Why men hate going to Church?

why men h8 chrch.jpgI’ve just handed in my review of “Why men hate going to church” for publication in the next edition of the Diocesan Newspaper (you see I can do deadlines sometimes). David Murrow’s thesis is that church culture and practice has been feminised and that it’s meant that Church is a place that has become uncomfortable for blokes (guys for U.S readers). I’ll post the full review once the paper is out but it’s a book that raises important questions and valid critiques of our ecclesiology. (I should add that the author is in no way attaching this to the ordination of women, merely to the attributes that Church seems to have embraced)
Straw poll though:
If you are a guy, are there bits of Church that you find difficult/awkward by nature of being male (and all that that means).
As a woman, are there attributes of Church that you can see that you love BUT would be alienating to men?
(I realise there’s a whole bunch of stuff where Male leadership has been a barrier to women but we’ll do that debate seperately)

18 Replies to “Why men hate going to Church?”

  1. I am part of a Men’s Group in the Catholic Church, and to me the salient points are that the church is the sum of its parts i.e. more female members will lead to a more feminine church. What we as men need to do is to take an active role in the Church in all areas (for instance in our Sunday school there are 16 female leaders and one male). And only by men standing up and being counted will the church start to appeal to both sexes (continued over a few beers……)

  2. It’s fascinating though as the church is run “managerially” at least by a majority of men and it’s foundation and history is redominated by men but at grass roots there are, indeed more women involved in leadership.
    Is there some strange politics going on that women appreciate men in leadership but men less so? Yet would this not have changed when ordination was opened up to women? Or does it not work the other way round – do men not find women in leadership as appealling as the traditional “clergy fan club” of women find a male priest appealling?
    I think our church is fairly balanced in gender terms – though interestingly our youthwork has been male dominated for several years now (it wasn’t 20 years ago) because there are more families with boys than families with girls. Yet the core of really dedicated young people is fairly well mixed.
    No answers but you’ve left me pondering… (might have to try some beer – or maybe chocolate as I’m a girl! – to help that pondering later!!)

  3. Well, Mr C doesn’t much like singing, but I don’t know if that’s a ‘bloke’ thing as such.
    Could it be related to job/ family stuff? It still tends to be the case that blokes are out at work working longer hours, while women still are the ones who give up work, or work part time to provide child care. This means they’ve more available time to volunteer, and thus have a greater input and ‘feminise’ aspects of Church life?
    (this is all speculation, you understand!)
    Men who are very active in the Church tend to be either retired or full time (huge generalisation, not true of every Church i’ve worked in)- maybe there is a perception that to be a man in Church, you somehow have to be special (vicar on a pedastal syndrome)or more experienced?
    Maybe it’s none of these, maybe it’s just become culturaly normative that women run things at root level, and while this means that nothing about the experience of going to Church is distincively ‘feminine,’ the steryotyped expectation of being met by middle aged women in florals make a lot of blokes feel they would have nothing in common with these Church folk?
    Studies have shown that men who go for ordination tend to have lower testosterone levels that in other employment. (I can never remember ANYTHING useful, but stuff like that…)This probably doesn’t impact much either.
    I give up, I don’t know. Lets go to the pub and find out.

  4. interesting stuff, i googled the book and found a website on the whole issue. it made a lot of interesting points that i hadn’t considered or had not been conscious thoughts at least but a fair bit of it rang true (it was a bit generalistic tho). theres a similar thing in schools (in oz at least, i dont know what it’s like in the uk) where there are so few male teachers in relation to the number of female ones that if a man applies to do teaching he is almost guaranteed a spot on the course. i wonder whether there’s a link somehow there… (tenuous ill bet between australian schools and english churches ;] but it may reflect some sort of trend in the culture). one thing i have noticed is that the young guys (and me for that matter) at a youth church i go to get in trouble for mucking about and “being boys” especially in the winter when they have to be inside rather than outside playing football as is standard practice during the summer. possibly church lacks a space for male activity (like football/sport) but that is fairly general as well as i know some churches that have great activities for young guys before and after the service.
    interesting stuff…

  5. My gut reaction is this is just another easy excuse to be followed shortly by a programme to de-feminise the Church… but I haven’t read the book… I don’t think I have come across one guy under 40 who has said the church is to female… Yes, you may hear from older generations that religion is for women and pensioners, but thats a different angle and I don’t recall any thing in my Church experiences that could be put down to an emasculated church… if anything I would say the opposite is true.

  6. Hi Ian, I wonder if there is any relation also to the debate that school education style seems to suit girls more than boys? I personally enjoy our church homegroup more than the church service as you have a chance to ask questions and debate points that you disagree with. But I’m sure this is the same both for male and female?

