New statistics on single men in missions

By August 16, 2013
(Photo courtesy of Bess Brownlee/AIM)

(Photo courtesy of Bess Brownlee/AIM)

Lesotho (MNN/AIM) — “Two thirds of active missionaries are married couples. Another third are single women. The rest are single men.”

This is not exactly a statistic, per se. It’s a sentiment, and sometimes a joke, expressed by mission leaders and recruiters, according to Africa Inland Mission (AIM).

The real statistic is this: For AIM and other similar organizations, somewhere between 80 and 85 percent of all single missionaries are women. For every 10 singles sent, only 2 are men.

The disparity is great enough that there’s a noticeable gap on many mission fields. The men are missing, and a cadre of single women has taken up the work, sometimes doing jobs that a male presence would be better suited to.

AIM ministers in Lesotho to the shepherd community. They are currently putting together of team of about 8 men to live among the shepherds of Lesotho for two years, adopting a simple and difficult lifestyle.

Lesotho’s shepherds tend their employer’s flocks of sheep and goats for weeks on end at the highlands. They spend their nights in simple rock shelters, keeping warm with thick blankets by their campfires. It’s a thankless job and isolated job, which means relationships are intense and close. It’s a great setting to share the Gospel and hopefully develop relationships for discipling.

This mission opportunity will be part of AIM’s two-year Training In Ministry Outreach (TIMO). Learn more from AIM’s video feature on the Lesotho shepherds: Set Apart. You can also click here to let AIM know you’re interested.

“Taking time to build relationships, be in people’s lives, and understand a culture, is much harder than clicking a button,” a woman missionary to Africa shares with AIM. “I don’t know a lot of young people who would be willing to walk into a situation like this. This is really hard. Discipleship requires real relationships, commitment, and sacrifice.”

But Mike Delorenzo with AIM says in situations like these, men are more needed than ever. “Indeed much of mission work is nurturing. As we’ve seen, discipleship requires relationships and even relationships need nurturing. But these same relationships require a degree of risk, boldness, and, most importantly, some common ground to be built upon. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for young women to minister to men in most cross-cultural contexts. Consequently, for many of the countless men in Africa who need to hear the Word and learn to be followers of Christ, only another man can show them the way.”

It may be true that missions asks more of men, but as Driscol pounds out from his pulpit in a sermon about Biblical manhood, “Real men are not looking for the path of least resistance, but the path of the greatest glory to God.”

Ultimately, Delorenzo says, “Yes, it may be harder for [men]. Harder to cut through the lies and the apathy. Harder to raise money in a self-reliant society. Harder to enter into relationally-driven cross-cultural situations. Harder to find your ministry in your vocation. But the gospel needs men. The Christian life is a battle, so much so that the Bible calls us to put on armor. And the mission field is a battle field, where a man’s strengths and passions are called upon to be spent for the greatest cause creation has ever known: the cause of Christ and His redemptive work to save this world—and I mean really save this world. It takes courage—courage to step out of your slumber and into the fray. It takes humility—to be willing to fail or at least be deemed a failure by your peers. And it takes strength—more than you know, but not more than God will give you.”

Pray for the formation of this team.


  • PatrickTutak says:

    Thank you for the writing. Does not the ‘holy man’ motif exist somewhere in Africa as it does in Asia? The Church Fathers, East and West, were nothing but single men. I’d like to continue this dialogue further…..Patrick

  • Sharon Felten says:

    Hi Patrick, Feel free to address your questions to Africa Inland Mission at this address:

  • Gene Bailey says:

    I wonder if the reason for the difference in percentages of male and female single missionaries is affected by women being more able, or the men being less willing to serve as a missionary, without a spouse. Perhaps more women are able or willing to serve as a single than men.

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