Detroit Free Press–Churches get creative to add men

Growing up the son of a Detroit pastor in the 1970s, Bishop Charles Ellis III says he remembers sitting in pews where there was a fairly even mix of men and women.

But today, the head of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit looks out over his flock on Sunday mornings and gazes at a scene where women outnumber men about 2-1. The demographic shift worries him and other Christians looking for ways to draw men back to church.

Nationwide, 61% of those who attend church are women, while 39% are men, according to the U.S. Congregational Life Survey in 2009. The divide is even greater in some African-American and mainline Protestant congregations.

To bridge the gap, churches are developing nontraditional programs to reach out to men ”” from sponsoring hunting trips and car clubs to holding annual men’s conferences. Some have toughened their messages to emphasize power, using masculine imagery in their services.

Read the whole article.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Men, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

11 comments on “Detroit Free Press–Churches get creative to add men

  1. robroy says:

    This quote from the article is rather vague:
    [blockquote] The Episcopal Church, for example, has a female head and promotes gender equality — and according to a National Congregations Study, it has the highest percentage of churches with a significant lack of male attendance. [/blockquote]
    I wonder what the exact statistic the remark is referring to. Does anyone have the reference?

    Found this site interesting: [url= ]How to find a Man Friendly Church…[/url]
    [blockquote]1. Look for Large (As a congregation grows, its gender gap shrinks.)
    2. Look for Nondenominational
    3. Look for Strict Adherence to Scripture (Churches that attract men have a bottom line: the Bible. Multiple studies have shown that churches that hold their members to scriptural standards (particularly in areas of personal morality) tend to grow faster than those that don’t. The National Congregations Study found self-described liberal churches were 14 percent more likely to have a man shortage than conservative ones.)
    4. Look for a Young, Multiracial Crowd (A study from Hartford Seminary finds a statistical correlation between a younger crowd, the presence of men, and church growth. Meanwhile, an abundance of members over the age of sixty and a surplus of women is associated with decline.

    The same study found a strong correlation between a racially diverse crowd and church growth. It’s not enough to preach racial diversity from the pulpit; the people in the seats must represent many tribes, tongues, and nations. Look for a multicultural congregation when trying to attract men.)
    5. Look for a Congregation That Is Itself Young (Recently founded churches do better drawing males. The National Congregations Study found that churches in existence less than thirty years are measurably more effective at reaching men.)
    6. Look for Energized Men in the Pews
    7. Look for a Man in the Pulpit (Churches with a female senior pastor are 20 percent more likely to experience a lack of men in the pews. Why is this so? Men follow men.)
    8. Look for a Pastor Who Is Astonishing and Authoritative
    9. Look for Informal Dress
    10. Look for Modern Technology
    11. Look for Fun
    12. Look for a Clear, Unique Mission[/blockquote]
    The average Episcopal parish is on the wrong side of most of these bullet points.

  2. AnglicanFirst says:

    Robroy (#1) posted the following citation,
    “7. Look for a Man in the Pulpit (Churches with a female senior pastor are 20 percent more likely to experience a lack of men in the pews. Why is this so? Men follow men.)”

    Roger that!

    Over the past years I have posted, several times, my observation that men seek male leadership. This is based upon many years of experience in leading and in observing the leadership and ‘followership’ of men.

    This is not an attack on female ordination, as such, it is a straight forward observation regarding the kind of leadership figure that attracts men, that men seek, and that men will follow.

    So, for those of you who become ‘positively giddy’ when you see a female pastor on the pulpit or delivering the sacraments, remember that there is a price that is being paid for our ‘modern’ and ‘enlightened’ views regarding ordination.

    Many men percieive a ‘town garden club’ or a ‘parish altar guild’ situation when they see a woman preaching to them.

    So if you want a female pastor to be in charge, accept the consequences. Which include a diminished male presence in church.

