Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where Are The Men?

I’ve heard a few statistics of late that have left me scratching my head and asking “What’s up with men in the Church?” or better yet “Where are the men?”.

Consider these numbers:

  • Nearly 80% of the population of the Church is either female or under age 18.
  • In the recent missionary surge from roughly 55,000 missionaries to nearly 90,000 missionaries the majority of that additional 40,000 missionaries are women.
  • In any given ward there is nearly a 70/30 ratio of women to men (active).

As I thought about these statistics I asked myself: Why are men not coming to church? Why are men not being active at church and often falling away from the church in such large numbers?  As I considered this, it occurred to me that we have (as a Church) actively and subconsciously driven men away.  Our actions, words and activities methodically chase men away from Church in droves.

How? Think about this:

  • How often have you heard in a talk or a lesson where the speaker or instructor told all the men present that they are spiritually inferior to women?   We are always saying how men will never be as holy as women, or that the sisters are way more spiritually in tune than men.  We even say that men are given the priesthood because women are vastly superior and don’t need it. If women ran the church it’d be way more efficient.  Sister missionaries are way better than elders.  The overwhelming message is “You will never measure up because you are a guy and are a lost cause”.  Even when we talk about things like modesty and the law of chastity the overwhelming message is “men are perverts and they can’t control themselves so you sisters have to do it for them.”  I don’t know about you guys, but I get sick of hearing this kind of talk.  
  • From an early age we tell boys that if they want to feel the spirit in their lives then they need to be more like the girls.  Sit still like the girls. Sing songs like the girls.  We associate feelings of love, peace, calm, beauty, joy, etc…with the feelings of the spirit and don’t talk about the more masculine spiritual moments of power, intelligence, courage, competition,  energy, and even the ability to strike down an enemy.  We imply that these feelings are not good, not of the spirit and that for boys to feel them is bad. When reality is that they are very much of the spirit.
  • We value an invented conformity and greatly discourage individualism. We discourage debate and discussion and instead say “if you are following the spirit then you wouldn’t ask questions.  Our church was founded by a young man with a question who sought an answer!
  • I don’t know about you brethren but I find most Church music to be tediously dull and uninspiring.  Frankly I could live without a lot of it.  I do, however, find my soul stirred by a great mens chorus of “Rise Up O Men Of God” or “High On A Mountain Top” or  “Praise to The Man” and such hymns.  Sadly we tend to avoid those kinds of hymns in favor of the less rousing and calming ones.

I’d also suggest that the quality and quantity of our meetings is a deterrent to many men.  Most of our meetings are truly a waste of time.

Just this last week I heard some men lamenting how poor attendance was at a Stake meeting, and then in the same breath these same guys said how they had a hard time staying awake during the meeting, alluding that it wasn’t holding their interest.  If the meeting was so dull that people were falling asleep, then how can you blame people for not going? Especially the youth.  If I’m bored in a meeting, I can only imagine how the young men are feeling.  I also hardly expect them to return as a result.

Look at it from a business marketing perspective.  If people are not buying your product, do you blame the consumer or do you try to figure out a better way to sell it to them? You either change the product or change the message to sell it...right?

The product that we have been given (the gospel of Jesus Christ) is AMAZING! So why are our marketing tactics so dull? If our meetings are not attracting people…then the quality of our meetings should be questioned, not the finger of scorn and blame pointed at the men who didn’t come.  Look at it this way: If John Bytheway was coming to speak, we know we’d fill the entire building.  Why? Because people know they are not wasting their time in attending.  Now some people would respond to that with a “well, not everyone can speak like John Bytheway…” and that is true. Few people can.  BUT we can try.  We can do our best to improve our teaching, our public speaking and our presentation abilities.  If we identify good teachers and speakers…then use them!  We have an aversion to using the same speaker too often in the church and I don’t understand why.  If that person can give a great sermon…then use them!!! Don’t continue to offer a sub-standard message and then complain that nobody wants it.

Men have to attend a lot of meetings in Church (too many if you ask me) and when the meeting is dull, slow, boring, uninspiring or pointless too many of them will begin to opt out.  I know that is not the right thing to do…but honestly, when your time is limited between full-time job, Church calling and family obligations…pretty soon you begin to weigh options and determine where the best use of your time is (we call this “opportunity cost” in the business world).  Frankly I don’t feel like I get to spend enough time with my family, especially my young children.  So if the choice is between another dull and pointless church meeting and reading to my 7-year-old.  Sorry church leaders, but my 7-year-old trumps you. I think that is occurring with many of the adult men around us.

We are called to do what Christ would do if He were here.  He was a master teacher.  He was an inspired leader.  He didn’t do anything without a purpose (including holding meetings simply because it is on the schedule).  He cared for the souls of people and he inspired them to a better cause…one they would be willing to die for.

How can we do anything less?  Our task is clear.  We are teachers, leaders and inspirers.  Ours is the task to get the gospel into the hearts of the people in such a way as their burning testimonies will light up the world and people will want that light in their lives.

We can’t do that if we are hiding from our potential both as a speaker and as a hearer.

Let’s stop driving men away and rather inspire them to come follow us and be warriors in the kingdom of our Father. Let’s find new ways to be inspiring.  Let’s think of some ways we can light the fires of faith and kindle ACTION among our men.  Let’s have purposes to all that we do (meetings and activities).