Boys (and Men) in Church

Recently I wrote a short piece about the importance of appealing to BOYS in Sunday School. It’s no secret:  as boys get older, their Sunday School drop-out rate significantly out-paces that of the girls.  The only real debate is “why” and “what to do.”  It’s not uncommon in mid-size churches to see girls making up 70% to 80% of Sunday School. (I say “middle size” because the total number of boys vs girls in smaller churches can locally be highly variable.)

Lifeway Research, the research arm of the SBC has been tracking men vs women statistics for many decades. Astonishingly, they found that 80% of UN-churched men were once ‘churched.'” 

Lifeway Research also found that “over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.”  Other research groups have found the same.

Below are some resources about this issue, including the PROVOCATIVELY titled website and book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” I recommend reading it. And the more it makes you wince, the more seriously you should take its general truth, if not its specific advice.  MANY of its insights are based on BRAIN RESEARCH into the differences between boys and girls, women and men. (But really, who cares if it is “Nature of Nurture?”  I care about the girls AND the boys enough to say, “we need to change some things,” and I hope you do too.)

Challenging Quotes from The Speaking of Men Blog at

A lot of men who go to church are unaffected by what they hear. The gospel bounces off their souls like bullets off Superman’s chest. New research into men and women’s brains may hold the answer………Add to this the plethora of women’s and children’s ministries, and you can see why men instinctively resist church — they feel, deep in their hearts, it’s something for women and children.

Why the high dropout rate? …. Boys don’t follow Jesus because our Sunday schools tend to downplay his bold, aggressive side. Instead, we draw pictures of Him hanging out with children, sheep and even puppies! 

Challenging Quotes from the Why Men Hate Going to Church website,

Observationally difficult to deny:  “Christianity’s primary delivery system, the local church, is perfectly designed to reach women and older folks. That’s why our pews are filled with them. But this church system offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant.” – Read this quote in context at:

Provocative!  “The great hymns summon men to the battlefield—but many of today’s Praise Worship songs seem to be summoning men to the bedroom.” Have you noticed this? How do you react to songs that describe our love for God in sweet, romantic, even erotic terms?”


My work with Sunday Software (computers in Christian Education) and the Workshop Rotation Model addresses the need to “attract and appeal to boys.”  But here’s the amazing thing: girls ALSO respond to all these same methods. So you literally cannot lose by paying a little more attention to the needs of our older boys in the classroom.

*Stats such as the amazing polling and research done by Barna Research. They show that “age 12” is the watershed.  This also tells us that while important, most “youth” ministry is frankly “too late.”  We have to focus more on older elementary kids.  And yet many churches persist in focusing MUCH of their limited program staff resources on teenagers. Fact of the matter is, youth ministry is often a well-meaning attempt to re-capture kids we had when they were younger, and have started to lose. But I ask: What would happen if we didn’t lose them in the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade?

BTW: We also need Men’s Ministry. Less than 10% of churches have an active men’s ministry.

Is this Sexist?
Yes, if by “sexist” you mean,  “boys and girls, women and men ARE different.” Good teachers and leaders start with where their students are AT, and know what their students NEED.

I hope you’ve found this post enlightening and disturbing.

<>< Neil


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