I was asked to respond to an article by David Murrow titled “Where Have the Men Gone?”. I’ve been considering writing my thoughts about his ideas anyway and this provided a good catalyst. In this article, he touches on most of the major points I’ve gathered from reading his blog. (He is also the author of “Why Men Hate Going to Church” which I have not read.)
Goal and Audience
First of all, I have to wonder if Murrow’s goal is to get women dating and married, since the article is bookended by comments related to this. This isn’t a bad goal in and of itself, but I don’t believe we should be changing church simply for the goal of getting more men who fit women’s personal attraction preference. (I don’t believe Murrow is saying this, but wanted to point it out.) To turn the tables, I also wouldn’t argue that we should change church in order to get more “hot” women attending (which is of course the stereotypical preference for men). In several ways it sounds like Murrow has made his target audience women. Perhaps this is because he believes that church caters to and is populated by more women, so he is trying to get them on board with his ideas.
One of the biggest problems I have is that I feel Murrow takes stereotyping too far. Yes, generalities can be made and various attributes or actions are more common among one gender or the other. But one gets the impression that it’s not acceptable for a guy to not fit the macho-man stereotype. And what is he saying about Christian women when he seems to think that they all don’t care for guys who have a Godly background, who study the bible, can teach, and/or are musicians? I also take offense to him suggesting that guys which have standards for dating type relationships are asexual. In order to be a “real man”, do you have to hit on women, try to get physical with them, and generally be aggressive toward them? Are this the kind of guys Christian women are looking for?
Next, I wonder how bad the problem actually is. How much is Murrow basing his observations on statistics verses anecdotal evidence? Are certain areas or denominations better than others? Perhaps things are different in Alaska, where he’s been residing for years. The churches I’ve been a part of haven’t seemed noticeably gender imbalanced. Then again, I may not have been a part of average churches.
Sunday School and Female Youth Leaders
I can see some potential truth to what he says about Sunday school, though the same criticism has been made of public school as well. I can also see some potential truth in what he said about female youth leaders. There were many male and female leaders when I was in youth group, but the youth group was always led overall by men.
Praise music is somewhat of a touchy subject. I know I’m not a big fan of adult contemporary music, which is of course what is most common now days. If you let the youth choose what the music sounds like, especially the guys, it will likely be a lot heavier (and more aggressive) if not fully metal-core. This genre is very popular among both male and female youth.
Dating and Attraction
This is a subject which I’ve seen come up, and again one which seems to be important to Murrow as well as being one in which I am interested. I’ve written a bit about it myself, but I’ve gotten the sense that we may not be doing a good job of communicating between men and women specifically on this subject. This is probably a “can of worms” issue. I may be wrong on this, but it is the hunch I have based on my experience. As Murrow says about youth group teaching, we focus on being pure and guys treating women respectably and such. So godly guys focus on being good guys, and part of what they think that means is not being too forward (because we’re trying to stay pure here). Then girls are frustrated because Christian guys aren’t asking them out and aren’t the type of guys which they are attracted to, while the guys are thinking that girls are supposed to like them for being godly. I think girls assume that guys understand what is attractive to girls and what girls expect of them, while guys actually think much differently. It seems there some amount of Christian guys trying to be like what girls say they want, but ending up not being what women are actually attracted to. (This is really just the tip of the iceberg regarding this subject.)
I think Murrow has some good points (I am thinking of what I’ve read on his website beyond just this article). It seems like a good idea to consider men in how we do church. One important way I believe we do this is by allowing men to truly be active leaders. Most of the time we’ve not asked anything more from men than to just show up at service. When we do say we’re seeking “leaders”, what most churches are actually seeking are simply managers (as Mike Breen recently pointed out in a blog). There is danger in turning church into something which is more like an old ladies club. However, on the flip side, I think Murrow usually goes too far, suggesting that all men who don’t fit into the red-neck, macho stereotype aren’t worth consideration.