Friday, 10 June 2011

Why don’t guys come to church?

When I was a bit younger I knew some elderly people who were very involved in a very traditional, old-school church. They were some of the most Godly people I have even known, but there were very firm about how a church service should be run. However, often when I talked to these people they would lament, "Why don't any of the young people come to our church?" They genuinely didn't understand why no-one under the age of 70 wanted to join their rigid church service. It seems to me that we have a similar situation in many of our mainstream evangelical churches today, as many of our church services are filled primarily with middle-class women. People are starting to lament, "Why don't many blokes come to church?"

Now, if you knew the answer to this question you could certainly make a fortune by writing a book (not to mention a study guide, a video series for small group studies, and a speaking tour) that could be sold to desperate churches across the Western world. Unfortunately I don't have the answer! Not even many clues really, but I think it is a very important issue to discuss.

First, I'm not sure if men are rejecting the whole Christian faith or just the forms of church they seem to be common now – I suspect it is the latter, but it then inevitably leads to the former as well. If it is indeed just a rejection of current church practice, then that is promising because forms are not doctrinal, and therefore, they can be negotiated and changed.

Second, I think the issue is not as simple as guys not attending church, because there are many blokes who love it and are intimately involved, and these are not just 'girlie-blokes'. However, the gender imbalance is fairly obvious. It is also the case that certain socio-cultural groups or personalities are also under-represented – maybe they attend churches with their peers? If this is so, are churches supposed to be homogeneous communities? Or should local churches reflect the diversity of God's community?

As I mentioned above, I think the problem of guys not attending church is a complex one, and so I don't believe that there is a simple solution. Also, perhaps the current church practices have become so engrained that they have now become sacred, and we are not able to critique them or suggest that they may need to be changed. If this is this case, then we also need to accept that churches will continue to be unwelcoming to many men, and Sunday services will be increasingly feminised communities. This also means that we, as the broader Church, will need to find different forms of church for blokes, and any others who are disenfranchised by the current church community.

I fear that many of the people currently in the church love the forms of church that they have that they will not be willing to consider change and they can't understand why others (many guys) don't want to join them. Perhaps this is a new evangelistic crusade – fill the church with women so lonely guys will come seeking love! This will then address the gender imbalance. Problem solved.

Perhaps not! Ok – this needs more thought. I will continue with this idea again next week.

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