Friday, May 04, 2007

The church gender gap

Periodically it is noted that nearly all churches have more women regularly attending than men, and Phil’s Little blog on the Prarie notes that not only do we UUs share this gender gap, but that it is an impediment to growth. What he does not do is examine at length why this is so, and we need to understand why in order to address it.

*Disclaimer* I am not a sociologist, and have no formal studies to back up the following opinions, but I believe them valid none the less. As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

The first problem for the UUA is that men tend to be more conservative than women- the gender gap that is noted at the polls. As the UUA is more liberal than society at large, this exaggerates the gap. I don’t see what can be done about this portion of the gap.

Second, men tend to be consumers more than joiners. They need and value church and spirituality as much as they need and value a doctor or lawyer- and treat tham all the same way. They’ll gladly pay the maintenance fees to ensure they’re there when they need them, but until then, unless the doctor or the minister wants to be a fishing buddy, it’s “Eat right and exercise- gotcha, doc! I’ll be back when my leg is broken.” If you want him to attend, you must offer something that makes him want to attend.

This next reason probably applies more to middle and lower class churches than to UU congregations, who have far fewer members who work with their hands. Men are more likely to have jobs that are physically brutal. There was a ten year period in my life when Sunday was the only day of the week free from pain, and I seldom wasted it going to church. It takes a pretty good incentive to overcome that factor.

Lastly, I believe men have less patience for word games than women do- and the UUA plays more with rhetoric than any other denomination I’m aware of. If the UUA could be considered to have a central doctrine at all, it would be that controling the rhetoric controls the reality. For example, even Libertarians who believe in open borders are likely to say “ ‘undocumented immigrants’? Puh-leeze... they are not citizens, and therefore are aliens. They entered the country illegally, and are therfore illegal aliens- don’t you own a freaking dictionary? Give them amnesty and green cards, fine, I’m down with that. But they are in fact illegal aliens, and what’s more, it’s not racist to say so!”, or “What’s a living wage? If you think the minimum wage should be $12.00/hr, just say so!” Maybe we should make the eminent UU Matt Groening the official arbitor of language for our social issues- say it the way Bart would; men will respect the honesty.


ms. kitty said...

I've noticed that the churches which grow (which tend to be big nondenominational evangelical congregations) use glitzy marketing techniques that remind me of how material items such as clothing, cars, etc., are marketed. Church as retail outlet seems to attract young people and perhaps more males.

Chalicechick said...

I generally like to call people what they like to be called. If the folks themselves prefer "undocumented workers," what's it to me?


Joel Monka said...

ms. kitty- yes, good marketing will get people through the doors, but it won't keep them. Once in, they have to find something they like or they'll just wander off again. The question isn't why people go to the big churches- the question is why do they KEEP going?

CC- the fact that they prefer "undocumented worker" doesn't make "illegal alien" wrong. A majority of them also prefer to call the states of California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Colorado "Aztlan"- a province of Mexico being occupied by the U.S.- and believe that by all rights they shouldn't need green cards to go there in the first place. Not every preference can be catered to.

Chalicechick said...

Yeah, but to me splitting hairs over the little preferences seems like a little much.