One of the most important developments in my marriage was when my wife and I decided that it was a priority to attend church and be involved in a community of believers. It has become an anchoring presence in our family. I don’t think we will truly understand the impact of that decision for many years to come. Our journey has put a special concern on my heart for other couples in the church, and it’s worth talking about why some wives have to drag their husbands to church.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
Wives positively influencing the spiritual development of their husbands and children is absolutely a good thing. Wives, if you have to drag your husband to church, then do it. Use your influence to get him there, engage him, and get him thinking about decisions of eternal consequence. Wives are an important part of the spiritual well-being of a family, and many men have come to know Jesus because they had wives that faithfully made them come to church. Wives, don’t give up the good fight. But in an ideal world, this isn’t something wives should have to fight for.
A Spiritual Imbalance
Men fall into one of two categories. This isn’t a universal rule by any means, but I either see the husband embracing the responsibility he has to invest in the spiritual health of his family, or I see him relinquishing that responsibility to his wife. He’s either taking responsibility, or he’s giving it up.
When a husband and wife aren’t on the same page spiritually, and one is getting dragged to church, that spouse is almost always the husband. It’s rare to find men who say that community and spiritual growth are really important to them, but they’re having a really hard time convincing their wife. She believes, but it’s non-stop guilt trips to get her to come to church! I’m sure this exists, but overall, women don’t seem to struggle with this in the same way that men do.
There has been a persistent gap in the attendance rates of women and men for years showing that women attend more often. This data on the participation of men and women in the church shows that this gap extends into other areas as well.
I think the reason you see this spiritual imbalance and church dragging is for two reasons. The first is this issue of men not taking responsibility to nurture the spiritual health of their family. The second reason is men are stubborn, and think they can do things on their own.
The Responsibility Relinquishers
I think men need spiritual responsibility in a way that women don’t. When women have to step up and become the spiritual push in the family, it exposes the husband and his passivity. I think most of these men go along with their wives because that’s the smart thing to do. They want to keep their wife happy, they want peace in the home, and if this is important to her, then they suck it up and go. This might work for a while, but the wife’s ultimate goal isn’t to simply have her husband come to church with a minimal amount of complaining. She wants him to want to go.
Men are hot or cold. They’ve either embraced their responsibility or they haven’t. When men aren’t taking responsibility, they get lazy, passive, and uninterested. Like I said before, wives also have a spiritual responsibility to their family, but they don’t seem to struggle in the same way that husbands do.
I think there are a lot of wives crying out for their husbands to step up spiritually. Lead, co-lead, whatever you want to call it, but start doing something. The wives that drag their husbands to church every week aren’t satisfied with their mere attendance. Mutual commitment to church and community is what she desires, not just your compliance.
The I Can Do It Myselfers
Husbands might not kick and scream too much if their wives want to start attending on the weekend, but the heels really start to dig in when the wife wants more. Attending on the weekend isn’t enough. She wants to develop deep friendships, serve, and commit. She wants to belong to a community. For a lot of guys, this is a threshold they aren’t comfortable crossing, and the spiritual expectations become asymmetrical. She wants more than he wants.
This is probably the same reason you see women’s ministries flourish while men’s ministries languish. For a lot of men, in church or not, seeking out community isn’t something most of us do naturally. We tell ourselves that we can do this whole believing in God thing on our own. I don’t need anyone else, but if the wife wants us to go to church, we’ll go to church. But then she wants to get involved? Men don’t need to get involved. We can solve our own problems thank you very much…now excuse me while I let my heels sink in.
The problem is that men aren’t that great on doing things on their own. Or at the least, they’re missing out on the growth that happens when you talk with and learn from other people. It’s OK to say that we don’t know everything and to commit to being better. It might make you uncomfortable, but change usually is.
What’s a Wife to Do?
If a wife finds herself having to drag her husband to church, what should she do? You drag him as nicely and supportively as you possibly can. If he’s not taking the initiative and deciding that church is important, then absolutely, you should say that it is. Tell him why it’s important to you, and why you want him to come with you. Pray for him. Pray that God would move in him, and that he would see the passion for faith in your life. Don’t guilt trip him or compare him to anyone else. Insist on taking the kids with you, and tell him you’d love for him to join you.
Husbands, don’t be afraid to give church a shot. It’s not just a bunch of hand raising and crying. There’s an opportunity to discuss deep theological issues and the meaning of life. Faith isn’t a crutch for the stupid, but a deep well for those willing to ask questions and learn.
Marriages are transformed when a husband and wife are on the same page spiritually. Don’t make your wife go on that journey alone. Take her hand, walk with her, and start growing together.