Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Women are Leaving Church

The other day I read an article by the Barna Group 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?

I read through 52 comments on this study, and came up with a few theories of my own. I'm not saying these are all true, but in 15 years of working in ministry, these are a few of the things I have seen:

- Women are relational.  If they have been hurt by someone in the church, they are less likely to get involved again.  Many stop going to church all together.  In addition, with the rise of technology, women are communicating online more than ever.  Tonight on KKLA, Dr. Larry Rosen, who is an expert in technological psychology shared 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.

- 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 us that other things are more important, 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.  Friends, let me tell you - if you are not involved in church right now, at least get involved for your children. Your children need to see your family place an importance on going to church together, on worshipping together, on fellowshipping with other believers together.  Your 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. (Take it from me, I was a Bible teacher at a Christian school.)

- 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.  I won't extend this post by including the many, many Scriptures that exhort us to do this.

My point is that we should look at the reasons many women are not attending church, as well as the excuses we make for ourselves.  If we know of women not attending church, let's do what we can to address their needs and invite them back.  If you are a women who is not attending church (yet is a believer), examine your heart and ask God to lead you to the right place.

I'm curious to hear your own theories as to Barna's study and why less women are attending church. Leave a comment and let me know. Are my own theories on or off the mark?  I would love to hear from you.


  1. Great thoughts Jaimie. I fully agree with your theories. Praying we can be part of the solution in giving women a place where they are valued to grow, flourish and influence as God desires them to.

  2. I agree with your theory as well. I personally feel like just about all of those fit my reasons as to why I haven't gone in years. I also will add one possibility. I moved to an area where I didn't know anyone and wasn't familiar with the churches in the area.

  3. I think the problem at its core goes back first and foremost to parenting and teaching the gospel in the home. As parents we have to be diligent and tireless in teaching our children while they are young...."and when they are grown, they shall not depart from it."

    Another thought is that people have to have real responsibility and a sense of "ownership" within a congregation or religion. It's not enough to show up on Sunday and take the sacrament.

    Thank you for your great article!

    Following you from VB.....

  4. Women don't need men to spiritually lead them. Give me a break. You want to know why I don't go to church at 41 yrs of age? I run a successful business, I'm raising 2 young children, I don't have anytime to myself and I dang sure don't want to spend it doing free labor for an organization that views me as a second class citizen. I prefer to spend my free time with my family than with a bunch of yakety biddies gossiping in the pews. Church people are the most petty and falsely pious of any group. No thanks.

  5. interesting.....I do think that if God said to fellowship with one another and remember him, also exercise your gifts to build up each other then we should do it. However.......I have been 'doing' it for a long time as a worship director overseeing three bands etc, (without the title, because women cant lead other men :) ). I have experienced a great deal of hypocrisy with the leaders in different denominations! it doesn't seem to matter it is a universal thing. I am tired, and dont wish to play the game anymore. I think that is what women are experiencing. Actually it is enabling these men in 'position' and not helping them as fellow Christ followers. So to do them and all of us a favour we need to be 'honest' with ourselves and others about what we will do willingly and wont do. I wont enable a man who wants accolades for 'his' business called 'church'! I have began a non-denominational non-for-profit organization that allows freedom of creative expression in all aspects of the arts for worship, community and missions to the local poor. I would encourage any one of you not to give up but to ask God what does he want you to do? simple. Then do it with wisdom and discretion. Too many pastors/leaders in churches are stuck in the patriachial mindset so steer clear I say!! Many Blessings to you my sisters and dont give up your dreams. Lynda