‘Where are all the men? - facts and stats


In the first of three articles about gender imbalance in the church, we examine the facts and stats about men and church attendance

It’s a familiar cry from single women in the church: “Where are all the men?!” But is it true that fewer men than women go to church? If so, why? And is there anything we can do about it?

The complaint that single women outnumber single men in the church is not, it turns out, without foundation. A survey of over 7,000 adults (conducted by YouGov and analysed by David Pullinger, director of Single Friendly Church) uncovered some interesting statistics about men, women and the UK church.

Our research found that, on average, across all Christian churches and denominations, 4.4% of the male adult population of Great Britain attend church at least once a month, while 5.2% of women attend at least once a month. This may seem like a small difference, but across the population, it mounts up to nearly half a million more women than men in the church.

This finding echoes academic research in the psychology of religion, which consistently finds that, within Christian or post-Christian contexts, women tend to be more religious than men. It’s also supported by previous studies exploring the relationship between sex and religiosity, church attendance, personal prayer and attitudes toward Christianity among adults.

So it is indeed the case that gender ratios in the church are skewed – and this is a particular problem for women seeking a spouse who shares their faith. Of the single adults in Great Britain who say they are practising Christians, there are on average two ABC1 (middle class) single women to every single man.

A more complex picture

While we can confidently say that fewer men than women attend church, these average percentages hide variations in practice. Some denominations have a better gender balance than others. For example, the Roman Catholic church was found to have even numbers of men and women (YouGov). This is probably due to families moving to the UK from Eastern Europe, revitalising the Church.

It’s also not necessarily the case that women outnumber men in individual churches. In some areas, and certain kinds of churches, it seems to be the other way around. There are individual Church of England congregations that complain they have too many men – notably those in farming areas and around military bases.

Our research from a survey of 3,000 single Christians also shows that men are more likely to attend “traditional” churches, while women are more attracted to “lively” or “family-focused” churches. This could be partly explained by how comfortable some (single) men feel around families and in social situations. We explore this further in our second article.

Who’s asking the question?

If the question “Where are all the men?” is coming from a single woman in your church, she is actually likely to be asking a more focused question: “Where are the single men that might include a potential partner for me?” 

If the questioner is a single man, however, he may be looking for other men with whom he can identify and form friendships. Men generally like to be with other men. They like to fit in and be part of a group. For example, they may be horrified if they arrive at a gathering dressed very differently to other men – whereas women may be more concerned if they turn up wearing the same outfit as another woman! It’s important to men to have others around with whom they can identify, so having single men present in a church is important to men as well as women.

The most recent research suggests that low church attendance among men may not be about gender at all, but about personality traits. More men have the trait of seeking adventure, but churches rarely reflect or offer opportunities to explore this. In our other articles, we look in more depth at the psychology of men, and how we might be able to better integrate those male personality traits into church life.

Even though the number of single men in church is undoubtedly lower than single women, it’s important to point out to the people concerned that there are many single men attending UK churches. The question is how to find them. This could be achieved by looking beyond the individual local church through social events, attending national events and (for women) online dating.

What about marriageable men?

Many single women claim there are no marriageable men in the church – that any men in a congregation are either too young or already married. There’s some truth in this. Statistics show that the church is mostly made up of married people (60%, compared to less than half in wider society). Furthermore, research shows that young people are most likely to leave the church at around 25 years of age, and it is mostly women who return while single.

The statistics for church membership among men show two main categories of regular attenders:

1. Married men with dependent children: There are indications in the data that married men, in particular C2DE (working class) men, are most likely to attend while they have dependent children and not afterwards. They are there for their families and not, apparently, for themselves.

2. Young men up to 25 years old: There are many active young men who regularly attend church but choose to leave by around the age of 25. There are various reasons proffered for this. One rationale from Barna Research Group, USA, is that a major contributor to men leaving the church is being unable to relate their faith to their vocation or work. Men are often very aware that they’re expected to have jobs and be able to provide for a (future) family. Their career is seen as critical, and understanding their vocational journey in the context of faith is important to them – yet this is rarely discussed in church. What does it mean to choose one path in life rather than another? How do we do a profession Christianly? These may be the questions that men need to explore in church but find are largely ignored.


*This is the first in a three-part series on single men and the church.

Read part two, on the psychology and personality traits of men and how these may relate to church attendance.

Part three looks at how churches can become more attractive to men


Much of the data in this article comes from our own research, which can be found at https://www.singlefriendlychurch.com/research/research

For more in-depth data on the statistics in this article, visit https://www.singlefriendlychurch.com/downloads/yougovsccvmlowresrpt25jan2015-(2).pdf

Our earlier research explores further how Christians feel about the gender imbalance in church.


Academic studies examining gender and religiosity include:

Argyle, M., & Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1975). The social psychology of religion. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

Francis, L. J., & Penny, G. (2013). Gender difference in religion. In V. Saroglou (Ed.), Religion, personality and social behavior (pp. 313-317). New York: Psychology Press.

For a note about gender differences, and how we have approached the issue in these articles, see the end of part two.

David Pullinger 24 March 2017