  7. Wow – fascinating debate you’ve sparked off.
    Three more points from me :
    1) Singing, waving arms in the air, worshipping – men are able to do it in football grounds but not in Church. Discuss.
    2) Male volunteers in church – why not ?
    3) When are we all going down the pub ? (Zac, we’ll buy you a virtual pint or stubbie)

  8. Its an interesting debate – a few thoughts observations –
    Majority of clergy are male – and come from a certain myers briggs angle – intraverted intellectuals (study done by jackie cray over 3 years a several theological colleges.
    But many churches still fail in reaching men
    Majority of OPM candidates are male
    Majority of emerging church guru’s – male
    majority of youth ministers – male
    Mark – I dont think Ive come across many people under forty who think the church is too female BUT I have met with many men who have left the church because it does not ‘suit’ them.
    What is the solution More female leaders?
    Or more different leaders.?

  9. Wow. Loads of comments in a short space of time.
    My 2p: There is an issue that many clergy come from a specific Myers Briggs grouping (and youth workers / ministers from a different one as I have commented on Youthblog before) – and have low testosterone according to Kathryn! Not sure whether female vicars attract more men, or alienate them further. I remember an early study from the 1990s that suggested women going for ordination were more dynamic than their male counterparts (more testosterone? 🙂 ). But the Archbish has recently commented that the ordination of women has not delivered the changes(positive or negative) to the church that were predicted.
    Not sure that the majority of youth ministers are male – at least not these days. My training course was roughly 50/50 and my perception of the current market is similar though some of the more vocal ones may be male.
    Like Sarah, my experiences of core young people in the church (in my last four churches) is that they are fairly well balanced gender wise. So maybe ‘the problem’ kicks in later.
    One thought that has just jumped in out of nowhere is that: women tend to be more accomodating and will work around weak leadershipnd; whereas men – I would suggest – are more likely to kick against authority and become frustrated with weak leadership. Discuss.

  10. I think part of the issue here is that our culture tends to consider things that are “feminine” as inferior in relation to things that are “masculine” (consider that it is perfectly acceptable for women to dress like men, but if the opposite happens….).This negative valuing of things feminine can be seen creeping into a few of the earlier posts here.
    As women take on more leadership roles in the church, men are taking on fewer and as a result they are free to participate more equally in the “regular activities” of faith. Consider that many of our faith practices focus on things that are emotional and, as some might put it, “touchy-feely.” In a culture that looks down on things “feminine,” men are made to feel uncomfortable doing things like praying, talking about their feelings, discussing such matters as love and forgiveness and pain. Ask a guy to fix the church’s plumbing — no problem. Ask them to share their intimate feelings about their faith journey and they are likely to take a raincheck (unless, perhaps, they can do this in the presence of other men with no women around. I certainly find in my youth ministry work that young males are more willing to discuss their emotions if they are separated from the female peers. )

  11. Not convinced that society is looking down on feminity. In fact since the 1990s its increasiningly the reverse that is true. Maybe we SHOULD be encouraging more mern to become involved with fixing the plumbing.
    No, seriously, men are drawn to more practical ways of thinking (Woman magazine, 31/12/06, p.38). Also whilst the church tends to emphasise spiritual growth through prayer and Bible study, many people grow more deeply through working together (Ann thingy, Beyond The Good Samaritan, page whatever-it-was, I can’t find it right now).

  12. Ray I love what and how you have referenced your comments – woman magazine and ann thingy page whatever

  13. Thanks everyone, this has been an interesting debate.
    I’ll post the relevent book review when it’s published and see if that helps the discussion.
    Ray, I too love your referencing 🙂

  14. Interesting one this…what if…maybe just for once…we didn’t (including me) kick the Church for the way it is but challenged the way culture presents what it is to ‘be a man’ and a lot of the rubbish that goes along with it. Things like heavy drinking, lack of emotional conection…you know, all those things that we men should be so proud of??!!??
    Just a thought!

  15. Dave,
    It’s a good point and the last thing I’d ever want the church to be doing is endorsing the examples you cite. I think however there is some mileage in the discussion although it’s a massive topic as it covers not only ecclesiology but our understanding of gender.
    The example I kicked off my review with was that one church service I go to expects everyone to hold hands at the end for the grace, which I DO NOT LIKE. I ask the question (and I don’t know the answer), am I uncomfortable with this beacause I am a bloke? because I am not sufficiently christian yet? or because it’s just personal hang-ups of mine?

  16. A couple of thoughts:
    Men don’t come to Church because apart from talking about work a lot of men don’t talk about God to other men, and don’t invite – a lot of men don’t meet other men socially just to “hang out”.
    Men like to “do” stuff, Church isn’t about doing (perceived) it’s about being . . .
    We are still orientated around church services where we sit and listen to someone talk at us. I, as a person (never mind a man) would like to debate – not discuss, women have conversations, men debate.

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