Why Men Hate Going to Church. By David Murrow. Nashville: Nelson, 2005. 248 pp. Paper. $13.99.
Reaching men (adult males) must become the number one priority in your church. David Murrow explains why and how. Murrow spends the first half of the book laying out the problems in the average church and why men don’t like church (chaps. 1–16). The second half of the book is devoted to making suggestions on how to change the church so that it is more appealing to men (chaps. 17–25). I have always been leery of changing a church to meet the felt needs of a particular people-group, because following that road can easily become the trap of changing the church’s message. But as I read the book, it dawned on me that the reason most women and children feel more comfortable in church than men is because we are already meeting their felt needs. Most of what we do in church has nothing to do with biblical principles, but has everything to do with following Victorian tradition and womanly ideals. To reach the men, we don’t have to jettison everything that speaks to women and children, but we do need to add some masculine spirit into the mix.
For example, a church can take more risks, ask for a higher degree of commitment, move some ministries outdoors, add ministries that appeal to men (e.g., automotive care for single moms, construction, electrical and plumbing work for the poor, sports camps for the kids, etc.), have less singing (or at least some more manly songs), and get rid of congregational hugging and hand holding. One thing that every church must do is focus on discipling men. Murrow points out that men don’t follow programs; they follow other men (p. 152, 216). Furthermore, discipling men doesn’t mean just having a men’s Bible study where they are taught the Bible and theology, but should also include showing men how to live the Christian life, serve and lead others, and defend the faith.
Murrow’s primary reason for focusing on men is that this is what Jesus did (p. 43). Though women were some of his most faithful followers, and children were among His greatest joys, Jesus focused on men first. People often focus on women and children because they are easier to reach, and most people become Christians before the age of 13. But Murrow points out that “when a mother comes to faith in Christ, the rest of the family follows 17 percent of the time. But when a father comes to faith in Christ, the rest of the family follows 93 percent of the time” (p. 47). The same study found that when you reach a child for Christ, the family follows only 3.5 percent of the time.
While one may legitimately question the accuracy of such percentages, neglecting ministry to men is surely unbiblical and illogical. Reaching men may be significantly more difficult than reaching women or children, but it is more effective. With men come church health, leadership, strength, money, and more families (pp. 45-47). Furthermore, the Christianity dropout rate among teenagers and college students (at epidemic proportions right now) is significantly lower when the father is involved in church.
While I don’t agree with everything in the book (e.g., Murrow proposes that nothing in the Sunday service should last longer than 10 minutes—even the sermon; p. 178), and he confuses the difference between the free gift of eternal life through faith in Christ and the high cost of following Jesus in discipleship (p. 163), this book is a “must read.”
Jeremy D. Myers