As two men with extensive backgrounds in men’s ministry service, we were not surprised when American Bible Society’s 2014 State of the Bible survey found that men fall below the national averages of both Bible ownership and readership.
In our day-to-day work interacting with men, it is common to hear of their frustration about reading the Bible—they don’t know where to start, what it means, or how to apply it to their lives. They just know they are “supposed” to read it.
Men often find themselves struggling in their marriages, with friendships and with pornography. (A 2014 Barna Group survey found that nearly two-thirds of Christian men view porn monthly.)
Many feel helpless without mentors to turn to and do not realize the Bible has the answers they seek. They don’t know what their roles are supposed to be as men—husbands, fathers, brothers, employees and citizens, or just what exactly God has to say about it all.
Even for Christian men, the Bible can be an extremely intimidating book to tackle. After all, it is the Word of God. It contains some pretty heavy stuff. And if you happen to pick up a translation and come across words like satyr, concupiscence and phylacteries, you can forget about reading more than two verses before you’re ready to go throw a football around or make a mess in the garage.
So really, it’s no surprise that men—generally visual learners known for our short attention spans and occasional selective listening—are not particularly excited about reading and owning Bibles.
We routinely receive the following questions from men about the Bible:
1. The Bible was written so many years ago. Is it still really relevant today? Can it really help me with all that I’m struggling with?
2. Can’t you just give me the highlights? It takes so long for me to read it and my eyes begin to glaze over.
3. When I do want to open my Bible, I don’t know where to go or what to do. Is there an app for that?
Hundreds who serve in the area of men’s ministry, including those of us involved with Armed Services Ministry and National Coalition of Ministries to Men, find themselves in the relational trenches, helping men navigate the Bible to find God’s authority on the subjects they seek.
What we have found men need, in addition to relatable mentors, is to feel the Bible is an accessible and trustworthy tool to help them through life’s challenges; a Bible uniquely tailored to fit their most common needs.
The problem is, when men go to the local chain or Christian bookstore, the product line-up consists of multiple Bibles for kids, teens and women. Are there some for men? Sure, maybe one or two, but nothing comparable to the selections for the other demographics.
It appears that retailers know their Bible-buying demographic well, and it isn’t men. But when men do decide to make that purchase, they need something clearly, visibly for them.
The good news is that the number of Bible resources designed specifically for men is growing. We recently had the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the "Men's Bible," a joint effort between National Coalition of Ministries to Men and American Bible Society.
The Bible features 72 devotions written by seasoned men’s ministry experts and an easy-to-understand translation. Tools like this can help men connect with the Bible and quickly apply its wisdom to their own lives.
Our hope is that men will experience the life-changing message of the Bible, regardless of which version or translation they choose.
It is time to come alongside men and encourage them in their faith, supporting them with products tailored to meet their unique needs.
It is time to change their perception of the Bible, sparking interest in and engagement with the Scriptures. As that happens, we are confident we’ll see Bible ownership and readership among men rise to or exceed the national average, where it belongs.