Why You Should Care About the “Boy Crisis”

My concern for the future of boys is personal.  I have two grandsons, both nearing age three.  I’m the pastor of a church with boys of all ages.  These are real boys, boys I care about, who are growing up in a world:

  • Where boys are increasingly falling behind girls in school
  • Where the reading skills of teenage boys have been in decline for 20 years
  • Where fewer males are attending and graduating from college
  • Where increasing numbers of boys are being raised without positive male energy being poured into them and therefore have no noble vision for what it means to be a man

This issue is personal for me.  But I’d like to suggest that it should be personal for you as well, whether you have a boy in your life or not.

Imagine the implications, not only for our boys, but for our culture, if the above trends continue (and at this point, there seems to be no reason why they won’t):

  • Policymakers in the US calculate that if 5% more boys completed high school and matriculated to college, the nation would save $8 billion a year in welfare and criminal justice costs. (Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley, Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys: Strategies that Work and Why, p. ix).  What will it cost us if the trend continues and more and more boys don’t finish high school and matriculate to college?
  • The majority of new jobs will increasingly require strong reading and verbal skills.  Our boys are falling behind in that area.  80% of the fastest growing careers will require a post-secondary education.  Fewer boys are pursuing that education.  Where will they get employment?  Will they be able to earn a liveable wage?  What might the impact be on our social systems if boys/men don’t keep up educationally or skills-wise with our economy?
  • What will be the impact on male/female relationships?  As women fly past men in terms of education, employment skills, and income (young adult women now make more money that young adult men–The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools, Thomas A. Diprete and Claudia Buchmann, p. 3), where will women looking for a life partner find a man who can be her equal intellectually, emotionally, and so on?  (I have a granddaughter, so this issue is also personal for me!)
  • With few men mentoring our boys with a compelling vision for manhood, what will be the impact of these vision-less boys/men on families? Fatherhood?  Citizenship?   All too often, boys with no heroic vision for manhood either become violent or passive.  Culture and families suffer greatly from both violent males and passive males.

This isn’t just a parenting issue…a school issue…a church issue.  It’s a cultural issue.  It impacts and will continue to impact all of us.

Why should you care?  For the reasons stated above and many more, but most important of all: Because these boys are created in the Image of God, male.  They matter to God.  God created them to matter to us.  To matter to society.   Healthy, vibrant, noble, educated males build a better world.  We need them.  That’s why you should care.

The Steroid Church
The Church's Male Dilemma
Could Dad be the Key to Healing Our Country?
Top 10 Reasons Why Dad Matters--According to Science
About Tim Wright

I've been a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1984, currently serving as the founding pastor of Community of Grace in Peoria, AZ. My wife, Jan and I, were married in 1979. We raised two kids and currently have 3 grandkids. I love to ride my bike, travel, read British Mysteries, and Disneyland. I have written 6 books, including my newest--Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys From Church. My website: www.TimWrightMinistries.org

  • Y. A. Warren

    I, too, have a son. He is grown with a teenage son. I have a daughter, also grown with one adult and one teen daughter.

    The very worst case scenario is that women will decide men aren’t necessary when mammal cloning becomes a reality, as I believe it will. The slippery slope of artificial means of conception has made men almost unnecessary for continued procreation. With gender choice as an option, men could be destroyed in favor of an all-female world.

    We seem to be in an age where procreation is handled like animal husbandry in which most males are slaughtered because it only takes one rooster for approximately 100 hens. With artificial insemination, the number of needed males is even lower.

    A huge problem, as I see it is that we continue to ignore that much of the use for human males is their superior upper body strength and their accompanying need for adrenaline rushes and high activity levels. Rather than channeling that male energy into trades and the physical parts of parenting, we continue to drug the males to keep them still and refuse to release them to apprentice at trades.
    Rather, we pretend that all people are destined for academic achievement.

    The hope I see is in the increased active involvement in parenting that I see in the young generation of fathers. It is a shame that this turn has come at the expense of many “traditional Christian” marriages.

    As long as the churches continue to promote the “God”and the adulterous, vindictive patriarchs of the Old Testament as pleasing role models of fatherhood and marriage, women will continue to rebel and men will continue to justify their own neglect and abuses. It is the children who continue to lose in this swing of the pendulum from matriarchy to patriarchy and back.

