think men then take the view that words (sermons and prayers) are cheap if nothing comes of it. Many men see a relationship with a god as a partnership and that the powerful one in that partnership also has the greater responsibility. And if god doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain then the bargain is off.

  10. Spencer Alexander says:

    After reading through all these comments, it seems to me that what is lacking is a profound respect for life. I think if parents can teach their children how precious life is, that it is so special and, as far as we know, this may be the only place where life is found in the entire universe! I think if we as a society can get back to the respect for all life, that many of the other things children need to learn will fall in place. The place where these truths can be learned everywhere, not just in a Christian Church. Life is all around us and it has no limits on what it can teach us.

  11. Craig says:

    I will start by stating that we are addressing Christianity here–says so in the article that they were looking at stats on attendance.

    I do not believe that attending church is the lynch pin of establishing morality–I think in times past it served to remind everyone of their duties on morality, but it is up to parents and family to teach moral values. It always has been.

    As for church attendance, my best friend and I have discussed religion many times and this topic. My friend believes in god, is technically Catholic (he became Catholic because his wife was Catholic in order to get married), but he has no care for church. In his situation, “joining” the church was an armlock used by the church in order for him to get married. You can try to shine it up any way you want, but that’s what it was.

    I ran into similar issues when I got married, though my wife was Presbyterian. I was finishing college, had no religious affiliation, but in order to be married, I had to meet with the pastor several times and fill out all of these questionnaires, otherwise he flat out told me he wouldn’t marry us. Don’t think that didn’t affect my view of Christianity.

    Personally, I think the part of the answer to why men do not attend church is tied to this: years of the church manipulating people to join and be part of the “community” is backfiring and showing up as men making decisions not to attend at all. This is not the entire reason, but I know an awful lot of people who do not attend church for various reasons, and for many it serves no purpose in their lives anymore.

    As Guairdean stated above, going to church used to be a social event for people to gather, and with the changes in mass media and so on, it no longer serves the populace as it once did. And you no longer need to talk to your pastor to discuss religion–you can find that on the internet or just amongst social circles.

    While the overall teachings of Christianity are not bad, whether Christian leaders like it or not, they are going to have to change with the times and meet the needs of the people or they will become irrelevant–as we are seeing. Holding onto outdated ideas of family, sexual identity, and a host of other issues only shows the people a narrow minded view of religion and pushes people away.

    The world is no longer black and white–it is coming into full, high definition color and Christianity is going to have to evolve in order to survive.

    1. Donna Rae Gahrman says:

      I disagree. A church that speaks truth should never compromise the precepts of the Word of God. Things in the world have become politically correct as opposed to pleasing God. If what you are doing is not pleasing God then it is wrong. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Bible is not an old antiquated book. It is life. Man has been given free will but as soon as you know who Jesus is and what He did for you then you have been called by God. Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit, but not if they don’t establish a sincere relationship with the one who reconciled us with God the Father, Jesus. “Religion” and denominations cause division in the church. I believe Satan caused this to divide Christians. There is nothing you need to do to be saved except believe in Christ crucified for your sin. Most churches make up their own “rules”, but we are only called to repent and love. That is why the Bible tells us the road is narrow and the workers are few. There is too much false teaching and compromise going on to lure people in. We must be trying to please God and be thankful, because the individual is the one who will stand before Him in the end.

  12. Mark Graham says:

    I’m of the persuasion that disconnect from the church is created by design, and is one of the primary reasons for crime. We’ve made some mistakes in our country and our school system that Ultimately impacted our spirituality. We can change it if we have the courage and boldness of Christ.

  13. Roy C. Wilson says:

    Nothing mentioned about the economic situation which now takes two or three jobs to equal the income that one man made, supporting a whole familly, back in 1970 and the years before following WWII.

    Children simply don’t get the attention or guidance they use to get before parents were being worked to death. Many children are now raised by babysitters and the internet, many may have facebook accounts their parents may not even know about or have the time or energy to find out about.

    Capitalism is the maximum exploitation possible of the many for the sake of the few. Today’s elite no longer need “the opium of religion” with the very profitable electronic devices that most people are addicted to. Indeed the elite don’t want people in church where they might just wake up to their exploitation and might seriously forsake possessions for the spiritual and consume less.

    it is indeed both economically and a preferable social control to have both children and adults stuck in electronic screens all day long with no time for church or anything else but school or work or the mall,

  14. GodsMustBeCrazy says:

    You god died nailed to a cross.
    Thor has a Hammer.

    Any questions ?

  15. Father Fred says:

    I can only speak about myself, but I fell out of church, but I didn’t fall out of God. All during my young life I was exposed to hypocrisy within the church. I found it hard to be told to follow the commandments, when during a year’s time maybe 8 out of the 10 would be broken. I didn’t understand how a pastor or a priest could look the other way, yet be in the pulpit telling the congregation it was wrong. And the 80s, in my corner of the world, seems to change from the way I remember church being in my very early years, to cliques and study groups of select people. It was newcomer not welcomed. My turning point in becoming a minister was when I found out that I was not the only person treated this way. Judging from whom also left the churches, I think men, more than women, get disturbed by hypocrisy. But when the woman doesn’t leave the church, the man will stay home and not seek another house of faith.

    I also see times have changed as well. Most of the millennials I know go to the mega churches, but their reason is not necessarily because of faith. All I seem to hear about is the band, or the singer. When engaging them in theological debate, or thought, I get the deer in the headlights. I find it interesting that even most common history of Jesus and the teachings is not retained. Again, it’s more for the entertainment than the message.

  16. Allen Tobolewski says:

    . Since this article is specifically talking about Christianity, my wife and I left Christianity because they were the last people in the world to follow Christ, Yahushua. Just read the red letter Edition, and you will see that they don’t believe in three days and three nights making him a liar. They don’t follow the Commandments as he States, instead they follow Shaul, and HE opposes YHWH and the Messiah more than 30 times. Although Shaul often quotes the Torah, Christians follow the opposite teachings when he says don’t follow the Torah. Shaul teaches there’s no righteousness in obeying Our Father in heaven and His instructions. Christians should be called Shaultians.
    . I know a few other people who have left Christianity because they only do Pagan holy days but none of YHWH’s.
    . I can’t say that all men have come to this realization, very simply put, this is why we left.
    . Our name is correctly, Yahudah / YHWH-worshippers. Genesis 29:35. We follow the messiah’s orders to follow the Father in heaven. And yes, we believe in His “name/Authority/ character/honor position,” the only name given to man for salvation. Acts 4:12.
    . We left the church because they claim to believe the book called The Bible, but as Christians they might have obeyed one part of it, if only by accident. Shalom.

  17. stone sherrill says:

    i dont subscribe to the concept that it is biological differences that are the driving force for divisions in society. i say it is definitely societal at the source. we are smart humans, even if we have monkey brains sometimes. the described social dynamics issue here is such an example. there is undoubtedly issues that occur when one half of humanity is delegated to housekeeping while the other half is in charge of the house.

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