How can we get single men and husbands to be interested in church and ministry?

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church is ineffective and impractical, and that’s why men are bored there

Consider this passage from William Lane Craig’s April 2013 newsletter, which made me very excited and happy. (H/T Triablogue)

Here it is:

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ. By presenting rational arguments and historical evidences for the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to the mind as well as the heart, we can bring a great influx of men into the Kingdom. I’m so pleased that the church in Canada seems to be awakening to this challenge! I’m convinced that we have the opportunity to revolutionize Western Christianity by reclaiming our intellectual heritage.

Now, I hear a lot of complaints from women in the church and pastors in the church about men not being interested in going to church. I think that the problem is that church is hostile to men’s natures. Men thrive on conflict and competition. Men prefer strict rules and moral judgments. Men prefer to shame people who underperform, rather than coddle them. Men are practical and results focused. So how should the church accommodate the different nature that men have? Apologetics is one way to appeal to the male nature.

Let’s take a look at it.

Pastors: church as it is now is abrasive to men’s male nature

In William Lane Craig’s most recent podcast, at time 8:47, the WLC tells Kevin Harris about how he and his wife Jan asked about six of the young men who attend his “Defenders” apologetics class which morning service they attended: traditional or contemporary. ALL of the young men said that they attended neither service, because they go to church to learn something and the service has no educational value to them. The only attend the Defenders class. The apologetics class taught them things they could actually use – things they could actually use to think better, and fight better. This is my experience as well, although I am looking for a better church that does have some appeal to men. I might even have to move to find a decent church that has apologetics.

There is absolutely nothing going on in most churches that is valuable to a man. Men, by and large, only pray as a last resort, after we have done everything we can to solve the problem ourselves. We pay the most attention to the parts of the Bible that help us debate with non-Christians, or that give us things to do. We like to find evidence in the real world that connects with what the Bible is saying. We are interested in planning, execution and results. We are not very interested in feelings, singing, devotions, or bending the rules to make people doing bad things feel good. Now that’s not necessarily true for all men, but it is true for the majority of men.

And lest some people worry that fighting makes enemies, it doesn’t. Fighting with non-Christians has two effects: 1) they respect Christianity more, and 2) they want to be your friends and talk to you about spiritual things. I just got an e-mail from Captain Capitalism this week (he is a non-Christian) expressing some interest in what it is that I am doing as a Christian. He reads the posts where I take on atheism, they don’t make him respect me less as a Christian at all. He thinks that standing up for what you believe in and living consistently with it makes you authentic. That is not the exception, Christian women and pastors – that is the rule. Atheists don’t think that standing up for what you believe in makes Christianity look fake, they think it makes Christianity look authentic. Well, at least the ones who you want to talk to think that.

Wives: don’t choose men who had no interest in advocating for Christianity before you married them

A related problem I see is the problem of wives marrying the wrong men then complaining that the men they freely chose to marry are not interested in church. This is actually the woman’s fault. Most women don’t think about what is best for God when they think about who to marry and have children with, they think about what makes them feel good. They don’t have any kind of plan where they match the man’s ability to the roles he will play as husband and father – they just pick who makes them feel good. This works about as well as buying and selling stocks based on which make you feel good, or choosing electronics and computers based on the color, or choosing a job or a church based on what the building looks like. The Bible lays out a few minimal requirements for a man: chastity, self-sacrificial love, providing for family, leading on moral and spiritual issues. Most young, unmarried women don’t value those things. If a woman picks a man who doesn’t make any demands on them, and who doesn’t judge them, then she cannot depend on him to show spiritual and moral leadership later on in the marriage. So don’t pick a man like that.

Wives: men respond to attention, recognition and approval from women

The reason that most husbands don’t engage in Christianity is because most wives (not my married friends of course) haven’t approached Christianity as something that is objectively true. Men don’t create illusions for themselves in order to feel better – they are more practical than that. Men only invest in things that they think are true, and where they can see that their practical efforts will make a difference. Men are turned off by the view that Christianity is just something that helps families and communities bond, and makes people feel comfort. We think that’s weakness, and we abhor weakness. Once men get the idea that a woman thinks of Christianity as feelings-fulfillment, we stop trying to achieve anything for the Kingdom of God. Men don’t want to be roped into Christianity if all it means is helping people get along and feel good. But they very much want to be roped into a demanding relationship with God where their efforts to achieve results count with God and gets them recognition and approval from their wives.

