In August of 2011, the Barna Group released the results of a research study conducted about Women and Faith. In their research, they found that since 1991, church attendance by women has dropped 11% and weekly Bible reading has plummeted by 10% – to just 4 out of 10 women. The saddest statistic was this:
“The only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched.”
That statistic was raised by 17%. However, there was an increase in women who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Savior – an increase from 38% in 1991 to 44% in 2011.
While the same study was conducted on men as well, the findings were not as drastic as the women’s statistics.
So why are more women professing to be believers, yet not involved- or even attending- their local churches?
After pouring through the many comments from this study, and reflecting on my own experience in working with women in ministry for 15 years, these are a few of the reasons I believe women are leaving the church:
Women have been hurt.
Let’s face it, women are relational. If a woman has been hurt by someone in the church, she is less likely to get involved again. Many women will stop going to church all together. In addition, with the rise of technology, women are communicating online more than ever. Dr. Larry Rosen, who is an expert in technological psychology, recently shared on a radio program that with the rise of online communication, many people are connecting less in person. Online relationships often replace personal contact. This may also make women stay away from church; they simply just don’t see the need, as they are in contact with their friends in other ways.
Women feel overworked at church.
If a woman is working all week long, and then feels the pressure to give more of her time and effort at church, she may feel it is easier just to stay home. Some women give and give and give, feeling guilty if they say no, and eventually they get extremely burned out in ministry and don’t have anything left to give. It is the church’s responsibility to give volunteers times and seasons to rest, as well as make sure that one person isn’t doing 10 different jobs. Small churches in particular need more help, but it should never be at the expense of an overworked volunteer.
Some men are not spiritually leading their wives.
Many women want to go to church, but their husbands don’t. I personally know of many, many women in this situation. Maybe the woman married an unbeliever, or maybe she & her husband have different styles of worshipping. Either way, if a woman feels she has to beg and plead with her husband to go to church, she may just give up altogether. I cannot tell you the many conversations I have had with brokenhearted wives who show up at church alone. It takes a lot of strength to continue going to church, especially with your children, without the support of your spouse. Men, it’s time to step up.
Women are frustrated.
Maybe they have leadership gifts, yet feel their gifts are not valued by their church. They are continually told that their role should be something else. They are not encouraged, and so they don’t feel valued. Many times these women are leaders in their communities, yet are not given the same opportunities in their churches. One commenter said, “The fact that many churches and parachurch organizations emphasize males as automatic leaders (an unbiblical view) and bar women from leadership roles (including that of pastor) also are turning more women off. If we want to keep from losing women, perhaps we need to take a fresh look at scripture and how Jesus treated women and adjust accordingly.”
Women are busy.
Society has told families that other things are more important than church, and we have believed it. We will sign our kids up for after school classes, multiple sports, playdates, etc.. and pretty soon we have crowded out time for church. It is just not a priority anymore. However, children need to see families place a priority on church once again. Children need to see their parents place an importance on going to church together, on worshipping together, on fellowshipping with other believers together. Kids need the consistency of learning about God as a family, even if they go to Christian school. Christian school is not church. Home school is also not church.
A lack of childcare or Sunday School.
This is probably the #1 thing moms are most concerned about when visiting a church. If the children’s ministry is low-functioning, or barely there, moms will be less likely to return. However, this should not be an excuse for not going to church. There are other churches out there with tremendous kids’ programs – find one. This is of particular importance for single mothers, who need good quality children’s ministry so they can relax and be fed when they attend church – which may be the only break they have.
Some women don’t think they need church.
This is classic. Women are professional “know it all’s” (I’m one myself), and if we’ve grown up in the church or participated in XX number of Bible studies or retreats, we think we know it all. We make up excuses as to why we don’t need to go to church anymore. This is a sinful mentality – a consumerist mentality. This is a person who says, “I go to church for what I get out of it. Since I don’t get anything out of it, I won’t go.” Instead, we should have the attitude that we are a part of the Body of Christ, and the Body is less effective when even one of it’s members is missing. This is the beginning of a hardened heart – one that thinks it doesn’t need what Christ has commanded.
I fully understand that there are “house churches” and missional communities that may not fit the traditional church model. The point is that we are all to be in community with one another, on a regular basis, in a place where we can weekly be fed spiritually and serve others, using our spiritual gifts.
It is my hope that by examining this list, church leaders can identify weaknesses which can begin to be addressed. Rather than over-generalizing most women as “uninterested” in church, let’s look at the specific reasons why these women are leaving and not coming back. Maybe by addressing even one of these issues in our own churches, we will begin to gain the trust of these women back and be able to reach their families.