Saturday, August 12, 2006

Plenty of Men to Go Around!

This week's boundless webzine features two articles of interest to our blog readers. The first revisits my homeownership series, only this time from a purely financial perspective. The second, reflected in the title above, debunks a myth that's lately gained steam. Namely: the belief that Christian single women outnumber the men and therefore doom many to unwanted, lifelong, singleness.

Thanks to Mike Theemling (see comments) for taking the stats even further. He did a little research on his own and found that not only are their more single Christian men than women, but there actually more of them -- the men -- in church. I know that won't square with what a lot of the female readers are experiencing; it's not true in every church, but it's encouraging to know it's true overall.

I suspect part of the anecdotal evidence that furthers the perception that women outnumber men comes from mainline churches where, according to journalist Allan Dobras, the pews are filled with older, more female parishioners. In "Men at Church," Dobras blames the exodus of young people, including men, on

the denial of the authority of Scripture which gave rise to an apostate clergy and the "cafeteria Christian" who selects from the Bible those portions of scripture that he/she chooses to accept.

Once Scriptural authority was compromised, it served as an opportunity to rethink human sexuality and introduce the legitimization of homosexuality, which has become the most divisive and polarizing issue in the modern church.

I'd add to that the redefining of the roles men and women play; leaving both sexes confused about how to initiate, function and progress in romantic relationships.

I'll be coming back to this issue in next month's Boundless column.

Till then, I think the best encouragement is that the perception of too few men is a fallacy and the more biblically sound your church is, the more likely it is to appeal to men and more accurately reflect the numbers.


At 12:52 PM, Blogger @ Home Mommy said...

Mike Theemling said...
Not really related to the discussion, but after reading Candice's Boundless article "Plenty of Men to Go Around" and reading some rebuttals out there (not directly but challenging the stats) like this one

I did my own research and found the following:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (not as comprehensive as a complete census but statistically very close), in 2004 here is the breakdown of single, never married (Note: It did not include those who lived in institutions, college dorms, or other group quarters).

- Males (20-44): 20,073,988
- Females (20-44): 16,529,949

Now combine this with the Barna numbers (2006). 43% of people in the "Buster" generation (ages 23-41) are regular church attenders. So we adjust these numbers to get an estimated:

- Males (20-44): 8,631,814
- Females (20-44): 7,107,878

Again, be aware the numbers will be a bit off because the ages don't completely overlap (age 20-44 vs. 23-41)

However, women (any age) are more likely than men to attend church on a regular basis (50% to 44%, respectively). If we use the Census Bureau numbers alone we get

Males (20-44) who attend church regularly: 8,832,555
Females (20-44) who attend church regularly: 8,264,975

Now we don't know who of these men/women are BOTH regular churchgoers AND in the "Buster" generation, but I think it's reasonable to conclude that the number of women who fall into this category would still outnumber the men.

CONCLUSION: Single never married men in that age group (20-44) outnumber women at church.


So ladies, all the single never married men are right there in church with you, and there are more of them than you.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Tidy Bowl said...

I don't disagree, and I'm thankful for such reassurances. But I hope you are not trying to infer that all unmarried Christians are Biblically required to pursue marriage, because I would have to emphatically disagree. I'm not saying this as an excuse for all those people who prefer to be unmarried. But even Paul encourages those who have enough self-control to remain unmarried. 1 Corinthians 7:1

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Robert said...

This is very interesting, as have been most of the discussions on here, I've enjoyed following them.

The funny thing about statistics, is that while they are supposedly true everywhere, they never seem to really be true anywhere, and this is a good example. No matter how much work we do with these numbers, it always seems that in the reality we live in, there are either more guys than girls, or girls than guys, depending on which you are. In fact, I think both are often true at the same time, in the same place, and both are probably overlooking the other. I'm guessing that in churches my size and larger, most of the eligible people simply walk right by eachother in the crowds leaving the sanctuary.

I attend a Church in Northern MN. Population base is about 100,000. My church has about 500 people attend on any given Sunday. Our brand new (about 1 year) Young adult group has 5 young married couples (they were married before we started the group). After that, we have 5 men who attend regularly, ranging from 18-25. We have about four girls, and of course there are others who come and go every once in a while, but not more than 4 of either gender. All in all then, we are lookin at average 20, never more than 30 young people, only half of whom are single ever interacting with eachother in a church setting. Pretty small out of 500.

I know there are more around, I see them evey once in awhile, coming and going on Sundays. The challenge is finding something that is at the same time interesting enough to come do, and not too threatening a place to meet brand new people. We've had some success with movie/game fellowship nights, I'm curious to know what other churches are trying, or what other people would try if it was there.