So how do wives learn to recognize and approve of what men do as Christians? Well, women need to learn apologetics and they need to practice debating with non-Christians. That will teach them to value conflict and competition, and to see how engagement and authenticity drives relationships with non-Christians forward. If women show an interest in objective truth, moral goodness and theological correctness, then men will become interested in these things, too. They will do it because men are addicted to pleasing women, and they want to help women more than anything in the world, second only to pleasing God. Men will enthusiastically engage in whatever will get them praise and recognition from women, and that means that women have to care about Christianity beyond their personal emotional experience of it and beyond their social cohesion experience of it. Initially, wives must be ready to praise and encourage their husbands, and then once the husbands get it, then they will be self-motivated and move out on their own. It will be self-sustaining.

12 thoughts on “How can we get single men and husbands to be interested in church and ministry?”

  1. Man, what a nice bit of information! I always felt guilt about being bored to death in church services. When I compare the messages from the pastor and those of guest speakers, it was the guest speakers that captured my attention. With this simple observation, it makes sense: the guest speakers tended to talk less about relationships and more about history. Furthermore, at the church where I do go, there are very few men. Men between 18 ~ 50 are almost non-existent. Maybe this explains it…

    If I might add: Another problem I’m sure we’ve all seen is the level of busy-ness that people fill their lives with. Everyone’s too busy to devote time to apologetics. In fact, I tried starting an apologetics course for people, but only 4 people showed up! (And the pastor wouldn’t even announce to the congregation that I was offering it, citing that fact that it was only once a month was not enough to warrant a mention. Argh!)

  2. I never like church worship as it currently stands given that the story that the music and lyrics tell is of a romance between a believer and Jesus rather than as a man following our lord into battle with Jesus by our side as our comrade as well as our Lord.

    Likewise alot of church culture just seems to have the effect of emasculating men.

  3. Great songs of the past, such as “Onward Christian Soldiers,” are not allowed because of the Church’s fear of offending anyone. The Church needs to change its practice and consider Jesus’ words about His having come to bring strife between people instead of the warm and fuzzies.

    How can we make the change?

    1. I wonder why onward christian soldiers involve “happy throng” in their lyrics though.

      The eastern orthodox and gregorian chants do better on that front.

  4. This is a great post. The two churches I attend are filled with men and focus a great deal of apologetics, but I hear these concerns about the so called feminized church from men all the time. Whether that is rooted in reality or not, the perception is keeping men away. One thing I wish we’d do here is something physical, baseball, weight lifting, because young guys don’t like to sit. Just the idea of sitting quietly in church is enough to drive off many men. In the olden days we used to have softball games, church around a campfire. Men, especially younger ones, tend to like action rather than passive learning. I suspect sitting in church feels too much like sitting in school.

      1. Ha! Well, we already know you’re a rare treasure.

        A whole lot of boys have been confined to public school, sometimes medicated, shamed for being physical, and the idea of being confined in church and force fed ideas doesn’t sit well with them. When they grow up, wild horses wouldn’t drag them into a church. When young guys come into church here we try to give them jobs, monitoring the sound system, passing our programs, stacking chairs, anything that will make them feel useful and give them wiggle room.

  5. Going to church as a single man just seems actually emasculating.

    Maybe its the feminized socialist rhetoric disguised as Christianity that offends and insults me, but I feel like I;m being actually duped and disrespected by going to church and listening to a lot of what I hear.

    In fact the queasy feeling sometimes leaves me dumbfounded. Something is seriously wrong. And for me at least, I realize that this is NOT Christianity. Its some kind of socialist feel good coercion. I cringe at it. And the lack of an outlet IN the church to challenge it.

    In the church the rest of my family goes to I just say one thing to describe my strong impression.:

    ‘Some churches serve God. Some churches serve people.

    This church serves people. And the minister is quite proud of that.’

  6. That sort of masculinization of church creeps me out, but I, too, would like church to appeal to the mind, not just the emotions.

  7. Another wonderful, very helpful post. I just want you to know that I appreciate you so very much! I’ve learned more from you in the short time that I’ve been reading your posts than from anyone else in my life. You are having an effect on many, many people more than just me; my sons, the kids at the public school where I work, and many more. Thank you for sharing your strong and unwavering belief in a very real God, and making it more than, as you say in this post, just “feel good”; but all about reality, knowledge, courage and strength to follow Him without wavering.

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