Study: Church crowds mostly women
The cliche of Dad sitting on the couch watching football on Sundays while Mom hauls the children to church isn’t that far off, according to a recent survey on religious service attendance.
Women are more likely to identify with a specific religion than men, according to a national study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. And that trend extends to church attendance, several church leaders said.
Michael Strammiello, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, Conn., said the lopsided gender trend isn’t new, and appears to run through all Christian faiths.
“It’s not anything recent,” he said. “Women outnumber men in faithful church attendance. I think this is a challenge that we are examining.”
Of Catholics in America, 29 percent live in the Northeast. Of those, 54 percent are women and 46 percent men.
Strammiello said some of the diocese’s 77 parishes are undertaking individual efforts “to balance things out more.”
Nineteen percent of Protestants in the United States live in the Northeast. They also are experiencing the same gender inequality as Catholics — 54 percent of their attendance is women and 46 percent men.
Although he said he has never looked at specific gender demographics in his congregation, the Rev. Cal Lord, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Norwich, said it did seem to him there were more female faces looking up at him in the pulpit on Sundays.
“In general, women seem to participate more in church life, whether it’s Bible study or fellowship groups,” Lord said. “But men and women relate to the world in different ways.”
He said men tend to express their faith in “concrete, rather than theological ways.” That means a larger number of them serve on the church’s property committee, rather than teaching Sunday school, Lord said.
One denomination bucking the national gender trend are Jews. Forty-one percent of the country’s Jewish population lives in the Northeast. Of that number, 52 percent are males and 48 percent are women, according to the Pew survey.
But those figures are evening out, said Alan Turner, lay leader of the Beth Israel Temple in Danielson, Conn. He said Jewish tradition required a complement of 10 men in order to hold a full service, or minyan. Without the men, there was no service.
“Men took on the obligation and that carried over,” Turner said. “But it’s changing as some temples now allow women to be counted. And as soon as that happened, the number of males attending began to drop off, to the point where it’s about 50-50 now, depending on the congregation.”
Norwich Bulletin reporter Michael Gannon contributed to this story.