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Author Topic: Empty Pews: Where Did All The Men Go?  (Read 4899 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 10, 2006, 09:00:15 PM »

Empty Pews: Where Did All The Men Go?
Gender Gap Threatens Churches' Future

By Kristen Campbell and Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Saturday, June 10, 2006; B09

Men don't need pirates in the pews. Then again, the presence of such swashbucklers might not be the worst thing to happen to a Sunday morning.

So goes the thinking of David Murrow, author of "Why Men Hate Going to Church."

"We don't have to have hand-to-hand combat during the worship service to get men there," Murrow said. "We just have to start speaking [their language], use the metaphors they understand and create an environment that feels masculine to them."

Today's churches, Murrow argued, just aren't cutting it.

"My background is in marketing and advertising, and one day I was sitting in church, and all of a sudden it dawned on me that the target audience of almost everything about church culture was a 50- to 55-year-old woman," said Murrow, a Presbyterian elder who's now a member of a nondenominational congregation in Anchorage.

The gender gap is not a distinctly American one but it is a Christian one, according to Murrow. The theology and practices of Judaism, Buddhism and Islam offer "uniquely masculine" experiences for men, he said.

"Every Muslim man knows that he is locked in a great battle between good and evil, and although that was a prevalent teaching in Christianity until about 100 years ago, today it's primarily about having a relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally," Murrow said.

"And if that's the punch line of the Gospel, then you're going to have a lot more women than men taking you up on your offer because women are interested in a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally. Men, generally, are not."

Concern about the perceived femininization of Christianity-- and the subsequent backlash-- is nothing new.

In the middle of the 19th century, two-thirds of church members in New England were women, said Bret E. Carroll, professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus. Portrayals of Jesus around that time depicted a doe-eyed savior with long, flowing hair and white robes.

Then, around the 1870s and 1880s, came a growing emphasis on making religion attractive to men. The movement known as "muscular Christianity" extolled manliness and had its heyday from 1880 to 1920, according to Clifford Putney, author of the book "Muscular Christianity."

Around the same time, fraternal orders grew exponentially among the urban middle classes, according to an online article by Mark C. Carnes, author of "Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America." Not only did the groups provide men with opportunities to cultivate business connections, Carnes writes, but they appealed to some who "found satisfaction in the exotic rituals, which provided a religious experience antithetical to liberal Protestantism and a masculine 'family' vastly different from the one in which most members had been raised."

Fast forward to the late 20th century, when Promise Keepers experienced enormous-- if somewhat fleeting-- popularity. Determining the lasting influence of this or any other movement in men's spiritual lives proves difficult.

But the Rev. Chip Hale, pastor of Spanish Fort United Methodist Church in Spanish Fort, Ala., said he believes "real strides" have been made with Promise Keepers and other men's movements. Mission trips and hurricane relief work have also helped to make faith become real for some.

"These guys have really come out because it's something they can do," Hale said. "They feel like they've made a contribution. . . . I think men like to do things that they feel comfortable doing."

Yet come Sunday morning, "we're going to sing love songs to Jesus and there's going to be fresh flowers on the altar and quilted banners on the walls," Murrow said.

Men aren't the only ones alienated by such an environment. According to Murrow, young people aren't that keen on it either. Both groups are challenge-oriented and appreciate risk, adventure, variety, pleasure and reward-- values some churches "ignore or vilify," according to Murrow.

Murrow said "it would look like the rapture" if women didn't come to the typical church one Sunday.

"The whole thing would grind to a halt," said Murrow, who said he wrote the book for laywomen in particular. "They're the ones who are suffering most from this gender gap. A lot of women feel overworked and underappreciated in our churches today because they are carrying the load."

At Jerusalem Baptist Church at 2600 P St. NW in Georgetown, more women than men show up even when the church holds a men's event.

"I have never known us to have more men than women," said the church's pastor, the Rev. R. Clinton Washington, who estimates about 80 percent of his church members are women. "I don't know any church that does."

