A Focus on Evangelizing Men is Needed

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Men are Different than Women

Accepting the fact that there is a growing “Man Crisis” in the Church and that the “gender neutral” approach to the New Evangelization has not significantly reversed the crisis, it follows that some kind of man-focused approach should be explored.  A starting point of any effort is to recognize that there are fundamental gender differences in how women and men engage in religious activities. Robert Putnam, Harvard sociologist, in his book American Grace, sums up the differences: “Women believe more fervently in God.  They aver that religion is more important in their daily lives, they pray more often, they read scripture more often and interpret it more literally, they talk about religion more often – in short, by virtually every measure, they [women] are more religious.”[1]  Given this basic fact that men are fundamentally different than women, evangelization efforts should include man-focused approaches.

Men Perceive that the Church is Feminized

One key element in a man-focused approach is recognizing that men do not want to be feminized and that men perceive that the Church has become feminized.  While male priests lead parishes, as noted above, females significantly outnumber men at mass and overwhelmingly dominate lay activities.  Leon Podles, in his book The Church Impotent – The Feminization of Christianity, asserts that the Church has become increasingly feminized and that this is the predominate reason that men avoid church:  “[f]ear of effeminacy is one of the strongest motivations in men who will sometimes die rather that appear effeminate.”[2]  Podles argues that the Catholic Church faces particular challenges because it asserts that “Christians must be brides of Christ”, an idea that repulses men for there “could hardly be a greater denial of their masculinity”[3] Homosexuality among priests also contributes to men’s aversion to the Church; reports about homosexuality in the priesthood have caused a large percentage of men (40.6%) to claim their faith has weakened as a result.[4] Similarly, men reacted very negatively to the reports of homosexual predator priests; in one recent Gallup survey, 49% of men who left the Church claimed that the sex abuse scandal influenced their decision to leave “a lot.”[5]  Man-focused evangelization efforts need to recognize men’s aversion to being feminized.

Men Don’t know the Catholic Faith

Casual Catholic men are poorly catechized compared to women; these men lack a fundamental understanding of the Catholic faith.  Large numbers of men don’t believe that it is critical for Catholics to attend mass weekly (73.3%) or believe that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ (40.4%).[6]  Less than half of men (45.9%) believe that Eucharist Adoration and praying the rosary is “very important.”[7]  Similarly, only 46.9% of men believe that a daily prayer life is “very important.”[8] Only about half of Catholic men strongly agree that the sacraments are essential for their relationship with God.[9]  Catholic men recognize that they have been poorly catechized: almost half of Catholic men (49%) don’t think they can adequately explain their faith to someone else.[10]   Though space does not allow detailed comparisons of men versus women, men are less informed about the faith than woman on all these measures.

Men Respond to a Men’s Focused Events

With regard to engaging in religious activities, men prefer and respond to men-only events.  In the 1990’s, as noted above, the USCCB convened a special working group that recognized that the success of the Promise Keepers movement and acknowledged that men respond to men-focused events.[11]  Steve Soderman, a Protestant minister who exclusively focuses on evangelizing men, also has found that men are much less likely to attend mixed gender religious events because “[m]ost men simply do not communicate to the same depth about spiritual or emotional issues when women are present.”[12] Daniel Spencer, the Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, notes that male-focused events give men “a sense of pride and a sense of confidence and camaraderie with other men.”[13]  Men respond to men-only faith events.



[1]   Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 233.

[2]   Leon J. Podles, The Church Impotent – The Feminization of Christianity (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 1999), 197.

[3]   Ibid, p. 35.

[4]  “Gallup Poll of Catholics (1987),” Question 8.

[5]  “Gallup Poll of Chicago Catholics (2007),” Question 10, http://www.thearda.com/Archive/Files/Descriptions/CHICATH.asp (accessed June 24, 2013).

 

[6]  “Gallup Poll of Catholics (2005),” Question 48.

[7]  Ibid., Question 14.

[8]  Ibid., Question 11.

[9]  Ibid., Question 21.

[10]  Ibid., Question 23.

[11]  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – Catholic Men’s Ministries, “An Introductory Report,” http://old.usccb.org/laity/marriage/menministry.shtml (accessed June 24, 2013).

[12]  Patrick Morely, Effective Men’s Ministries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 33.

[13]  Scott Alessi, “First Models of the Faith,” Our Sunday Visitor, June 6, 2013.