As an organization that desires to see all people groups reached with the gospel of Jesus, we want to empower the next generation of missionaries to go and tell the story of Jesus in some of the least-reached places.
We, along with the rest of the missions world, have noticed a disturbing trend: the general absence of men on the mission field.
While there aren’t a ton of verified statistics out there, it is generally accepted that only 5-10% of all overseas missionaries are single men. Around 2/3 of missionaries are married couples. Of the remaining 1/3 of single missionaries, 80% are women and 20% men.
Yes, there is a discrepancy between the proportion of men and women in the American church, but it is not nearly this drastic.
As we’ve had countless conversations with potential missionaries and missions leaders, here are some things that we think could be causing this disparity.
1. The American Dream
The draw of the “American Dream” mindset is an obstacle that many people, both male and female, face when pursuing missions, but it seems to hit men more directly. Here are a few quotes from young (single) guys who are pursuing missions.
“I feel like there is an expectation on men to go to college, get good jobs, and start a stable life for their family. Responding to a call to the mission field kind of goes against that safety that Americans want from a stable life.”
“As men, we are expected to be the provider, and a lot of guys find it very difficult to ask for money and live full time on support. Society makes men think that we need a full-time job and the money to support ourselves in order to have a girlfriend and get married.”
Most guys grow up being taught to value stability and independence, and both of these values are assumed to revolve around a secure career that pays well. Again, this is a pressure that can affect both men and women, but in our experience, men are more likely to fall into the trap of this kind of thinking. Somewhere along the way, safety, security and comfort have gained such elevated status in our culture, even our American Christian subculture, that we place them above obeying clearly defined commands from Scripture.
It’s funny that guys don’t seem to have much of a problem living in their parents basements and playing video games into their 30s but, a missionary, asking for money… we can’t do that!
2. Lack of vision and maturity.
The second factor that I’ve seen repeated through my time working with guys pursuing missions is a general lack of . . . something – a lack of passion, maturity, vision or purpose, maybe a little bit of all of them. John Piper indicates that there may be a direct link between marriage trends and a lack of male presence on the mission field:
Some guys in our generation have a hard time committing to weighty things in life, especially lifelong commitments like marriage or commitments to things that bring as much vulnerability as cross-cultural missions.
Committing to live and work among an unreached people group is a very vulnerable decision. Fear of failure, rejection and loneliness can paralyze men and prevent them from pursuing a life of missions. When the vision of the power of God’s gospel among every people group is missing, of course it seems more secure to pursue things that are fun and easy.
We want to be a voice that challenges young men around the world to engage in God’s global mission to bring worshippers from every tribe and language into his Kingdom. We understand that there are obstacles that everyone must overcome to pursue God’s calling. But we must do exactly that; overcome them because the task is urgent. We have to wake up from our apathy. Wake up from the lie that any name that we make for ourselves in this life will have any significance.
To echo one of the rally cries of our friends at CROSS,
“Hell is real. Time is short. Jesus says, ‘Go.’”
And He is worthy.