Why are Men Not Engaged in the Church

Why are Men Not Engaged in the Church

Article by Matt Scheuneman
In the Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky writes, “Hell is the suffering of being unable to love.”
Men’s engagement in the church has been a decades-long topic of concern for many church staff. It has been thought that church worship services appeal to women more than men. The concept of relationships through group formation typically appeals more to women than to men – “sitting in a circle and talking about feelings.” Gender stereotypes and sexuality play many roles in why men are not engaged in the church.

Yet, I want to attempt to answer this question differently.

To answer the question of why men are not more engaged in the church is both as simple as a one-word answer and as complex as what the one-word answer indicates.

To simply put it, we men have struggled to be engaged because of fear. This fear that I will be unable to do what I am created to do. Maybe this hasn’t been formed into words for most men, but the ache is there. Since Adam, men have such a pull to abdicate our responsibility of spiritual growth and the building up of others. Some have called this passivity. I don’t disagree, but I wonder if fear is the more appropriate word here.

In my own life, and within many of the marriages I have counseled, I have seen the common ache of the wife to get their husband to take ownership of the spiritual leadership in the family. Yet, so often, we men quietly back away.

Why is that? What happened to us that we are bent to passivity? Fear.

We struggle to engage in the hard things. We want intimacy and connection, yet they are often too difficult. So, we go to affairs and pornography. We struggle to lose or lose something that we love. So, we cheat and manipulate to hold onto “it.” We struggle to say the hard things. So, we quietly sit to the side. Fear keeps us hidden and stale, unfortunately hurting those that we love.

In his book, “Fully Alive,” Larry Crabb highlights the word Zakar as the Hebrew word for “male” as it was described in Genesis. – “In the image of God he created them, male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)”

What is so striking about this Hebrew word is that its meaning is “leaving a mark, or to make an impact.”

Even as I write this phrase, energy wells up inside of me, there is a deep desire to impact relationships around me in this world, to move others in a deep way.
This is why, so often, figures in movies are so inspiring to us. Men are drawn to men of courage who willingly go to war, superheroes, successful businessmen, even friends and family because these men have made such an important impact in others’ lives.

So the question then remains, “how do we get men more engaged in the church?” Below are three opinions that I have:

1. Shift formats of programing from consumer-centric to collaboration-centric.
Passivity increases from the ease of consumption. Yet, collaboration calls men into sharing with other men in the impact of others. We are training men how to love again. Which is their truest design.

2. Normalize the fear – remind men of their identity.
This world is terrifying. We feel inadequate to the call. This is okay! Fear is not the issue, and it is normal to feel the fear. If there was no fear, there would be no need for courage. Fear highlights our need for a Savior, not to suck it up and try harder. As we address the fear, speak it as reality, we can then be reminded of the truth. If He made us this way, we can truly impact our world by His strength.

3. Slow, Small, Steady.
I had a friend once remind me of the discipleship style of Jesus. He chose 12 men to follow him for three years. He invited these men into his life. He lived with them, taught them, laughed with them, and guided them to godliness. It was not a large event. It was not quick. But it was effective. He taught men how to impact others through sharing his impact with others.
I believe men will be engaged again because the Spirit is stirring the desire in men’s hearts to be who they were created to be. If hell is the suffering of being unable to love, Heaven is the joy of loving unrestrained.

Article by Matt Scheuneman

Counselor in Biblical Life Ministry