The church congregation in Kenya is predominantly made up of women and children, a trend that has got pastors scratching their heads.
And even among the children, boys opt out when they become young men. The million-dollar question is, why do men dislike going to church?
Take, for instance, John Kehenjo, a Nairobi resident. Despite his wife going to church regularly, he can’t recall the last time he went into the House of God.
Tales have been told of many, like Kehenjo, who hate going to church, so much that the only time they set foot in church is during special occasions like Christmas Day, Easter or during weddings.
Of course, this they do after being pestered. For others, the only time they recall being in church was during a heavy downpour, and church was the only nearby shelter!
Attend service as convention and to please spouse
“Church is for women and children. Church is predictable and boring, especially Catholic, which I used to attend. Sitting down to listen to a fellow ‘imperfect and sinful man’ lecturing me on righteousness for hours on end wasn’t making a lot of sense to me,” Kehenjo says.
He adds: “There are things that are just feminine, like holding hands, hugging, singing and dancing and you can not catch me dead doing them.”
He concludes by saying that the melon that broke the monkey’s back was the fact that they would chorus virtually everything, from Bible verses, prayers and other routines, making mass boring.
Tim Kawewa, a businessman in Nairobi, says he only goes to church to please his wife. He gets bored in church and can’t help it.
“My wife is born again. She made me stop drinking, smoking but has been unable to get me saved. Sunday is my worst day of the week because I have to wake up early, go to church in solidarity with my family, just to make her happy,” he says.
Wives who respect pastors than hubby
He adds that most of the time when he went to church, when he was not absent-minded, he was yawning with boredom, dozing off or on his phone. Of course to the chagrin of his wife.
“My wife is so obsessed with church and at times makes it look like she respects the pastor than myself, so much so that she gets on my nerves. But for the sake of the marriage, I have to pretend to be OK with it. She walks around with a small Bible in her handbag, always reading it even in the bedroom. She keeps quoting T D Jakes, Joel Osteen and the likes,” he says.
Tales have been told of men who only go to church to ‘tune’ women. Take, for instance, the case of Flo Nyakio. She says she has been hit on several times by men at church. She says men believe church is where good wives are found.
Men hate singing for it makes them look weak
Hear her: “Men don’t like going to church. Some of the few you see, especially bachelors, use the church as a ‘hunting ground’. They hardly pay attention to the pastor. They are always craning their necks all over, staring and checking out ‘hot’ women.”
She argues that the fact that men dislike singing could also be the reason they hate going to church because they would be subjected to a lot of singing.
“First, most men have bad voices and can’t sing. They get irritated each time they are forced to croak like frogs in the name of singing. Plus, most men are too macho and feel singing is a girly thing and makes them look weak,” she laughs.
Men’s issues always neglected
Philip Oketch, a staffer at a city call centre who confesses to not going to church regularly, says he dislikes going to church because most pastors don’t address issues that affect men. He says his work eats up a lot of his time and he is the sole breadwinner at his home.
He doesn’t see why he should ‘waste’ part of his resting day - Sunday, by going to church yet he prays regularly and his family, through the wife, pays tithe.
“Women are too demanding. The average Kenyan man is under siege to provide. I am, for instance, the breadwinner in my family. I have a busy, tight work schedule. And the last thing I want is for anything to interfere with my resting day, which is Sunday,” says Oketch.
He adds that in his younger days, he used to be an active church goer and sampled a couple of churches. Sadly, he says they are pretty much the same.
“Pastors don’t talk about issues that affect men. The dominant themes are always on how people should be nice and aspire for heaven. I can’t recall hearing anything on, for instance, work and money or even marriage. Yet these are things the average man grapples with on a daily basis,” complains Oketch.
Most social commentators we spoke to insinuated that most Kenyan men have competing priorities and church does not always rank too highly on their ‘to-do’ list.
Men too judgemental and pastors’ lack of credibility
Sam Wambua, a life coach, says that men are very judgemental and many pastors’ suffer from a credibility crisis.
In other social circles they would not be given the time of day and dodgy reputations of some pastors have kept many men away from the house of God.
Church is a place for spiritual nourishment, but when sermons are just a conduit for fundraising, its no wonder that men quickly lose interest in the proceeding and seek comfort in their other ‘religions’, notably sports.
Little wonder then that, as Wambua puts it, cases of women being exploited and conned by unscrupulous pastors are commonplace.
“Churches have been turned into businesses of sorts. Pastors come up with captive ideas to sustain money making schemes. Most men are aware that money talks and can buy their way into the ranks of ‘goodness’ with a simple generous donation. While women might succumb to the veneer of holiness, most men see right through the facade,” says Wambua, adding that it takes a sly guy to catch a sly guy.
Too masculine to be led or seek help
He goes on to add that male big egos don’t allow for regular criticism and any pastor who makes of habit of reprimanding his congregation of sins for worldly acts such as drinking will find a less enthusiastic male audience.
Men are authority figures in their homes and are too macho to stand the humiliation of other men (read pastors) giving them a dress down before their own wives and children? Men want to win and lead, always.
It is unfortunate that some preachers have taken to victim shaming men and lumping them into the bracket of ‘useless men’. Most men we talked to complained that when they are not being criticised for being bad fathers, it’s their lifestyles.
It’s their worldly pleasures like beer, sex, or smoking habits that are put to scrutiny and demonised as sins. Yet solutions to real life issues, such as depression, anxiety and identity are not forthcoming.
Professor Paul Achola, a sociologist and expert on matters family and marriage, and a lecturer at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, says through patriarchal ideologies, men have disenfranchised and disadvantaged women, leaving them vulnerable.
“Church tends to target the disadvantaged, oppressed and the downtrodden in society who largely comprise women. Church is where minds are unburdened and solace is sought. The palliative effects of church teachings tend to appeal more to women,” says the sociologist.
Women, he adds, tend to be ‘group oriented’, always willing to share problems, admit weakness and seek help. And chamas and church provides a platform for this.
Women too serious about life and going to heaven
Prof Achola adds: “Women, unlike men, tend to be more focused and devote themselves to goals and objectives. Thus, once they choose church, they attend religiously. Men tend to be distracted by many other issues such as deviant thinking (which easily derails them from church), looking for money and bigger jobs or even more wives and girlfriends.”
He concludes by saying that considering women are demographically more than men, it follows that their numbers in church will obviously outdo that of men.
Clearly, pastors have their work cut out for them. From the look of things, men’s needs and feelings should be considered if we are to see more of them trooping back to church.
Pastors and the church should actively go after the adult male market, just the way they have gone for the youth demographic!