Culture At Large

Women rule the church?

Andy Rau

Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal last week on the fact that women are increasingly outnumbering men in American seminaries and church congregations:

According to a recent survey, the typical U.S. congregation is 61% female. Women are also the force behind most lay organizations and volunteer activities and make up the majority of church employees.

A lot of thought-provoking tidbits in the article. While this gender imbalance is probably welcome news for some people, it's a bit alarming that the bulk of church ministry and participation seems to be falling to one gender. But how on earth to go about addressing it? Here's one suggestion, by author David Murrow:

Mr. Murrow crafts a very 21st-century solution to the feminization problem, with a message that seems more like a PowerPoint presentation than a masculine manifesto. He is keen to revive some of the prescriptions of the old muscular Christianity--emphasizing Jesus' manliness rather than his meekness, for example--but Mr. Murrow infuses them with the modern vocabularies of marketing and self-help: focus less on relationships and more on risk and reward; less "have a love affair with Jesus" and more "build the kingdom of God."

I'm all for scaling back on the "Jesus is my boyfriend"-type fluff, but I'm skeptical that this approach will get men flocking to the church in droves. Just changing around vocabulary will be seen for what it is: a rather surface-level attempt to appeal to the male demographic. If there's something fundamental about the religious life that's driving men away from the church, that won't change by just calling it something else.

But I don't have a better idea. What do you think? Is this gender imbalance rooted in the way the church markets itself (as Murrow suggests), or is there a deeper cultural reason that men aren't as involved in the church? You hear a lot about the fact that men and women are "wired" differently--is it even possible that biology plays a role in this?

(Hat tip: World Magazine Blog, where there's already a feisty discussion going on about this.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church