by Frederick J. Goodall
Every Sunday, church pews fill up with despondent women who are forced to worship without the men in their lives. A recent survey by Ellison Research found that 31% of men never attend church even on holidays. This sad statistic prompts parishioners and ministers alike to ask: “Where are the men?” While it’s true that several men spend their Sundays satisfying their vices for sports, beer, and sleep, men who don’t attend church usually have more substantial reasons for not attending.
1. THEIR FATHERS DIDN’T ATTEND CHURCH
“Many men give their sons the impression that the church is not a place for real men by stereotyping Christian men as passive, effeminate, and henpecked – qualities no man desires,” says Frederick Davis, assistant pastor of the Almeda Church of Christ in Houston, TX. “As a result of their macho posturing, these men are inadvertently teaching their sons that church is only for women and wimps, and propagating new generations of unchurched men.”
A man’s lackadaisical attitude towards church attendance can influence his children’s perceptions of religion. This behavior is especially destructive if the man has a son. It is difficult for a mother to convince her son that attending church is important if her husband invalidates her arguments by sleeping late on Sundays.
“I would always wonder why my mom made me go to church when my father didn’t,” says Andre Ligon, a 40 year-old lawyer. “I didn’t think church was important because he never went.”
2. THEY HAVE TO WORK
As companies downsize and lay-offs lurk around every corner, men feel compelled to work as much as they can to provide some measure of security for their families. Neglecting their own spiritual growth is a small sacrifice for men who desire to keep their families out of dire straits.
George O’Neil, Sr., 63, retired, concurs. “When I got married and had children, I had to stop going to church as much as I used to because I had to get a steady job. I worked whenever I could get something which often meant on Sundays,” O’Neil said. “Something had to give -unfortunately, it was church.”
3. TOO MANY COLLECTIONS
With rising unemployment, higher taxes, and other financial woes, the last thing any man wants to see when he goes to church is a pastor with his hand out asking for more than his fair share of his income.
“I couldn’t take it anymore,” says Paul Johnson, a 52 year-old mailroom supervisor. “Before I could put my wallet away from the first offering, a battalion of collection plates would bombard me again. At one point, I thought I’d have to start paying admission.
4. SERVICES ARE TOO LONG AND INFLEXIBLE
Kenneth Davis, a 53-year old teacher, is a football fanatic. He loves to watch games from the kickoff until the finally seconds tick away; however, going to church usually spoils his plans. “By the time they’re done with announcements, hymns, and excruciatingly long sermons, it’s almost halftime,” Davis says. “I know that going to church is important, but I like some time on Sundays to relax and do what I like to do.”
Reverend John L. Hart, acknowledges that services are sometimes too long, but he attributes it to waning church attendance.
“It’s true that we sometimes have too many things going on during service, but the pulpit is challenged to get in as much as possible because Sunday is the only day we see most the men we do have,” he said.
5. THEY HAVE LOST FAITH IN GOD OR DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD
Men who grew up with a firm religious foundation have an easier time coping with adversity, but a test of faith sometimes can be enough to send even the most faithful servant fleeing from the fold.
Dwayne Monroe, for example, was a model Christian. As a teenager, Monroe never missed a chance to worship the Lord. He attended Sunday school, Bible study, and was the pioneer of his church’s youth ministry. But his faith was tested when his father grew ill with prostate cancer. Monroe, whose mother died in a car accident, prayed daily for the Lord to heal his father, but to no avail. The elder Monroe died when his son was seventeen leaving the frightened child parentless.
Feeling the Lord had forsaken him, Monroe cut all ties with his church and has not been back since. “I was always so faithful,” says the 26-year-old sales clerk. “But God took both of my parents from me and left me all alone. How could a God I’d been so faithful to leave me all alone?”
But he is only one of a swelling rank of men who refuse to accept the concept of an Almighty God. “I have never seen any physical evidence of God’s existence,” said James Turner, a 37 year-old engineer. “We’re taught to be logical in all aspects of our lives, but when it comes to religion, we are supposed to throw our logic out of the window and rely solely on faith. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that. Besides, if there were really a God, do you think the world would be so screwed up?”
Reverend Clarence James, lecturer and author of a series chronicling African-American history, culture, and involvement in the Christian church, understands their dilemma.
“Given the state of America, I can empathize with the men who refuse to believe that God would allow this country to become such a rancid place. But things can only get worse if our men stop believing and lose faith,” James said. “All I can do is ask non-believers to come to church one Sunday. Hopefully, we will say something or they will see something that will convince them that God is alive and working in their lives.”
6. THE CHURCH IS HYPOCRITICAL
Immoral behavior such as sexual misconduct and embezzlement by ministers and church leaders were cited as reasons why men avoid the church.
“I was appalled by all the backbiting and pettiness at my former church,” says Eric Townshend, a 22 year-old student. “Those people were supposed to be Christians, but they sure didn’t act like Christians. I feel that I exhibit the tenets of Christianity outside of church much better than many of those people who attend church religiously.”
While Hart acknowledges the hypocrisy in the church, he believes that it should not deter men from attending.
“There are many untrue images in the church, but people must realize that their commitment should be to Christ rather than the people who comprise the church. People often believe that Christians are supposed to be perfect when in fact, we aren’t,” Hart said.
7. INSENSITIVE PULPIT
Several of the men interviewed for this piece agreed that the church is unsympathetic to their plights. Since many men attend church to mend their battered egos, they get upset when the minister adds insult to injury by attacking them in his sermon.
“I admit that men are victims of an insensitive pulpit,” Hart said. “Historically, we (ministers) have spewed unintended condemnations toward men. Now they are rebelling against the church by not showing up.”
Whereas, it is difficult to rebel against employers or other authority figures in their lives without negative consequences, insurgence against the church is easier because the consequences are not so immediate.
“By not attending church, men feel powerful and in control because they are finally able to challenge authority and get away with it,” James says. “All any man wants to hear is that he is doing a good job. The church needs to be more sensitive to that fact.”
Have you seen a decline in male church attendance? What are other reasons why they refuse to attend worship services?
Mocha Dad is Frederick J. Goodall, author, blogger, and photographer. He writes the blogs Mocha Dad and Making It Last Forever and recently published the e-Book, Mocha Wisdom: Humorous Quotes and Observations from Mocha Dad. But his greatest joy comes from spending time with his beautiful wife and children.