Why Men Hate Going To Church. David Murrow. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005. 248pp.
I was required to read this book and I opened it with curiosity, as I often interact with guys who have no interest in church. The short answer is that the book was frustrating but did provide a handful of practical suggestions for ministry to men.
The book contains six parts:
1. Why men hate going to church (describes the problem)
2. The three gender gaps (presence, participation, personality)
3. Understanding men and masculinity (biology, social science, man’s quest for manhood)
4. The straws that break men’s hearts (church practices that may turn men away)
5. Restoring the masculine spirit to the church (concerning leadership, teaching, worship, women and ministry)
6. Meeting men’s deepest needs (the need for mentoring and a band of brothers)
David Murrow details US statistics which show male absence from church and he depicts the typical attitude and experience of the unchurched male. He describes masculinity as an “informal code imposed on the tribe” (104), so that a man is constantly seeking to increase his masculinity, or, to meet the standards of his culture’s code. According to Murrow, it is this masculine spirit which needs to be restored to the church.
Murrow gives reasons why the church represents a threat to a man’s concept of masculinity. One reason is that men may be afraid of the Christian lifestyle or of becoming strait-laced. Another reason is that Jesus and Christian values (ie, humility) are often presented as feminine or in a feminine way. For example, songs can extol an almost-romantic relationship with Jesus (think “I Come To The Garden Alone”)–something that may be difficult for a man to express. Many churches today also emphasize emotional expressions in worship, which may intimidate men.
I did find some practical reminders, which I’ve summarized:
– Promote high standards and challenges, and strive for excellence in public meetings, ie in facilities, technology and presentation.
– When preparing worship services, select congregational songs which are singable.
– Organize church ministries to include all people, not just those with strong verbal/interpersonal skills.
– Women relate face-to-face while men form relationships side-by-side, ie while working together. (A generalization, I know)
David Murrow is a producer and writer for television and serves in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He has a degree in anthropology. Murrow’s TV background helps to explain his writing style, which is heavy on punchlines and assertions for which there was little or no explanation and support.
Murrow states that this book is not about calling men back to church, saying “This book does not contain the usual calls to repentance, purity and holiness.” (10) Rather, he is concerned with calling the church back to men. He is focused on practical barriers to male involvement and does not discuss Scripture passages in-depth. I think this is key to understanding the book. By placing less emphasis on Scripture and theology, Murrow has instead used anthropology to explain “why men hate church.” So his explanations are descriptive of male behaviour but are not insightful toward unregenerate man’s sinful nature, which is the root cause of “why men hate church.” While most churches could make practical improvements in ministry to men, those improvements cannot replace the effectiveness of “repentance, purity and holiness” which are prescribed by man’s Maker.
What do you think is the typical Aussie male’s view of church? What is your church doing to evangelize men in your community? I welcome your input.