Why the Church May Be the Best Hope for Our Boys

August 21st, 2013

These are tough days to be a boy:

  • 70% of all D’s and F’s are given to boys
  • 85% of stimulant-addressing drugs prescribed throughout the world are prescribed to U.S. boys
  • Over the last twenty years the reading skills of the average 17-year-old boy have steadily declined
  • Boys have fallen behind girls in virtually every area of education
  • Boys are increasingly growing up with no compelling vision for manhood
  • Some fifty years ago, when our girls were falling behind our boys in school, the U.S. government spent over $100 million to right that wrong. As a result, girls caught up in the 1980’s and then sailed past boys. The amount the US government has invested to get our boys caught up? $0.

These are tough days to be the Church:

  • Sexual scandals in the Catholic Church
  • Angry, fringe churches like Westboro Baptist making front page news
  • Pastors of megachurches caught in various scandals of their own making
  • Church and denominational splits over gay/lesbian issues
  • Church attendance in decline, especially among young adults
  • 70-90% of all boys leaving the church in their teens and early 20’s . . . and most not returning.

So it may seem cavalier or reckless for me to suggest that the Christian Church may be the best hope for our boys.

For several years a variety of voices have sounded the alarm concerning the boy crisis in our country (Michael Gurian, Michael Thompson, Peg Tyre, Richard Whitmire, to name a few). Yet for all of the attention given to the boy crisis, the crisis is still being questioned by many under the guise of a misguided political correctness that suggests that any attempt to focus on boys will have a negative impact on our girls.

So here we are, almost 30 years after our girls caught up to and surpassed our boys, still arguing over whether or not there really is a boy crisis (there is) while the story for our boys continues to degenerate. 

Having spent almost 30 years as a pastor, and having worked on the boy crisis for the last 7 years, I believe the Church may be best positioned to help us solve this boy crisis for the following reasons:

The Church is rooted in a deep, rich, sacred view of men and women. The Bible says that men and women are created in the image of God.  Both male and female are good. Both are equal. But they are also different. Take off our clothes and we see the difference. Take the clothes off of our brains and we see the difference (at least 60 differences between the male and female brain have been identified so far). The male is not better than the female, just different. The female is not less than the male, just different. Both are rooted in the sacred view that they are created, male and female, in the Image of God. Based on that, the Church can rise above political correctness and stereotyping to draw out the best in our boys and our girls. It can take the lead in reshaping the discussion, moving us from antagonism of one sex toward the other to a comprehensive, sacred appreciation of the equality and uniqueness of both.

The founder of Christianity offers a vision for compelling manhood. Jesus offers boys a vision of what it looks like to be a man: Courageous, compassionate, a warrior against injustice, an advocate for the voiceless, a friend, passionate, committed, a man of his word, a man of action, gracious, humble, gentle, tough, forgiving, purposeful, commanding, strong, fully in tune with who he is, and ultimately a man willing to lay down his life not just for his friends, but for his enemies.  Imagine our boys growing up into that kind of manhood.

The Church understands the primal need of every boy for a blessing from his father. Part of what makes a boy a man is the blessing of his father—that moment when a dad looks his son in the eyes and tells him he loves him and that he is proud of who his son is becoming. Sadly, most boys never hear those words from their dads. For some it’s because Dad isn’t around. For others it’s because Dad never received that blessing from his father and so has no idea how to give it to his son. The ministry of Jesus began with the blessing from his Father. Armed with his father’s love and approval, Jesus had the power he needed to change the world. The Church stands in a unique position to train men to give that blessing to their sons and to boys in general.

The Church has an army of men who can pour masculine energy into our boys.  In a time when our boys have few men investing in them, the Church is loaded with potential male mentors, who, with a bit of training, can begin to pour good masculine energy into our boys who desperately crave men in their lives.

That’s why the Church may be the best hope for our boys. Why may be? Because the Church has a checkered record, at best, when it comes to raising boys into honorable men. Too often the Church has raised boys to lord it over women rather than serve them. Too often the Church has devalued women, treating them as inferior to men. None of this has been Biblical. None of it has been in line with Jesus and his agenda. Yet sadly, it’s still happening today.

If the Church can get its act together and embrace its deep, sacred understanding of male and female, if the Church can let go of its past sins and truly follow Jesus, the one who is the vision for manhood, and more than that, the vision for humankind, then the Church can take the lead in changing the storyline of our boys.


Tim Wright is the Pastor at Community of Grace, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Peoria, AZ.  He is the author of Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys from Church and is the co-author, along with Michael Gurian, of a rite of passage program for junior high boys called, Following Jesus: A Heroic Quest for Boys.

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