Why are there more women than men in the pews? What are the real reasons—not the excuses—for why numbers of men in mainstream churches is dropping more each year?
David Murrow has studied the subject for years and he has updated this book from the first edition he released. He’s kept only 30% of the content from the first edition and done a major overhaul in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church.
Murrow proposes that men see church as a feminine activity because of what we do there. I’ll state some of Murrows arguments and also include my impression of his statements. Keep in mind, I'm filtering my impressions through my female perspective, but I did ask my husband his thoughts on some of the concepts too.
First, he says the décor of churches looks very feminine from the moment men walk in the door. Many churches are decorated in mauves, feminine shades, lace doilies and feminine stencils, flowers on the altar and scattered around the building.
Second, he says we use feminine language at church when we talk about relationships, sharing, personal relationship with Jesus, and intimacy with God. Murrow says these terms appeal more to women and effeminate men. I have to agree with some of what he says, but he implies that only effeminate men are at church (enforcing the stereotype) and I know that there are many masculine men in churches. His ideas may apply to some men, but not all masculine men are turned off by these terms.
Third, Murrow says we do too much hand-holding and hugging and encourage expression of emotion that makes men uncomfortable. He includes the dress code in this argument stating that women usually care more about their appearance and enjoy getting dolled up more than men do (p. 103). The fact that he uses the term “dolled up” to refer to wearing classy clothing is odd, since men dress up in suits for the office and business and no one labels that as getting dolled up.
The author makes a great argument in that many church activities and ministry centers around female leadership and planning. He’s persuasive in showing the ways churches can take a different approach that would appeal to men more. He says men want to think in terms of warriors and kingdoms and see God as a mighty conqueror where women think of the family of God and how he loves and holds them close. He gives ideas for how churches could be more deliberate about appealing to me in how they present God and in the songs they sing.
Murrow’s major argument for the songs we sing is that they are too intimate for men. In fact, he goes as far as saying men see it as gross (p. 99) when they sing or speak of an intimate relationship with another guy (Jesus, God the Father). He says this is a barrier for heterosexual males. However, I think he’s made a massive stereotype with that application. I asked my husband’s thoughts and he said singing a song about loving your father is way different than singing a song about loving another guy. So, Murrow’s argument might be true for some men, but others may not feel that way at all.
There are a couple of places where Murrow contradicts himself. He says the problem with more women in church than men came about in the 70’s when we starting singing more intimate praise songs instead of hymns. He says, “With hymns, God is out there. He’s big. Powerful. Dangerous. He’s a leader. With P&W [praise and worship], God is at my side. He’s close, Intimate. Safe. He’s a lover” (. 74). Seems like a persuasive argument, until later in the book, we read that the battle to reengage men began in 1844 with the industrial revolution, when large numbers of men began disappearing from local congregations ( p. 127). This was more than 100 years before praise and worship music started replacing hymns in the church, proving the problem runs deeper than the music we sing.
Overall, this is a helpful book for the reader who can read objectively. Some nuggets will revolutionize churches. Other information may not hold up under further analysis. Either way, it will help pastors and leaders think carefully about what they do.
This statement from the author ought to wake up many church leaders: “Eventually the church is no longer fishing for men. Instead, it’s creating a comfortable aquarium for the saints. Members no longer go to church anticipating a life-altering encounter with God. Instead, they come to see friends and to participate in a comforting ritual that’s changed little since childhood” (p. 109).
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for review purposes.
What do you think? Why do you think more women attend church than men? Do Murrows arguments make sense to you? Leave your comments below.