Kind of as an afterthought, I've noticed a general resistance to actually dating anyone in a church circle. Any young people from our church who've married in the past 5 years did so with people outside the church. Not a problem per se, but I think part of the problem with finding "any good men/women" is the refusal to consider the ones sitting right where everyone can see them. I looked at the CT articles Mike cited out of curiosity. I followed their link to their sister site christian singles today. They realy hated Debbie Maken's book, but their only solution was "pray more" and christian online dating ads all over the website... hmmm.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger A. LaLande said...

The opening scene in "Plenty of Men to Go Around" was horrifying but true, in my experience. And the end was encouraging (but maddening – we really have to wait a whole month?!). Out of the many young women I am acquainted with, more than half are unmarried, with absolutely no prospects, and less and less hope as the years go by. (I am of course only referring to the ones who WANT to get married – which, by the way, includes all of them!). The ones who ARE married or engaged had seemingly no problems finding someone. The weirdest thing about all of this is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it! And yet I don’t believe in luck…

I was born with a personality that, developed in a non-Christian environment, would have been completely pessimistic. However, with the help of God, (and my family) I now consider myself quite an optimist. I do want to get married, and happily expect to (I grin confidently in the face of such trifling obstacles such as never having been on a date or even asked out on one), but I also have a burden for the many wonderful young women I know (though I steer clear of matchmaking, which is much too scary a role). In fact, one day in a spirit of fun and concern, I began writing a husband hunting guide (Hunting for a Husband: The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting a Great Guy)! It pretty much consisted of creative places to go and ways to meet likeminded Christians. I gave up the project because I realized something about myself in the process. I was too shy to follow through with any of the great ideas I had come up with! I hate to admit it, but I kinda wish that not only would guys be willing to initiate the relationship, but that…well, they’d be willing to come find us too!

One other thought that has occurred to me – as much as I respect the many young Christian men out there, it seems to me that there is a lack of vision among them for family (here at least). I am speaking from my heart: my parents have been leaders in the home education community in our town for many years, and time after time we’ve seen the sons of these families(whose values are so strong but who lacked direction for their boys) turn to the world, often keeping their Christian designation, but doing things that destroy their potential to be good husbands/fathers. I don’t know what it is like in other states, but it seems Satan has a grip on ours. I have a vision for making it a brilliant light for Christ and a place where marriage is honored and family esteemed, but the darkness is at times very great. As for my own small dreams for marriage and family – well, I just wish Dr. Dobson had written “Bringing Up Boys” in time for my generation!

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Tidy Bowl said...

Here's the thing I'm really worried about: I do not think that getting married should be the be-all, get-all of Christianity.

Now I don't mean to downplay it. I know it's important. The Bible says we shouldn't marry unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). My heart has been broken by dear friends who have moved in with, slept with, or married unbelievers (in no particular order).

I'm just really concerned that marriage is being placed on a pedestal it doesn't deserve. Marriage is a fantastic blessing for those whom God chooses to bless, and the lives of those who marry are usually improved because they married. However, if God has plans for a person that do not include marriage, their life can be just as wonderful. Bottom line, the most important thing in life is Jesus. Everything else (including marriage and children) is secondary to Him.

It just seems to me that if I devote my life to following God, to living for Him and loving for him, that everything else will fall into place. So I think seeking a mate should be second to pursuing God.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger gortexgrrl said...


As much as we were due for a break-down of Barna's 11-13 million man shortfall stat in terms of never married, married, divorced, widowed BELIEVERS (not nec. "AT CHURCH"), you can't just splice together two sets of data, willy-nilly, this set from Barna, that set from census, etc. Statistics just don't work that way. Besides, after Barna's 2000 man shortage stats, anything he has come up with since then that suggests the reverse is true should be HIGHLY suspect.

There's an overwhelming amount of evidence that there's a shortage of young, marriageable Christian men, compared to their female cohorts. shows imbalanced male/female ratios that average around 40% male (secular colleges are leaning in this direction too, but many Christian colleges are starting to take an "affirmative action" admissions tack favoring men to create more balance). Internet dating resources that serve Christians, such as eharmony have way more women registered. What's more, you admitted that Barna's data attested to more women than men ATTENDING church at the end of your Boundless article, which is the fine print that says it all.

The anecdotal evidence allows us to quite confidently estimate that in most young (mostly never married) Christian singles populations, there are about 1.5 to 2 women to every man, and that's a conservative estimate. This is not just a bunch of North American women sitting around "bemoaning"-- it's a GLOBAL phenomenon, as written about by Camerin Courtney in O Brother Where Art Thou, after conferencing with women in Eastern Europe.

So, if there's a surplus of single never married men aged 20-44 ANYWHERE (not there's been ANY report of such a phenomena other than this recent Boundless article), it does NOT amount to young, never married men outnumbering women AT CHURCH. We know otherwise.

