Friday, March 18, 2011

Getting Men to Church

Not all churches are successful at attracting men to their services; I mean manly men. Many churches and denominations are so influenced by genteel Victorian era Christianity (flowers, lace, pastel colors, hugging & kissing) that masculine men often stay away.

Here are the characteristics of the kinds of churches that can attract manly men:

1. Larger congregations. As a congregation grows, its gender gap shrinks. Churches that draw hundreds (or more) on a weekend are the most likely to approach gender balance. Meanwhile, smaller churches are most likely to experience a shortage of men.

Larger churches have many advantages. Probably foremost is quality. Most are led by gifted pastors. The music is well done. The facilities and grounds are well-kept and impressive. Programs are well run. A certain standard of excellence fills the place. Men can invite their friends without fear of embarrassment, confident that the service will proceed with professionalism and good taste.

2. Non-denominational. For decades, non-denominational churches have grown while name-brand churches have shrunk—both liberal and conservative. No one is sure why this is happening, but there’s little doubt about who’s leading the exodus from theses churches - men! In contrast, non-denominational churches have seen an increase in men in their attendance.

3. Bible Believing and Strict Adherence to Scripture. Men have a natural, instinctive, built-in BS detector. They are natural skeptics and detect a phony a mile off. When some preacher is up there behind the pulpit spouting lofty and pious platitudes, he is turned off instantly. And when it comes to scripture, they not only want to know WHAT to believe, but WHY to believe it. For men, the bottom line is the Bible – not that touchy feely stuff.

4. The church is new. Newer churches tend to do a better job at attracting men. New churches are aggressive in their efforts at reaching the lost, so boldness and strategic planning are part of their methodology. This aggressive “conquer the next hill” philosophy is attractive to men, especially younger men.

5. Energized Men in the congregation. When you walk into a church, look around at the guys. Do they look like they want to be there? Or are they just fulfilling an obligation? If the men seem like they have been dragged to church by wives and girlfriends, forget it. Find another church. Enthusiastic men bring vigor to the worship experience. Plus you get a snowball effect: guys start inviting their friends, who show up to see what the excitement is about. They get engaged and transmit their fervor to the next group of men.

6. A Masculine Environment & Culture. When you walk into the church building does it look masculine or feminine? At PCC we understand that women feel perfectly comfortable in a masculine environment while men are uncomfortable in a feminine environment. That’s why our building d├ęcor has tiled floors, black chairs, dark carpet and leather chairs in the atrium; it appeals to men, while at the same time is perfectly fine for women too. Turn that around – paint the walls in pastel colors, put lilacs on the altar, velvet on the chairs, and lace in the men’s restroom – and men will leave! It’s a turn off.

7. A Pastor Who Is Authoritative. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, eyewitnesses said this of Christ: “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28–29). If you want a pastor who is in touch with men, find one who believes in the authority of scripture and leads the church accordingly.

As a man, I love being astonished in church. I light up when a message challenges me to think—or better yet, to take action. Please don’t talk to me about hugging and kissing, and all that touch-feely stuff. It makes me gag. An authoritative teacher is one who is resolute and consistent in his beliefs. He tells it like it is, even if someone is offended. Nothing disappoints me more than a wimpy sermon that fails to challenge.

8. Informal Dress. For years, getting dressed up has been foundational (and challenging for men) to the churchgoing experience. When I was a child, no one would dream of going to church unless clothed in his Sunday best… a suit. Fortunately, this philosophy has changed and PCC (beginning thirteen years ago) was on the cutting edge of this trend in our area. Yet, it doesn’t even feel like a trend, it feels normal to me. Most men don’t like getting dressed up the way that women do, so many churches encourage their members to dress informally. Jesus wore sandals to church…. and I can guarantee that I have more pairs of Levis than the average pastor.

9. Fun. Men enjoy fun. A church service does not need to be overly pious, nor frivolous. But a little fun and humor really helps men drop their guard. In fact, a slightly irreverent climate actually helps men connect with church, and ultimately God. Men especially appreciate self-deprecating humor (that is, the preacher makes himself the butt of the joke, rather than how perfect and pious he and his family are).

10. Having a clear, unique mission. Men love churches that make the mission clear. They focus on the basics; i.e, "This is what our church is about. This is our mission. Here’s how you can become a part of it. And if you don't agree with it, fine, but don't stand in our way." But this is rare. Few churches have a unique mission. Most are focused on dozens of different goals and tangents. Believe it or not, fewer than 10 percent of pastors in the US can articulate the vision of their church to the congregation! Is it any wonder that so many churches flounder in mediocrity? But when a church’s vision is clear, men invest themselves wholeheartedly - they put their money and their manpower behind the effort. Men need purpose, and a church that clearly articulates a mission will be a magnet to men.

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