Author and chartered psychologist Annabel Clarke explains how fewer Christian men can affect individuals, families and the Church.
There’s a ratio of two men to three women in our congregations, with the majority of the UK church having double the number of single women to men.
The Engage Network is a group of leading Christian organisations, including Christian Vision for Men, Care for the Family, Single Friendly Church, Youth for Christ, and New Wine. Our joint vision is: ‘to make singleness or marriage a genuine choice for all Christian women and men, through a gender-balanced church which teaches about healthy Christian singleness, dating and marriage.’
Why is there an imbalance?
- There are a number of suggested reasons why this imbalance between numbers of men and women exist.
- We’re in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:14). A church with an equal number of men and women would be spiritually stronger. Christian marriage can have a powerful intergenerational impact.
- Male ministers don’t perceive the problem when it doesn’t affect them. Most church leaders are men (84% in 2017) who have been able to get married and have children. Many aren’t aware how church can be experienced by non-Christian men, and aren’t motivated to address the issues causing the pain of Christian women who can’t have a family.
- Male ministers are worried about excluding or offending women. Think ‘balance’: women are unlikely to mind if the church further encourages men’s ministry, as long as it’s very clear that the women are equally encouraged.
- Men’s and women’s brains are just hard-wired differently. Actually, they’re not – this is what psychologists call a ‘neuromyth’.
- Other reasons. One UK study also suggested the lack of men is due to romanticisation of the church and its worship, and lack of masculine role models, friendship patterns and belonging for men.
What are the consequences?
- For men - there’s a key need to reach and disciple more men effectively, primarily for their own sake, but also for the health of the whole church and wider society.
- For women - up to two million Christian women face a decision – marry a non-Christian, or remain single and childless? Many are finding they’re sacrificing their marriage and children because of their faith.
- For children and young people - if current trends continue, only about 16 per cent of today’s church’s grandchildren will have two Christian parents.
- For singleness - a third of adults in church are single, many report that they feel isolated in churches that are overly family-focused, and most want to marry another Christian .
- For dating and relationships - there are often unhealthy psycho-social dynamics between single men and women, with a power balance in men’s favour due to the significant over-supply of women in the dating market. More than half (54 per cent) of single Christian adults said that they haven’t dated for at least a year, or, it is many years since they last went on a date.
- For marriage - Evangelical Alliance research found that more women than men were married to a non-Christian. More than 90 per cent of Christian couples expressed happiness with their marriage, while only 66% of those in a mixed marriage did so.
- For parenting - ‘spiritual fatherlessness’ is increasing, both within families, and the Christian community.
What are the solutions?
Pray, and start conversations!
Use and share the Engage handbook, 7 Reasons Your Church Needs More Men: How to lead a gender balanced church supporting healthy singleness, dating, marriage and youth. This blends research, theology and lots of very practical solutions. If you’re female, male, single, dating, married, a parent or youthworker, this book’s for you - it shows what you can do to flourish even more fully in your situation, and support others. Nicky and Sila Lee (Holy Trinity Brompton, Marriage Courses) say it’s ‘of supreme importance for us all’.
Encourage the men in your lives to talk to other men and your church leaders, make use of resources and events like those from Christian Vision for Men and develop men’s ministry in your context.
And keep explaining why balance benefits everyone!