Women in the historic black congregation say they pray for the husbands and young men who don't join them in the pews, but they don't allow the statistics to stifle their faith.

"It doesn't bother me," said Jean Lucas, a longtime member, gathered with other women in the back of the church after a recent two-hour service. "Women run the church. They have to. . . . We don't have any men."

Churches have to help men and women use their gifts, not just fit them into old religious molds, Murrow said.

"There has to be some stretching and risk or you're not going to get men, and I think you're not going to get the upcoming generation of women either," he said. "We're ripping women off by making the church so much about nurturing and caring and relationships, and they're missing that component that they need."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2006, 02:30:57 PM »

Usually I take TomS's general postings of this nature with a big pinch of salt, but looking at today's congregation really had me wondering...80:20... Not good.
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2006, 05:48:27 PM »

In Orthodoxy, you get more men than women a lot of the time, at least in initial interest. That's because it is both masculine and feminine in everything including worship. We had 13 catechumens this fall. 2 are female, and one of them was 7 years old. FM-G talks about the Church appealing to men more easily on a surface level. That article is definitely not dealing with Orthodoxy, but the generic mainstream and not mainstream protestant Christianity.
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2006, 07:33:58 PM »

In Orthodoxy, you get more men than women a lot of the time, at least in initial interest. That's because it is both masculine and feminine in everything including worship. We had 13 catechumens this fall. 2 are female, and one of them was 7 years old. FM-G talks about the Church appealing to men more easily on a surface level. That article is definitely not dealing with Orthodoxy, but the generic mainstream and not mainstream protestant Christianity.
You should see my parish choir sometimes.  It can get rather bottom heavy with all the basses (all men) we have.
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2006, 07:51:19 PM »

You should see my parish choir sometimes.  It can get rather bottom heavy with all the basses (all men) we have.
Wonderful! Can my parish borrow a few?  Cheesy
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2006, 09:16:17 PM »

I'll bet you don't have many tenors, though. Nobody wants to sing tenor in Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2006, 09:25:22 PM »

Quote
Nobody wants to sing tenor in Orthodoxy.

Not true at all.  It is only Russians that have the deep bass fetish; I've heard many great tenors sing in other Orthodox Musical traditions. 
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2006, 10:00:44 PM »

[quote author=Νεκτάριος link=topic=9244.msg124216#msg124216 date=1150248322]
Not true at all.  It is only Russians that have the deep bass fetish; I've heard many great tenors sing in other Orthodox Musical traditions. 
[/quote]

I'm one (I wouldn't say I'm great though - just a little above average)...and know several others locally too.  Try taking us away from the Wine country though.  Not gonna happen. Grin
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2006, 11:27:19 PM »

I'll bet you don't have many tenors, though. Nobody wants to sing tenor in Orthodoxy.

I know, right?  Usually I am the tenor section in our choir (we've got three basses, on avg), and I'm a baritone, naturally!   Tongue

Seriously, though, I agree with Orthodoxy often being outside the mold set in the OP; our parish and many others around us have a really good mix of men and women.  Usually family units with both mom and dad.

That, and single, college-aged guys who've read themselves into our church!
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2006, 11:28:38 PM »

I'm more concerned with the youth.
I liked what the article said about kids wanting a challenge.
There may be men in Orthodox churches, but don't kid yourselves and pat yourselves on the shoulder regarding the young people. We'rer losing them at the same rate as other church bodies.

I like what my friend posted on his blog:
Warning: he's Roman Catholic (yes I have Catholic friends).

The Church Fathers had a distinctive approach to youth ministry.

Now, don’t jump to conclusions. I haven’t uncovered any evidence that St. Ambrose led teens on ski trips in the nearby Alps. Nor is there anything to suggest that St. Basil sponsored junior-high dances in Pontus. (There’s not even a hint of a pizza party.) In fact, if you check all the documentary evidence from all the ancient patriarchates of the East and the West, you won’t find a single bulletin announcement for a single parish youth group.

