When it comes to who fills the pews, every Sunday is Mother’s Day in most mainstream American churches.
And what about Father’s Day? That can be a touchy subject for pastors in an era in which men who religiously avoid church outnumber active churchmen roughly three to one. Worship just doesn’t work for millions of ordinary guys.
“What churches are doing isn’t getting the job done. Mom is having to take the kids to church because Dad doesn’t want to go,” said Marc Carrier, co-author, with his Cynthia, of “The Values-Driven Family.”
“That leaves Mom in charge of the spiritual upbringing of the children, which means faith is a Mom thing and not a Dad thing. … So why is little Johnny — who is 25 and has his first child on the way, whether he’s married or not — never in church? The odds are that his father was never in church.”
Church attendance among men had already fallen to 43 percent in 1992, according to the Barna Group, which specializes in researching trends among Evangelicals. Then that number crashed to 28 percent in 1996, the year before the Promise Keepers movement held its “Stand in the Gap” rally that drew a million or more men to the National Mall — one of the largest gatherings of any kind in American history.
No one involved in national men’s ministries believes that those stats have improved. That’s one reason why a nondenominational coalition wants to hold a “Stand in the Gap 2007” rally on Oct. 6, hoping to gather 250,000 men at the Washington Monument and on the Ellipse, just south of the White House.
The American numbers are sobering, noted Carrier, but they are nowhere near as stunning as another set of statistics in an essay entitled “The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland,” published in 2000 in a volume covering trends in several European nations. The numbers that trouble traditionalists came from a 1994 survey in which the Swiss government tried to determine how religious practices are carried down from generation to generation.