Single Men in the Church, or the Lack Thereof

Yesterday, I read a post at Single Roots, written by Jenny LaBahn. She gave a female perspective to the lack of solid Godly men in our churches. She communicates truth well, and points women to find their identity in Christ instead of in their role(s) as a wife and/or mother. While her post seemed directed toward women, it did get me thinking about this a bit more, and while I don’t have anything nailed down, I’d like to share some observations I feel may contribute to this pandemic tragedy.

We Don’t Disciple Well
By this, I mean that we don’t do a good job of teaching guys how to reach out to guys outside of a church or small group setting. We do a great job emphasizing community – so much so that it’s become a buzzword, right along with missional (or reformissional, for the Mark Driscoll fans). We really value small groups and pouring into each other that way, but I haven’t seen any emphasis on “Here’s how you talk to your co-workers and friends you see at the bar.” Now, it shouldn’t be as pragmatic as that, but it should be a culture of the gospel overflowing to daily conversation, and being able to invite another guy to a small group or church as an outworking of those conversations. Let’s face it, sometimes that’s weird. It’s weird for me to invite a girl to church, much more a guy. It shouldn’t be this way though. There aren’t enough single guys because the guys who are in church aren’t building relationships with guys and bringing them into their community.

We Love Our Sin
The reality is that most guys I know stay away from church because they don’t want conviction, even some of the Christian guys I know. Now, this may apply more to “nominal” or “cultural” Christians that true “conversion” Christians, but I think a big part of it is that we don’t want to be convicted of idolatry, lust, or treating women poorly. Especially for the guy who grew up in church but never really felt the love of God, choosing to go out on Saturday night and sleep with a girl or go to church on Sunday is an easy decision. It’s the wrong one, but it’s easily made because their hearts are hardened. If I’m honest, I think this is also partly because the way Christian guys who do go to church act. I think, for the most part, we don’t functionally live out Christ’s sufficiency and supremacy in our lives. Instead, we look at the guy who gets all the girls and part of us wishes we were that “lucky,” while the other part of us smacks ourselves for thinking that. If we want to see this change, we have to preach the gospel and Christ’s sufficiency and supremacy to ourselves over and over so we can better live that out.

Baseless Arguments
It’s been said that part of the reason single men don’t go to church more often is because it caters to women and/or families. While there might be some truth to this, I don’t think it has that much merit. I mean, how does one cater a church to women or families? Is it the message? The aesthetics? The worship music? Last I checked, pretty much everyone is on the Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, and Hillsong wagon, so I don’t think it’s the worship. If it’s the message, then we simply aren’t preaching the Christ of the Bible, or at least not completely. In any event, it’s a basic marketing principle – you go with the feedback you get. If you have a church primarily of families and women, that’s the input you have to work with, especially if the single men don’t speak up. So, instead of slinking back in the corner and not speaking up, we should respectfully and lovingly engage our pastoral staff to help them know how to better preach the gospel by addressing the needs and issues that single men have. To that end, we should expect them to address those needs and issues with Christ. The answer may very well be to sacrifice our needs for the sake of our sisters, but that will be a contextual issue worked out in each church.

Now, I’m very fortunate to me a member at the church I’m at now. So, most of this is what I’ve seen via blog comments, insights into my own life, and what I hear from friends. So, what do YOU think the problem is? Why does the church as a whole lack Godly single men? What can we do about it?

Pray, yes. What else?

7 responses to “Single Men in the Church, or the Lack Thereof

  1. Good to read a male perspective on this topic. On the subject of churches catering to females, I think there is some merit to that idea. From my perspective, it’s easier to get females to come into a church sponsored event. Women are simply more likely to invite other women to events at church. They provide childcare. They also promote extra curricular events outside of Sunday morning worship. My church is small, but it has five thriving women’s Bible study groups meeting each week. At least 1/3 of those attending are women outside my own congregation. I also know many other churches who host other women-related events related to crafts and other female-friendly pursuits. Those are easy to invite people to. On the flip side of that, there seem to be fewer man-friendly events which would encourage inviting guys from outside the church. My own church has several small men’s groups meeting for Bible study, but it’s a much smaller group than the women’s. They try to organize events for guys, but it’s much harder to get them to commit to come. Some of it may have to do with working full-time, schedules, and other commitments. I certainly understand that and value my free time. Granted, we don’t need to water down the gospel in order to get people into the church. However, I think it’s important to make the gospel accessible to all. Jesus didn’t go out inviting people to come to the temple. He went out and mingled with the people and met them on their level and at their point of need. Perhaps that’s where we all need to start.

    • Yeah, I can see the attraction women find in church sponsored events, but I don’t think that means it “caters” to women more. Maybe it does, it wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve been blind to.

      I mean, your church has men’s events, but men just don’t come. So, is it the nature of the event? Are they spending time with them instead? Would they rather just watch football and zone out until work comes around again? Do they view going to these events as “needing” something, in contrast to the “pull yourself up by your boot straps” mentality that seems so prevalent in today’s culture? Do they just not feel the love and grace of Christ in their lives, and therefore have no desire to go?

      I definitely agree that the start of this has to be incarnational ministry, walking into the lives of the lost and inviting them to walk with us. So, we shouldn’t need organized events to spread the gospel and reach people (that goes back to the discipleship stuff), but if “members” of a church know about events that would serve their walk with God well, what keeps them from being involved?

