Just Exactly What Is The "Men Problem?"

Recently a man wrote, “When you talk about the ‘men problem,’ what do you mean?” Good question! While I’ve written extensively about it, here’s a brief summary I’ve cobbled together from my books Pastoring Men and Man Alive

Much has been made about the “men problem.” You can hear about it from Oprah. You can read about it in Time. You can watch the destruction it creates with Dr. Phil.

School teachers can barely educate on the heels of it. Social services are overwhelmed because of it. Employers are stumped by it. Law enforcement feels the brunt of it. Many jails and prisons are full because of it. Politicians don’t know what to do with it. Candidates avoid it.

Authors and academics have assembled alarming statistics to prove it. Health care professionals publish convincing reports to document the human cost of it. Cable shows rant at it. Talk radio personalities have all the answers for it. Movies glamorize it. Television commercials mock it.

The “men problem.” Divorce courts are at capacity because of it. Families are ripped apart by it. Wives soak their pillows with tears as a result of it. Children grow up in poverty as a consequence of it. Teenagers experiment with drugs and sex to cope with it.

A lot of money gets spent to treat the symptoms of it. We open teenage pregnancy centers, start divorce recovery groups, establish substance abuse centers, increase budgets for social services, build homes for battered women, authorize more jail space, put extra beds in our homeless shelters, increase the number of law enforcement officers, and fit our schools with metal detectors to deal with it.

Everyone is concerned about it. Many address the consequences of it. Yet very few people are doing anything that will change the root of it. The “men problem” is among the most pervasive social, economic, political, and spiritual problems of all time.

The statistics are jarring:

  • 80 percent of men are so emotionally impaired that not only are they unable to express their feelings, but they are even unable to identify their feelings. 1
  • 60 percent of men are in financial trouble, paying only the monthly minimums on their credit card balances. 2
  • 50 percent of men who attend church actively seek out pornography. 3
  • 40 percent of men get divorced, affecting one million children each year. 4

The conclusion is inescapable: Men have become one of our largest neglected people groups. As a result, they are prone to get caught up in the rat race, lead unexamined lives, and become cultural (rather than biblical) Christians.


Alone, the men problem is horrific, but the collateral damage on marriages and families is staggering. Tonight, 36% of America’s seventy-two million children will go to bed in a home without their biological dad. But perhaps the greatest cost to the physical absence of fathers is the practical absence of mothers. Essentially, one person must now do the work of two. As a young woman who grew up without a dad said, “When my mom and dad divorced, I didn’t just lose my dad. I also lost my mom, because she had to work long hours to support us.”

  • 48 percent of women are choosing cohabitation over marriage. 5
  • 41 percent of babies are born to single mothers. 6
  • 36 percent of children live in homes without their biological fathers. 7
  • 18 percent of pregnancies are terminated by abortion. 8
  • Children in female-headed families are five times more likely to live in poverty, repeat a grade, and have emotional problems compared to families where a father is present. 9

A man leaves. A woman weeps herself to sleep. A little girl prays, “God, why is my daddy always so angry with me?” The men problem has made Dr. Phil a very rich man.


But wait! There’s more. We also have a Christian “men problem” with devastating results. As I wrote in my book Man Alive, I’d estimate that as many as 90 percent of Christian men lead lukewarm, stagnant, often defeated lives. They’re mired in spiritual mediocrity—and they hate it.

Despite their good intentions, after they “walk the aisle” and “pray the sinner’s prayer,” most men return to their seats and resume their former lives. They don’t take the next steps. Almost imperceptibly, one disappointment at a time, the world sucks out their newfound joy and passion for life in Christ.

Men lose heart, go silent, and anesthetize their pain. Then they give up, burn out, drop out, or just slowly drift away. It’s not just getting older; it’s an assassination of the soul.

And isn’t that exactly what the enemy of our souls wants? As Jesus said, referring to the devil, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

No man fails on purpose. None of us wakes up in the morning and thinks, I wonder what I can do today to irritate my wife, neglect my kids, work too much, or have a moral failure. But many of us will. And that's the problem. 

While not an article about solutions, I would be remiss not to add that however men got in so deep, the only solution is to disciple them out. 

Until every church disciples every man… 



  1. 80 percent of men are so emotionally impaired, Terrence Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It (New York: Fireside, 1997), 56.
  2. 60 percent of men are in financial trouble, Howard Dayton, personal correspondence with the author, 2004.
  3. 50 percent of men who attend church, “Pornography Statistics,” Family Safe Media, www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html. I once spoke at a Christian meeting of five hundred men who were asked if they had actively sought out pornography within the previous year. Approximately 60 percent of the men wrote yes on a slip of paper and dropped it into a basket on their way to a break.
  4. 40 percent of men get divorced, American Academy of Pediatrics, “Family Pediatrics Report of the Task Force on the Family,” Pediatrics 111, no. 6 (2003): 1541–71.
  5. Women choosing cohabitation over marriage: Casey E. Copen, Kimberly Daniels, and William D. Mosher, “First Premarital Cohabitation in the United States: 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth,” National Health Statistics Reports, no. 64, April 4, 2013, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf.
  6. Babies born to single mothers: “Unmarried Childbearing,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 2013, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarry.htm. Children living in homes without their biological fathers: Rose M. Kreider, Living Arrangements of Children: 2004, Household Economics Studies, US Census Bureau, February 2008, www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/p70-114.pdf.
  7. 36 % live without biological fathers  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11205-007-9149-8?LI=true#page-1
  8. Pregnancies terminated by abortion: Karen Pazol et al., “Abortion Surveillance—United States, 2009,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 23, 2012, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6108a1.htm?s_cid=ss6108a1_w.
  9. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Family Pediatrics Report of The Task Force on the Family,” Pediatrics, 111(2003): 1541–71.