Yet the Fathers had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There’s ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.

How did the Fathers do it?

They made wild promises.

They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

The Fathers looked young people in the eye and called them to live purely in the midst of a pornographic culture. They looked at some young men and women and boldly told them they had a calling to virginity. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.

The brightest young man in the empire’s brightest city — a teenager named Origen of Alexandria — promised himself entirely to God in virginity. And, as he watched his father taken away to be killed, Origen would have gone along himself, turned himself in, if his mother hadn’t hidden all his clothes …

Search all the volumes on the ancient liturgies, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a scrap of a Mass we’d call “relevant” today. We know of no special Youth Masses. Yet there was an overwhelming eucharistic faith among the young people of the Church.

Tarcisius was a boy of third-century Rome. His virtue and devotion were so strong that the clergy trusted him to bring the Blessed Sacrament to the sick. Once, while carrying a pyx, he was recognized and set upon by a pagan mob. They flung themselves upon him, trying to pry the pyx from his hands. They wanted more than anything to profane the Sacrament. Tarcisius’ biographer, the fourth-century Pope Damasus, compared them to a pack of rabid dogs. Tarcisius “preferred to give up his life rather than yield up the Body of Christ.”

Even at such an early age, Tarcisius was aware of the stakes. Jesus had died for love of Tarcisius. Tarcisius did not hesitate to die for love of Jesus.

What made the Church attractive in the third century can make it just as attractive in the twenty-first. In the ancient world and in ours, young people want a challenge. They want to love with their whole being. They’re willing to do things the hard way — if people they respect look them in the eye and make the big demands. These are distinguishing marks of youth. You don’t find too many middle-aged men petitioning the Marines for a long stay at Parris Island. It’s young men who beg for that kind of rigor.

No young man or woman really wants to give his life away cheaply. Tarcisius knew better. So do the kids in our parishes.
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2006, 11:31:26 PM »

BrotherAidan, you are absolutely right-on.  I'm linking to that post in my blog right now.
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« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2006, 11:33:18 PM »

my friend has a great blog devoted entirely to then early fathers; alot of his catholic readers ask why he always quotes eastern church fathers!
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« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2006, 11:43:50 PM »

Quote
No young man or woman really wants to give his life away cheaply. Tarcisius knew better. So do the kids in our parishes.

That was one of the best posts on oc.net in a long time.  I agree from my perspective as a kid/young adult that the reason kids don't take most religious programs directed at them seriously is because they are so shallow, sappy and almost insulting to their intelligence.  And kids are never going to accept something preached by those who only halfheartedly believe in what they preach. 
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« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2006, 01:19:38 AM »

Where did all the men go?

To my parish!ÂÂ  We have more single men than we have single women in the parish, most converts looking for the Orthodox Faith of our Fathers. Families that have fathers have their fathers leading the children in , taking them to light their candles, etc. Our Single Parent Familes have young men in the parish who volunteer to help the mother with their children so she can enjoy the services as well. While I realize this is probably not the norm around the church--it does show where real commitment and conversion can lead in a man's life.

My greatest barrier that I had to cross when I married my sweetheartÂÂ  over 30 years ago was she had been raised in a Roman catholic Home in which "Religion" and Church attendance was for the women and not a thing a man did. As a result the brothers of my wifeÂÂ  follow their father's footsteps. My wifeÂÂ  learned what it was to be in a Godly home with the Husband at the head of the family under Christ and has been happy that things are the way that they should be in a healthy family---and I make no major decision without consulting my helpmeet in joint prayer. Yes men can take the reins we just have to recognize that it is what the Lord wishes us to do.

We were overjoyed when we became members of our Parish to discover the activity of men in the Church.

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2006, 09:44:05 AM »

...as I hear a stampede on single Orthodox girls heading to Texas  Cheesy


(I'm a tenor also, but have my fair share of "off" days)   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2006, 10:01:05 AM »

You should see my parish choir sometimes.ÂÂ  It can get rather bottom heavy with all the basses (all men) we have.

