Maybe it’s that men prefer to keep their space and don’t like all the hand holding and hugging that goes on in a church.

Maybe it’s that the male brain thrives on competition and rough and tumble play, and church just seems boring. Maybe it’s simply lack of commitment and devotion.

Regardless, church leaders recognized long ago the average congregation volunteers are decidedly female.

“It’s been a problem for a while,” says Diane M. Hoffmann, author of “24 Hot Potatoes in the Church Today” (www.24hotpotatoes.blogspot.ca). “And it’s past time that churches got around to solving it.”

In some respects, the gender disparity might not be that surprising. Although the ordained clergy is overwhelmingly male, it’s women who are more likely to hold strong religious beliefs and teach Sunday school, chair a committee or sing in the choir.

For example, in the United States 60% of women say religion is “very important” in their lives, but just 47% of men make that claim, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Also, 64% of women say they pray daily, compared to 47% of men.

This is more than just an interesting cultural glitch, Hoffmann says. A Hartford Seminary study found that the presence of involved men is statistically correlated with church growth, health and harmony.

“When men weren’t participating,” Hoffmann says, “the congregation was more likely to be in decline.”

So why aren’t men more involved? In some cases, it could be their approach to life doesn’t mesh with a church’s approach to worship.

“Men appreciate logic, a no-nonsense approach to leadership and efficient and effective use of time,” Hoffmann says. “They don’t like services that are not organized.”

She has a few suggestions for churches that want to address the problem:

• Watch out for subtle discrepancies in how men and women are treated in church. Sometimes churches can, even if unintentionally, send out signals that certain things are expected of women but not men, and vice versa. For example, Hoffmann says, sometimes pastors announce an upcoming event and ask the women to bring food and to help. “Why not include men? Many men certainly could and would be willing, but since women were specified, they don’t think about doing it.”

• Understand that the presence of men as church volunteers itself can lead to more men taking on volunteer duties. They become role models for other men and, especially, for the boys and teenagers who will be the next generation of active church members. “This is why it’s critical to get men involved,” Hoffmann says. “I’ve heard many men say that it was a male teacher at church or school who influenced their faith the most.”

• Issue quarterly survey questionnaires so church members can express their thoughts about the church and make suggestions to improve. That could help the church discover opportunities it might be missing for drawing more men into active volunteer roles.

“It’s just like in a business,” Hoffmann says. “Most customers won’t tell you when the service is bad. They just don’t come back.”

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