    • Steve Knudsen

      Let me get this straight. Males are patriarchs, but they are also slaughtered. Is this irony? I don’t get it.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Look at the animal kingdom. Very few males actually get to spread their seed because only the physically strongest survive.

        Humans have gotten a tiny bit more intelligent and now know that it isn’t only physical strength that is important. Unfortunately, we have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, acting as if only intellect is important.

        The women’s movement has swung the pendulum against the importance of physical integrity and strength even farther.

        The best thing that came out of birth control, which enabled women’s lib, is the freedom for males and females to become friends, with or without “benefits.” This has enabled women and men to entertain thoughts of forming partnerships based on the needs of the relationship and the individual strengths of each person in the partnership.

        My fight is against those who, through their fear of change, want to turn the human clock back many generations, or even one generation. This we cannot endure. Nor can we endure simply swinging the pendulum from matriarchy to patriarchy, and back again.

        • http://www.swordcrossrocket.com swordcrossrocket

          The argument is that this will have less effect than you think because the government is able to take over the male role as provider. I don’t think it’s entirely true, but it can supplement and make single motherhood possible over marriage, and we’ll see increasing pathology for boys as women tend to either do without, or a minority marry well.

          I agree with you though, but I’m not sure we can solve this. There are so many causes to it that are based in individual choice that would need a nation-wide religious revival or change in thinking to alter.

          Oops, my bad. This is a reply in general, not to you Y.A..

          • Y. A. Warren

            Religion is a big part of the problem, promoting wishful thinking over responsible compassion for oneself, one’s mate, and one’s committed community. The marriage of church and state continues to create a society in which nobody is actually responsible for anything on earth. We can solve this with honest thought and responsible action, if we will only exercise our free will and our rights and responsibilities on which democracy hinges.

          • http://www.swordcrossrocket.com swordcrossrocket

            If anything the more secular a country the worse a problem they have with the boy crisis. It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Are you including all religions in this argument? Where are you getting your statistics on the “boy crisis” being exacerbated by secularization?

            Traditional religions promote fear. Boys are taught to fight fear. They tend to also like to experience life on a physical, task oriented basis.

            We need better arguments and examples of why boys should become their best selves and true assets to our worldwide human society.

          • http://www.swordcrossrocket.com swordcrossrocket

            Generally you have a boy crisis in secular nations where feminism has enabled women to more or less fulfill male roles as well as female due to governmental subsidy and increased education. Secular ideas on sexuality and birth control also increased such; increased use of birth control had the effect of granting reproductive power solely to women and thereby weakening the power of men and their duty to a family. I could construct a formal argument but too little room in chat boxes.

            It has zero to do with religion, case in point Japan. You have the same issue there with no strong religion to blame.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Even when we look at secular communities, we often find the underpinnings of their societies, until very recently were strictly based on interpretations of “sacred” scripture. Men are often hiding from their own abilities to train boys in the ways of free choice and the responsibilities that go with it. Women don’t necessarily want all the power, but men will often refuse to share power with a woman. “My way or the highway…”

        • Liralen

          It’s not the women’s movement that “has swung the pendulum against the importance of physical integrity and strength”, it’s technology (where women still lag behind). Arguably, technology has even enabled the women’s movement. We no longer need strength to swing an axe, since a chainsaw or an M-16 can be easily wielded by women. We no longer need to have many children just to ensure that a few survive, and in fact, it’s a detriment to the prosperity of our children to have too many. That plus indoor plumbing, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, etc. leaves women with not as much to do as they did 200 years ago.

          Women did not cause this. Sadly, women still aren’t even well-represented as developers of these technologies. I received my degree in electrical engineering in 1985 and have been disappointed that female representation is still so poor.

          On another note, despite not needing a man economically, I need my husband very much. I didn’t marry him for his sperm donation capabilities, and I doubt that was a primary motivation for most married women. No doubt there are men who are quite right to be worried about being able to find a woman to marry them if women generally have other choices economically, but my husband isn’t one of them.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Women continue to take time out of the workplace to bear children and manage care taking for families. Men cannot bear the children, but I have never bought the concept that women are naturally more adept at care taking.