      I know we may not be able to answer these questions, but that’s what’s running through my mind right now.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Kristi!

  2. The problem with men and the church is the loss of the leadership and respect that Christianity is supposed to have for men and boys.

    It has either become a given that they will lead in the church and home, or that message has been abandoned altogether. You cannot expect a female or youth to engage a young man that visits a church like they will a new family or young woman. The remaining male leaders should be making it a priority to engage and embrace young men the moment that they make a visit to their church. As a young christian I have visited 3-4 churches of late 1-6 times and never once was I engaged in conversation or invited to a church function. In fact I even showed up one midday to a small teen-youth gathering, determined to meet fellow christians and was faced with a mountain of akward conversations and half-information about who I could meet with or fellowship with. This church was over 800 strong!

    For ANY male to come to church there has to be a compelling message, and I believe the Lords commission to lead a family and be looked up to as a leader is that message but it seems to me that message has been tossed aside in the name of feminist ideology. So all a male is left with to be taught in church today is a perceived shaming for all of his (usually many) vices.

    • Hey, Jake, thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.

      I’ve already expressed my thoughts on some of the issues that you mentioned, so I won’t be redundant on that. I think there’s some merit to the problems you express, obviously there is since it comes from your life story. I don’t think that’s all of it, though.

      The first time I went to my church I sat down and was content to just listen and see how things went during the service and all that. About .035 seconds later, a girl named Anna turned around and introduced herself to me. Just like that. She added me on Facebook and pointed me toward one of her friends who was a home group leader. I joined that group and walked with them for over a year before I felt like I needed to be in a mixed group.

      So, it seems like the problem might be more that we just don’t engage new people well overall, across all local churches. Some will do this better than others. Some churches have connecting points where you can talk with people to find out more information about where to plug in, other churches are working on it, and other churches sadly haven’t seen the need for it. I’ve visited other churches during the past few years as well, and I’ve found a key difference is when I just go and wait for someone to talk to me, I usually feel left out of the crowd, but when I take the initiative and introduce myself to someone, I feel very welcome. Local churches should reach out to men better, but maybe we also need to do a better job reaching out to local churches.

      I agree, there should be a compelling message, but for the sake of displaying Christ as supreme and the gospel as beautiful and necessary. Part of that message is indeed leading the home, but we also lead sacrificially. Sometimes that means giving up vices and hobbies for the sake of laying our lives down like Christ did His for the Church.

      I’ve been in many churches, some of which definitely leaned toward the egalitarian side of things, and I’ve never felt perceived shaming for being a man. The only time I’ve ever even heard that was when Mark Driscoll talked about it. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but I haven’t yet found a person who can verify that this was part of their story. On the other hand, I have heard many accounts of how being told to “man up” in the macho/MMA sort of way only served to hurt and demean the man who would rather bake pies than watch football.

      There is a balance to be reached, to be sure, but we must get there cautiously and by extending grace to those who disagree. Otherwise we only continue the pattern of wounding and being wounded.

      Grace and peace, Jake.

  3. I’ve known many young men who come from solidly Christian families who drift away from the church and stay away. Sometimes, it is simple biology. At the peak years of their attraction to women, they are chaste, exploring their feelings and talking about their unworthy selves in church groups.

    Their friends are having relationships, having sex, enjoying the good life while nominally remaining Christians. The young men who stay in church and abstain from sin (sex, the party life) realize soon enough they are the only ones remaining chaste. Virtually all girls raised in the church have sex partners and enjoy the party life quietly before marriage.

    Sure, young men can avoid sin, be part of a uniquely feminine church experience and wait for marriage until their late 20’s or early 30’s. Or they can be like 99.99% of men and experience life while not being taught to be overly feminine and submissive.

    Perhaps I’m completely wrong, but I’ve seen churches chase young men away in droves. Churches want the “church lady”. They want older, sedate couples who tithe and stay quiet. I know this because I’ve been a minister since 1996. I am frustrated that we cannot fill churches with men.

    The real problem? Churches are reaching out to the demographic that responds: mostly women. We don’t preach about right and wrong, heaven and hell. It’s all about women’s feelings, a very feminine image of Jesus, and of course how men need to grow up, make big changes and work hard to show they’ve changed.

    Who needs it? When men ask me why they’d ever got to church just for shaming or to hear a message that pokes fun at them, I don’t have an answer.

    People in the church will talk about this forever, but aside from the pastor himself, no men hold any power or influence in any church anymore. It’s just the way our culture has changed the faith.

    • “Virtually all girls raised in the church have sex partners and enjoy the party life quietly before marriage.”

      Really? I’m still a female virgin at 38, and I’ve not had the opportunity to have sex even if I wanted to. I’ve never been asked on a date, either.

      Perhaps single men aren’t coming, not because they don’t see men represented in the power structure, but because they don’t see *singles* represented in the pulpit.

  4. Single men are generally not welcomed at church – most of the churches I’ve been to as a single man have chosen not to include me in event invitations, I am not greeted or made eye contact with by the door greeters and during greeting time in the sermon, etc. Most churches actively dissuade single young men above 30 from being involved in social life.

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