I recently read an article that provoked me to thought. I’ll link it below, but beware, it’s a bit of a lengthy, academic read.
Here is the article: “American Evangelicalism isn’t Feminized or Patriarchal, it’s Matrilineal.”
One pervasive idea of the article is that male church engagement has slowly declined for decades, and the reasons are not as obvious nor as simple as we might believe. Generally speaking, church life has simply reflected societal norms. The primary “norm” in question is “matrilinealism“.
Society has evolved to a point through the generations, where women are the ones who make the whole operation work. Men may have titles and positions, men may be the primary earner, men may be the ones taking care of property and possessions, but women are often responsible for making sure the family unit functions on a daily basis.
This is especially in relation to parenting, women do the heavy lifting of caring for the nutrition, health, hygiene, social activities, educational demands, and extra curricular activities of the children.
However, it goes beyond that…
In MOST church attending families, it is mom who gets the kids ready for church. It is mom who drops them off at kids church or the nursery. It is mom who asks them about what they learned. It is mom who helps them learn their lines for the Christmas production. It’s mom’s bible the kids see laying on the coffee table. It’s mom who reads them scripture. It is mom who tucks them in and prays with them at bed time. It’s mom who puts bible verses up in their room.
In short, in many, many Christian homes, mom is the one primarily responsible for handing down the heritage of faith. I can say unequivocally, my faith was inherited from my mother and grandmothers. So I am grateful for every woman of God, married and single, who intentionally, consistently, diligently engages their kids with faith in Jesus.
What I am about to say is not an implication that what women do / are doing is inferior, it’s just a challenge to men of God. I would venture to say that a lot of moms will give a hearty affirmation to the following.
We have seen a slow decline in male church engagement in large part because we men have allowed societal norms and stereotypes to infiltrate the way we “do faith” in our family and church dynamics. We have inadvertently followed the lead of society and categorized it as “gender roles”.
If boys and teenage young men observe the adult males in their life compartmentalizing faith, the odds are high they just won’t create a compartment for it when they become adults. If the primary evidence of our faith as men is that we attend church, we are sending a confusing message to young men.
So here is the challenge, men, dads, we have to become more involved in all the stuff we have passed off to mom through the years, especially the “spiritual stuff”. This is true whether you have sons or daughters, but I feel confident in saying it will have a profound impact on our sons.
Dad, make a decision right now. For the next month, you be the one to read the Bible to your children. You be the one to take them to bed. You be the one to say the night time prayers. If your schedule permits, you be the one to take them to school and pray with them before they start their school day. Cultivate some faith traditions for you and your children.
For those of you Christian men who have already raised your kids, we need you big time! You are capable of doing more than taking up the offering and running security detail at church. We need you volunteering in the youth and kids ministry. We need you putting an arm around the young men of God in your church and encouraging them, speaking into their life, calling them into who they really are. We need you to include them in your mens ministry. We need you to teach them how to serve His church and love their community. We need the kids to see you worshipping, and praying, and even on occasion, touched to the quick of your emotions by God.
I am so grateful for all that moms have done through the years, but to reverse the trend of decreasing male engagement in the church, will require that we men become very focused on the responsibility of handing down a heritage of faith.
Man of God, you have something to offer. There is more to you than a glorified church bouncer. There is also more to you than whatever title or position you may or may not hold in the church. I know you feel that. There is something stirring in you, a desire to leave a legacy, to truly make a difference. We have done you a disservice, giving you roles that diminish or nullify your potent Kingdom influence.
The seed of God’s kingdom is in you. It’s time to sow that seed, with purpose, into the younger men under your watch…
We have all probably exclaimed the expression, “not on my watch!”
Make no mistake, it’s your watch. These young men are “on your watch!”