women men and church.001

Men and Church

I have been asked to respond to the challenge of the male gender deficit in church attendance. I wanted to make sure there really was a problem first. The most extensive research I could find (thanks to the wonderful EA information officer Kim Walker) revealed this table:

Peter Brierley working off of the 2005 census argues for a discrepancy figure of 14% with female churchgoers in England at 57% and male churchgoers 43%. This is a scary imbalance but look what happens when it is broken down according to age range. The following table is from the recent 2013 Capital Growth publication which looks at figures just for London.

20-29 years old 30-44 years 45-64years 65-74 years 75-84 years Average age Total number
Male 11% 20% 21% 11% 6% 39 years 316,000
Female 11% 21% 22% 13% 7% 42 years 405,500
Total 11% 21% 22% 12% 7% 41 years 721,500

 

I’m not brilliant with statistics. Perhaps the main problem is  that  41% of those that attend church are over 45 years old  so is it possible that some of the gender discrepancies could be due to difference in death rates?

The Tearfund survey of 2007 saw a bigger deficit  at: Women 65% and men 35%. (They measured regular churchgoers as those who attend monthly at a service on any day of the week whereas the census was looking at weekly Sunday attendance so it is not unusual that the figures don’t match up). This could be because of the difference in work patterns which still sees more men going out to work so more women are likely to visit a church during the week. As I say stats is not my favourite subject – so feel free to correct my reading of the numbers.

So should we be worried?
It is true that  I can think of more instances in my pastoral experience where women attend church services and their husbands don’t. Most of these situations were not men dropping out of church – but rather men never having connected with church. The wives coming to faith and the husbands not responding yet. But I also know lots of women that find church very difficult because of the gender imbalance in Church leadership. I was only given a few words to respond so here’s what I wrote.

Love to know your feedback friends…

We need better research into the numbers. Figures from the last English Church Census in 2005 seem to indicate there is an in-balance with 57% of churchgoers being in female and 43% male but more recent research published last year looking at churchgoing in London presents a much more even spread. If there is a problem; that isn’t based on birth and death rates or including midweek church attendance, this happened while churches are run predominantly by men.  Despite this I have heard arguments for gearing the Church more towards men. Personally I think we need a greater involvement in decision-making for women as I believe the Church should model to our culture both the equality and complementary nature of female and male relationships. I believe that a Church confident in the gospel will call men and women to the kind of discipleship that challenges the consumerist attitudes that make participation in church life dependent on whether services are provided in a way that I want. The answer is not to be more macho.

14 thoughts on “Men and Church”

  1. I spent quite a bit of time looking at this question in my MA thesis, which focused on church attendance amongst men and young people.

    My conclusion was basically that the problem isn’t ‘feminized’ Christianity, but rather watered down or diluted Christianity and men and/or youth act as a barometer for the health of the church, since they are the first to leave if it isn’t making a difference, as they have less of a ‘social contract’ with the church.

    Happy to send you the paper if you’re interested.

    Grace and Peace

    Nick

    1. Nick, love to see your paper.
      I hold a brief in the Oxford Diocese helping churches reach un-reached men and am writing 2 books for SPCK, one called Jesus 4 Blokes, the other Where Are The Men?
      the first looks I suspect at what you concluded in your paper.
      love to see what your reflected on and would, of course, credit you in the book as appropropriate if I quote.
      regards.
      Paul

      paul@pauleddy.org

  2. I’m not seeing a lot of difference in the table you’ve provided. Certainly not enough to draw conclusions. But I do agree that there needs to be more research on on church demographics.

    1. we have all the stats research we like, most vicars and bishops know that for every one man in church there are on average 3 or 4 women and outtside London (which is a different story) it is possible to have one male confirmation candidate for every 6 women.

  3. Krish, did you know that Chris wrote his dissertation on this at Redcliffe and did quite a big survey of churchgoers. It’s on our website if you’re interested…

  4. Thanks for this post Krish – yes we need better research and better analysis – the ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’ school of thought polarises a complex yet important issue, so will be good to see how this discussion continues…

  5. Hi Krish,

    I enjoyed reading your article but noticed your comments on the table from the 2013 Capital Growth publication. I am a Christian and work as a statistical modeller. I think you have misinterpreted the row percentages quoted in the table as column percentages.

    Reading the table suggests that 21% of Males who attend church are aged between 45-64 years old. Similarly, 22% of Females who attend church are aged between 45-64 years old.

    I have calculated the cell frequencies from the report (the number of people by gender and age group) which suggests that among people aged 45-64 years old, 43% are Male and 57% are Female. This is consistent with Peter Brierley’s figures from the 2005 census.

    I am happy to email the other figures. I don’t disagree with your other points in the article but think it’s important to clarify the figures you have quoted.

    Hope that’s helpful.

  6. What we seem to be seeing at my church is that the men who are dads of kids who are playing sport on Sunday mornings don’t come as they do the sport run leaving mum to attend either alone or with younger -not yet sport playing – kids.

  7. I don’t understand this table and the inferences being made from it.

    1) The total % for men is 69 % and for women is 74%. Are the missing 31 and 26%s in age groups 84?

    2) You write: “… the discrepancy seems to kick in at a significant level in the 45-64 year old bracket …” yet the discrepancy here is only 1% and at exactly the same level as the difference in the 30-44 banding.

    You may find this Church of England report of interest: http://churchofengland.org/media/1936517/statistics%20for%20mission%202012.pdf There is a lot of useful data here on church attendance and also information showing that significantly more women are being confirmed.

    Finally I am currently undertaking some work for the Church of England on women in ministry and am happy to discuss this.

  8. Krish,

    Interesting blog and its great this issue of male/female imbalance in the church is being address as I think there is a problem and its been a long term one.

    I hear about the 40/60 M/F split in the church often and some areas its as bad as 70/30 but I am interested about your figures as they represent London.
    I could go along with those figures you represent for London for the following reasons….. (I have nothing to back this up. This is only my observations – so do challenge me on this)

    * There are large african church in London and my understanding there is more of a M/F balance in those churches.

    * There are more middle / upper middle class men in the capital and the church does appeal more to that social demographic.

    I think the problem is far worse outside the capital and there is also a lack of working class men in the church. Esp below the age of 45.

    Setting the statistics aside from my own observations from attending different churches throughout my life, church culture/community is geared more towards woman. That is fact and in family context fathers will have more influence over wives/gfs children so reaching men will tend to have a larger impact. again fact.
    So I think there needs to be a shift in gearing church community towards men if we are going to want people to meet with Jesus.

  9. “The answer is not to be more macho.”

    I agree with this, although I’m not exactly sure how one could ‘make church more macho’. If you mean by “macho” something like “testosterone-fueled, bullying, Driscollite manliness”, then yes, Church does not need to be more macho. Nothing makes me cringe more than rather forced displays of ‘masculinity’.

    I agree strongly with several commentators’ observations that men are generally not as socially invested in church-life as women are. The degree of imbalance also probably varies strongly from denomination to denomination, worship-style, facilities etc. I cannot speak for all churches, but I have noticed that more charismatic, emotionally-driven churches have a higher proportion of women to men, for example.

    In a lot of churches I have frequented it is very hard to say what/where the problem lies, mainly due to the fact that two thirds of the congregation are aged anywhere between 45-90, and as you say mortality rates factor into this. But again, this is only in my experience in my neck of the woods.

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