            Sex (with or without procreation) was the primary motivator for marriage before easy access to effective birth control. In my generation, there were assigned roles for men and women, based on the reality of unplanned pregnancies. The medical technology to enable families to plan births has greatly improved the freedoms of women, but the reality is that we still have a long way to go in expectations of and by men for male primary care givers.

            The educated younger couples in the U.S. seem to be balancing the pendulum swing, but the uneducated and religious right continue to cater to the fear-based animal instinct ways of life. Many wealthy women seem to be thumbing their noses at any reason to include men, other than for procreation.

            We are given reason and should use it in figuring out what we as individuals want to achieve and choose team mates with like goals to complement our own strengths. Marriage should be primarily a legal partnership, not a fairy tale made by “God.”

            No family can function well without committed physical community, which begins with parents who go into parenthood with open eyes and resources. The marriage of religion and politics has created a society where people are encouraged be less than primarily and personally responsible to each other. It also continues separating basic human talents and needs into “male” and “female.”

          • StanO360

            Ohh please the Euphoric Atheist Trollology . . .

          • StanO360

            You do understand without external reference (God) you are the one living a myth? “Responsibility” is not a thing without any eternal reference, it’s just do, there is zero accountability, zero purpose (unless magically self-generated), zero reason for anything. We are simply as valuable and meaningful as an ant under your philosophy.

          • Y. A. Warren

            That is true, for some people.

    • http://www.swordcrossrocket.com swordcrossrocket

      “A huge problem, as I see it is that we continue to ignore that much of the use for human males…”

      You do realize this is like saying that we continue to ignore that much of the use for human females is their attractive looks and their penchant for keeping them up and to be adored. Rather than channeling that energy into hairdressing and modeling, we continue to drug them into attending college…

      A lot of us guys don’t run around all the time, like reading, and hate the trades. If anything, people who tend to think they are a solution for guys have never experienced them. They pay well because they are often crappy, soul and body-destroying work that has the potential to kill the worker. I hate reductionist answers that think boys are little more than young chimpanzees or have no care for books or anything but sports.

    • Liralen

      It’s illogical to assume that demands for equal rights by women equals matriarchy. Current unequal treatment of males, such as child custody, is a legacy of the patriarchy and I doubt that you’ll find many feminists who disagree that it is unfair.

      If by some wild chance, a matriarchy does occur, it is illogical to assume that it would take the form of a role reversal of a patriarchy. For example, there is no evidence that women are interested in forcing males to stay home and take care of the children instead of having a fulfilling career outside of the home. I can assure you that this feminist is very concerned over the well-being of my son and grandson and have done everything in my power to ensure that that they are happy and are given the skills needed to compete economically.

      • RevTim

        Thanks for being one of many women investing in our boys!

      • Y. A. Warren

        I did not say that women’s rights equals matriarchy, but I am concerned about men and women heading that way..

        The male bashing that many women are doing is as bad as the female bashing done by men. I see as many women wanting “equal” rights with many special features added to honor their motherhood/caretaker roles as I see men wanting to walk away from these responsibilities.

        It is time that we take the terms “male” and “female” off of functions that aren’t limited to one gender or the other and look at work in terms of collaborative partnerships of individual talents. This takes respect for all types of talents, including what we term and, pay as if it is, “menial” like childcare, home care, elder care, and other service jobs..


  • radiofreerome

    This may be a partial answer to engaging boys in education. Teach them to apply the same expectations of work to both academics and athletics. No one becomes a star athlete over night. Athletes expect to have to persevere to improve and learn to feel a sense of accomplishment from staying with a program to accomplish a goal. Academic achievement is the same. You can improve the intellectual gifts you have just as much as you can improve the athletic gifts you have. The same character and hard work is required for both.

    One researcher refers to this quality as “grit.”


  • http://menaregood.com/ Tom Golden

    Thank you Tim Wright for taking a stand for boys and men. All too often in today’s misguided world the default attitude is that men and boys deserve less since they “had it all” for so long. This attitude is totally wrong-headed and false. Both men and women were restricted by onerous sex roles and in the past 50 years we have helped ease women’s sex role burdens but have done almost nothing for boys and men.

