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|
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.