One of the regular dinner table conversations we had as a family when our kids were younger was jump-started by asking the question, “what did you notice today?” It was a much better question than, “what did you do today?” which almost always elicited a heavy sigh followed by, “aw, nuthin.”
But what did you notice? You could never predict what would follow that question.
So here’s a variation on that question. When you were last at church, what did you notice? Did you happen to notice how many men were there? Did you happen to notice how many men were not there?
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that there’s a gender gap in the church today. I’m not talking about a gender gap in leadership, even though there is one. And I’m not talking about women lagging behind, which we often do on a variety of levels.
I’m talking about a gap among regular people, between men and women, who identify (or not) with a faith group. According to the Pew Research Center, on several different measures of commitment, including religious affiliation, frequency of worship service attendance, frequency of prayer, and whether religion plays an important role in a person’s life, in Christian-majority countries, women are more religious than men. 
When we gathered a few months ago in Jamaica, this gender gap surfaced as a major challenge in evangelism for the Methodist Wesleyan family there. I was pleased they were willing to talk about it. For many of us, it’s a challenge we have yet to address, which makes the question even more pressing: where are all the men?
As you might expect, researchers are conflicted about the answer to that question. There are biological and genetic differences that lead to a difference in religious commitment. No, it’s all about culture and social factors. No, it’s a combination of both.
We shouldn’t be surprised by those reactions. Like anything of deep significance, the answer is likely a complex mix of many factors that we may or may not be able to put our fingers on exactly. But a lack of a definitive answer doesn’t mean that we can ignore the question.
If we really believe that in Christ there is no male or female, it should trouble us deeply that so many men are missing from our midst.
If we really believe that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church – giving his very life for it – then it should trouble us deeply that so many women do not have husbands who understand their responsibility to model the self-giving love of Christ in their homes.
If we really believe Jesus’ words that we are not to hinder children from coming to him, then it should trouble us deeply that so many children do not have fathers who are serious about being spiritual role models.
Men are a vital part of God’s inbreaking kingdom; and taking their spiritual needs seriously does not mean we believe anyone else’s needs are less significant. It simply means we believe men’s spiritual needs are important as well.
And what are those spiritual needs? I’m sure there are many, but I’m going to briefly highlight two. Thankfully, they’re not exclusive to men but are actually crucial to a fully formed faith regardless of your gender.
The first is an outward focus. The church is not about us; it’s about those beyond our walls. There’s a wonderful circular nature to the Christian life – faith motivates us to action and action stimulates faith. If we aren’t making a difference in our communities, not only will we not attract men, we won’t be living fully as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
The second is spiritual accountability – a concept that permeates Wesleyan spiritual practice from top to bottom, for all people. None of us are cogs in an ever-turning wheel of productivity. We all need people who care more about our inner life than they do about how much money we make, how big our houses are, or what kind of cars we drive. We all need friends who can walk with us as we move through this unpredictable, challenging, awe-inspiring journey of faith. It may very well be that men need this message more than anyone.
As I read through the analysis of the Pew data, I was struck by how often it was speculated that women would move in the direction of men and become less religious – as more entered the workplace or increased their economic security, for instance. Nowhere was it suggested that men might move in the direction of women and become more religious. But I suppose I’m expecting too much from the Pew Research Center.
It is not employment or the economy or even biology that ultimately determine the religious commitment of men. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and our ability to become channels of that Holy Spirit power in the lives of our sons and our brothers and our fathers and our friends.
 The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World, http://www.pewforum.org/2016/03/22/the-gender-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/