I appreciate what your article said about putting our faith in Christ instead of statistics, but don't you see that when you deny something as obvious as the gaping whole left by our missing men, that it only serves to reinforce cynicism in church leadership, not eradicate it. It's as if we're supposed to be good little monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil...) and anyone who recognizes a problem and tries to deal with it openly is to be dismissed as either a cynic or a fool. Thanks a lot!

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

First of all, having a Masters in Statistics, I am well aware that: A) They can be misleading if presented or interpreted in the wrong way and B) Statistics often represent an AVERAGE which tells nothing of how much skewed data you have (it's called "variance" in statistical terminology).

I am the first to be skeptical of any statistics, and that is why I started to investigate the allegations that Candice made in her article.

As I stated in my findings, the most important piece of data we don't have is how many of these young churchgoers are BOTH never married AND a particular gender. The only things we do know is that women in general attend church more regularly than men, and that in the category of single never married (ages 20-44) there are more men than women. It is possible that within the 6% difference in women attending church that most of them fall into the 20-44 age group thus outweighing the men majority, but I suspect that is not the case.

"How then do you reconcile the numbers with the seemingly contradictory experiences?" youi may ask. Well, as Robert said, it could be that you have a lot of "skewed" churches where church A has a lot more single men and church B with a lot more single women. Another possibility which has been well documented is that women are simply more vocal and thus give the IMPRESSION that this is the case. For example, it may seem like the majority of Americans think homosexual behavior is OK (you never see any condemnation of it on TV) but a strong majority of Americans actually do not. It's just that the minority of those who do are more vocal about it giving the impression that acceptance is more than what it really is. This may be why most people conclude since there are more women on E-harmony that there must be more women in general who are single or seek marriage.

From a guy's perspective though, I will say that although the perception as a whole is that men are more picky than women, some initial research (through my own data gathering) shows that women are no less picky than men. I've posted how that despite INITIATING contact with ladies online and making clear I am interested in marriage/family, and meet a lot of a girl's "checklist" I still get ignored by 95% of them.

It's almost like a paradox in our society (Christian or not). We KNOW that the whole point of dating is to try and find a marriage partner, but it's taboo to bring up the "M" word early on.

Finally, I think it's a bit funny too that the Christianity Today article which rips Maken's book seems to offer no viable alternatives as a solution other than to hint that "maybe you should stop pursuing marriage and the whole problem will fix itself".

I do welcome the questions and objections to what I or Candice or Steve writes. It shows that we are in dialogue about the issue and I think that's kind of the main point to this whole blog thing.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger gortexgrrl said...

"the most important piece of data we don't have is how many of these young churchgoers are BOTH never married AND a particular gender". Actually, this set of data must exist amid Barna's original 2000 and 2006 collection. Perhaps he chooses not to report it, instead pointing to the census figures, which really don't tell us WHO'S IN CHURCH (and maybe that's the idea).

You are right that church attendance is the most important variable in comparing never married men and women, since we are taught so precisely not to get involved with Christians who are lukewarm in their faith, church attendance being a "necessary, but not sufficient" indicator. Heck, I would bet that most of the prison population would fall into Barna's criteria of "born again belief"! It doesn't say a thing about who is sufficiently living their faith enough to make them a reasonable candidate for a Christian marriage.

You point to churches skewed in terms of gender creating biased perceptions and women being more vocal about their perceptions, but these observations I have shared are not only made by women. Since it's become more acceptable to talk about since the CT articles late last century, everyone seems to be feeling the lack of young men in the church these days-- except those men themselves! Secular organizations like Rotary and Lion's Clubs are also experiencing a dearth of new blood. It's not a question of whether or not there is a lack of young single men, it's how great is that deficit? As such, the breakdown of Barna's 11-13 million figure from 2000 in terms of married, single, etc. has been long overdue. But I am concerned that the census figure dimension will prove to be a red herring that ends up minimizing the full scope of the problem, undermining any reasonable discussion that may inspire solutions.

BTW- you are right that women are just as picky as men, and I would add that pickiness manifests itself differently in both genders (I've written about that on another post). But as for throwing the "quality" issue on top of the "quantity" issue-- go there if you must, but I think I'll just cool my jets for now!!!

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

Tidy Bowl --

We MUST NOT allow pursuing marriage to become more important than pursuing God; that is idolatry.

However, we need not set up one against the other, so that if I am pursuing marriage more, I am pursuing God less, and vice versa. For those who God is leading to be married (I hope and believe I am one such, though I have argued elsewhere that not everyone is), pursuing marriage means pursuing God's best will for our lives -- and therefore, pursuing marriage is a chief means of pursuing God, just as the state of marriage is (properly) a means of sanctification, thus of drawing nearer to God. (The fact that it can be abused and the sanctification avoided is no argument against this being part of its proper purpose.)


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