  3. Townsend Waddill+ says:

    We brought Men’s Fraternity into St. Margaret’s last year and it has been AMAZING! We tend to get caught up in this idea that if we focus on our youth programs, it will make our church grow and we will get all these new families that will come into our congregation. Robert Lewis, the author of Men’s Fraternity argues that the best way to grow a family-oriented church is to grow your men’s ministry, and I find his arguments very compelling. He has the Bible on his side, and data to support it – a statistic that if the man in the house is the first to visit a church, the rest of the family is 90% likely to follow. I can’t remember his youth stat, but it was under 50%. Women were in between the two numbers.

    If Episcopalians are going to start growing their churches again, men’s ministry has to be a major focus. We have to stop raising up generations of soft males who fall down on their responsibilities to provide leadership, both within their families and their churches. That has to come from a support structure of other men who have already embraced God’s call on their lives – who have stepped up to the plate.

  4. Vatican Watcher says:

    Despite all the ballyhoo attempting to prove some kind of causation between priestly celibacy and the decline in vocations, the number of vocations in the Catholic Church started falling off just when women were being introduced into the sanctuaries as readers and music leaders and communion ministers.

    The most obvious and visible expression of this trend can be seen in the altar servers ([i]altar boys being now out of fashion[/i]). As dioceses across the US one by one started allowing girls to join the ranks of servers, the boys who had always enthusiastically sought the job started coming out less and less. The raw material of the Catholic priesthood has been cut off at the source.

  5. Keith Bramlett says:

    [blockquote]To bridge the gap, churches are developing nontraditional programs to reach out to men — from sponsoring hunting trips and car clubs to holding annual men’s conferences.[/blockquote]

    I don’t know about hunting trips or car clubs, but I can attest to the transformational power of an annual men’s conference. St. James Newport Beach has had one for the last 20 years. It has now become the diocesean event for men in the newly formed Western Anglicans. (Third in a series of shameless plugs.)

  6. Pb says:

    Although men serve on vestries, they are not the major influences in many TEC congregations where women rule. Women abhor a spiritual vacuum and will move in when men refuse to exercise spiritual leadership. Who has your priest’s ear?

  7. Sick & Tired of Nuance says:

    “The National Congregations Study found that churches in existence less than thirty years are measurably more effective at reaching men.”

    Systemic issues?

  8. ATC_in_Texas says:

    I read this prior to attending church this morning at a parish of the Episcopal Missionary Church. I did a quick count of the attendees at today’s service. We were 50/50 men and women. Men are encouraged to step up to take leadership roles and this has been working.

  9. paradoxymoron says:

    Funny how an article about how to change churches to attract different people (in this case men) has nothing to say about theology, and the role that that may play in attracting or repelling men. I think that this article misses the mark because of it.
    I strongly disagree with the idea that men follow men because they’re men. I think that men generally don’t choose to follow women pastors because women pastors tend to focus on a damp, huggy, indistinct, kumbaya unitarian Christ who accepts you as you are, so there’s nothing to do. Men would rather focus on the rules and how to “win,” thereby.

  10. robroy says:

    OK, I was able to track down the data and found a nerd’s dream site:

    Denomination Percent of parishes with 56% or more female
    BAPTIST 69.1%
    METHODIST 80.1%
    LUTHERAN 76.1%

    To have a lot of geeky fun, do the following steps:

    # Go to the [url=]National Congregations home page.[/url]
    # Clicked “explore the survey data”
    # Under “Create Cross-tabulations of Two Variables”[url= ]Wave 2: 2006-2007 data [/url]
    # Clicked under the first Variable. “Denomination.” For the second variable choose “Percent of regular adult attendees are Female”

    May mix it up. Caution: data junkies can spend a lot of time with this site.
    # Clicked: “I want my tables to reflect the number of persons in congregations”
    # Clicked: Create Frequency Table.

  11. Todd Granger says:

    I recall Frederica Matthews-Green’s essay from several years ago that looked at how Orthodoxy attracted men. The bottom line: ascesis – asking Christians to take on practices that are associated with living disciplined lives under authority. She made the point that the discipline to which Orthodox Christians are called is very like military discipline.

    Ask more of your congregants (fasting, church attendance throughout the week, etc), and more men will join.

    I rather suspect that the all-male clergy of Orthodox Churches is a factor as well.