Our choir is almost entirely male. We have one woman who sings regularly and another who occasionally does. Even so I'm apparently the main bass. I asked my wife if she could hear me singing and said yes, because of my bass voice. She then also said that this was a good thing as our choir, including the men, tend to sing rather high. I think we have about a 50:50 split of men and women in the parish as a whole (there are a lot of young families), but this isn't reflected in the choir.

James
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« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2006, 11:10:00 PM »

Brother Aidan is right on.

This is how Al Quieda and the Taliban work ( as well as the US marines) However, is this Christian?
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« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2006, 08:17:33 AM »

Christianity doesn't produce suicide martyrs.
It is telling young people to pick up a cross and follow Jesus through the martyrdom of self-scrifice in a positive way by living a self-denying moral life in a morally polluted culture and that you might risk some career "suicide." Also others may persecute you or you might face martyrdom (not self-made and not hurting others). Quite different from radical Islam.

There are parallels to the marines I suppose for a certain type of young male, but different from Christianity is the extreme physical training and being part of this elite team - more analogous perhaps to sports, except the risks and stakes are higher (at least in wartime)
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« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2006, 01:37:20 PM »

Brother Aidan,

Well said - I agree completely!

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« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2006, 11:02:42 AM »

All this talk of the Marines sounds like a slogan for a marketing campaign:

FEEL LIKE A REAL CHALLENGE?
THINK YOU'VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO FOLLOW CHRIST?

HEED THE CALL!

THE FEW, THE HUMBLE, THE ORTHODOX

 Cool
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« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2006, 02:23:43 PM »

BrotherAidan

Your post left me tearful and speechless.

I will state as someone else has already...Your post regarding the early faithful young and the fathers was the most inciteful and firmly unargueable post I have read on this website on any subject.

At this time of Pentacost and fasting; this provided a blessing for all of us.

All glory be to God...Amen
And may He continue to bless you and this website.
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« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2006, 11:41:31 PM »

I once again must defer and say I was just the lucky beneficiary of reading that quote on my friend's blog.
I was glad to share it here.

I am happy that some of you found it so uplifting. My friend is RC, but his blog specializes in great quotes from the Fathers. I don't know if I am permitted to share it on OC.net (the blog, that is).
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« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2006, 12:06:24 AM »

I once again must defer and say I was just the lucky beneficiary of reading that quote on my friend's blog.
I was glad to share it here.

I am happy that some of you found it so uplifting. My friend is RC, but his blog specializes in great quotes from the Fathers. I don't know if I am permitted to share it on OC.net (the blog, that is).

Any link to something pertinent to a discussion thread is permissible--even stuff from other forums--the only thing you can't do is link to another discussion forum in your sig or start a thread that says, "Hey, come look at our fourm!"

So you'd be perfectly all right in posting the actual website if you wanna.
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« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2006, 11:27:03 PM »

BrotherAiden

It is good to here something from the RCC that reinforces the faith of the Holy Orthodox Church.

Maybe one day these things we still share in common is what may bring us all back together.

We must remember the faith of the Fathers...

Again thanks!
Give God the Glory!
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« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2011, 03:01:00 AM »

This is a great thread! I want to thank everyone for their postings, I have enjoyed them so much.  In my parish the percentage of men that attend the Liturgy on Sunday is easily 35% or more.  No 80% women in any Orthodox parish I have visited in San Diego.  Men are very involved in the Church.  I thank God for that.
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« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2011, 03:15:18 AM »

Many men may not love church, but Orthodox men do.

"In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," "The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to." 

"Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? Their responses, below, may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches, who are looking for ways to keep guys in the church."

Rest of this article by
Frederica Mathewes-Green
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/42390.htm
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« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2011, 09:46:57 AM »

Very good article, and pretty much dead on.
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