Why Men Hate Going to Church

As a pastor’s kid, I have grown up in the church and seen some pretty interesting things throughout the years.  One of the images from my early years in church is of an older gentleman, Harry Beeks, who would fall asleep every Sunday during my dad’s sermon.  Sometimes he would even snore.  Harry added an element of the unpredictable to church and I loved it.  Harry was one of the reasons I liked going to church but I wonder if he knew that he played an important role in the church.  Even though he slept through the sermon, Harry was always at the main door of the church handing out candy to all the kids as we left.

I am currently reading through David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church in an effort to find out why men don’t enjoy going to church.  You’ve probably seen Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character on SNL.  I wonder what the “Church Guy” character would look like.  Probably a mixture of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons and Phil Dunphy from Modern Family.  Not necessarily the image of a man that we aspire to.  Why is this?  As men what is it about church that makes us want to take a nap during the sermon or dream about the football game later in the afternoon?  Some of George Barna’s research shows that the spirituality of moms outpaces that of dads.  Why is this?  What is it about church and spirituality that men believe they have to leave their manhood at the door and become domesticated?

Now that I am back in church leadership I am asking some of the same questions that I asked a few years ago.  Now I am even more driven to find a solution.  Here are some of my questions as I attempt to dive deeper into what drives men specifically away from church.

  • How does worship and singing drive men away?  Take a look at worship song lyrics and you will discover that many of them vaguely seem like sappy love songs.  How could worship be different so that men feel like they can express their worship for God?
  • Does the sermon drive men away? Some controversy and debate would be good on Sunday mornings.  I think men also need specific, real world examples of how their faith should inform their daily lives.
  • Does the pastor drive men away?  Does your pastor connect with the men in the congregation?  I don’t think the pastor needs to talk like Larry the Cable Guy but he also needs to be honest about how his maleness affects his spirituality (this obviously only relates if the pastor is male).  Men need to feel that the guy teaching up front understands what his daily life is like.
  • Do the wives drive the men away?  Wives have an unbelievable power to either build up their husband or tear them down by what they say and don’t say.  Sometimes women can have unhealthy expectations of their spouse and his spirituality.  Whether or not your spouse is the essence of the Christian man that you desire, genuinely encourage him every chance that you get.  Fight the tendency to compare him to others.  Understand that a man’s relationship with God will look different than a woman’s relationship with God.

These are just some of my thoughts and observations on why men hate going to church.  It saddens me that the image of a Christian man is Ned Flanders and not the real men of the Bible like Peter, Paul and David.  These men were close to God and yet were men.  How comfortable do you think Peter, the hardened fisherman, would be in our churches?  I am determined to create a church environment where a man like Harry would feel comfortable and engaged.

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About joelnewton

I am a husband to Hillary, a father to Anna and Norah

Posted on August 31, 2010, in Church and Culture, Church Leadership and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It’s hard to point to reasons because men may not attend for bad reasons or for false expectations. I think your bullet points certainly apply for some guys.

    As far as why we should attend church… I think we should attend church because we are challenged to meet God in community and to serve with others. To that end, I’m a bit critical of sermons in general. Sometimes they’re really good, but the quality is so hard to maintain. I also think that church is kind of uninspiring if all we ask of people is to come and sit rather than using Sundays to get everyone on the same page with God and with one another and then move toward service for the rest of the week.

  2. I appreciate your practical, pointed questions in the bullet points. Every church leader should consider these questions.

    At the heart of it all, I believe, is the failure to represent Jesus, the Man. People of both sexes have difficulty connecting with Jesus because they make the immediate jump to his divinity. In a sense they’re right, Jesus is God. But he is also man. 30-something, working, sweating, deal with problem-solving issues, standing up to “authority” and even interacting with women (of all kinds!). Why would any 21st century man want to follow anything less than another man, a better man, the Man, Jesus Christ?

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