    This issue has not gone completely unnoticed. There is a group of national experts on boys and men who have come together and written a proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. The proposal lays out the hardships and discrimination that boys and men face in today’s world. You can see it here


    or at their facebook page here:


    Thanks again or speaking up for boys and men.

  • Liralen

    As the grandmother of a 6-year old boy, I already care and have given this issue a lot of thought.

    The unequal treatment of men with respect to child custody was apparent to me when my son went through a divorce. Thankfully, when hostilities subsided, his ex-wife recognized the value of having my son and our family in my grandson’s life, but that’s not always the case. I have very much to be grateful for, and I am happy that she loves her son so much that she tolerates people for his benefit that she might not be happy with.

    With respect to the subject matter of this blog, I’m a relatively recent convert to Christianity and my son is an atheist as I raised him to be, as is his ex-wife. However, both of them have graciously allowed my grandson to go to church if he wishes, trusting in my husband’s and my judgment to choose a church that won’t do him harm.

    It *is* sad that’s a concern, but it is. My primary concern is that he not be exposed to children who will tell him that he will go to hell. Another major concern is that he not be exposed to the patriarchy that teaches an entitlement to males that no longer legally exists in secular society (and it’s feelings of entitlement that results in rage when they don’t receive it that I blame for a lot of male violence. Plus heroic fantasies that don’t materialize. Everyone imagines themselves as the king, never the serfs, despite the overwhelming evidence that most were serfs) . Yes, the patriarchy is still alive (although perhaps not well) in secular society and there are laws that still support it, but the latter are mainly due to religious influences.

    My husband and I have been to several mainline churches and we’ve been very impressed with and approve of the sermons compared to my husband’s former conservative, fundamentalist denomination. But we don’t know what goes on in Sunday school and probably won’t encourage my grandson to go until we do.

    Just thought I’d throw that out there as a concern that other candidates for mainline church membership might possibly share.

    • RevTim

      Some great insights! Thanks. Glad to hear the mainline churches can still be relevant! :)

      • Liralen

        Oh, yes! They’re our only hope for Christianity to have any credibility among non-Christians (although it’s pretty amazing the impact that Pope Francis is having, despite the lack of any doctrinal changes in the Catholic church). Too bad mainline churches are being painted with the same brush as the Westboro type churches, as even I am guilty of with my very cautious approach to choosing a church. But my reasons are sound – we used to attend a conservative church on occasion, until I found myself thinking “OK, I’ll go, but I’m walking out if anything offensive was said.” then realized how absurd it was to even consider going there anymore.

        I’m happy to report that the mainline churches we’ve attended are much more inspiring and convey Jesus’ message more accurately.

  • StanO360

    As the father of two boys it’s frightening to me. Men are different than women, generally they are more aggressive, more willing to take risks, more willing to confront. Those qualities are huge assets in business, industry, research and education. While some women share those qualities, it is a much smaller percentage. Unfortunately, the system is being gamed against boys, the biggest chip against them is divorce and out of wedlock birth.

    I’m thankful that I have been blessed with a business where I have been able to (and still do) spend a lot of time with my young men.

    • RevTim

      Great observations about boys…all of them rooted in brain science research!

  • http://learningtheory.homestead.com/Theory.html mayfieldga

    Until we begin looking at differential treatment from an early age and show just how our individual environments create different mental/emotional/social conditioning; how average stress is made up of layers of mental frictions that take up real mental energy, and how differential treatment creates real advantages for girls today, we will continue to be at a loss to explain the growing Male Crisis. The problem is more complex than school curriculum or boy chemistry.
    The first problem involves two entirely different treatments of Males and Females beginning as early as one year of age and increases in differential treatment through adulthood. This is creating the growing Male Crisis in the information age. The belief Males should be strong allows more aggressive treatment of Males beginning as early as one year. This is coupled with much “less” kind, stable, verbal interaction and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers and teachers to others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; higher average stress that hurts learning and motivation to learn; more activity due to need for stress relief; more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in school. This differential treatment continues on through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and more escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also the giving of love based on achievement that many Males thus falling behind academics then turns their attention toward video games and sports, risk taking to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.

    Since girls by differential treatment are given more positive, continual, and close mental/emotional/social/ support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased and more differentiated over time.