Dr. Alvin Sanders is the author of “Bridging The Diversity Gap,” and led the EFCA All People Initiative from 2007-2015.
5 Ways to Draw Men to Church
A ministry colleague of mine had an excellent conversation on Facebook about how the church has become feminized and what it will take to make church a much more masculine event. His premise was that church, over time, became more feminized, and because of this, it is one of the barriers that keeps men from engaging in church, en masse. His comment thread had more than 50 replies.
The most interesting dynamic was the fluctuation between light humor, “masculine” vs. “feminine” worship service practices, and deep reflection of what exactly is considered masculine. It is a conversation anyone involved in ministry ought to be having, because one thing that seems to be constant across all ethnicities: There are more women than men in church.
I thought about posting my thoughts on the comment thread, but it morphed into a blog post. So, here is what I think about the subject. First off, I think trying to make a list of masculine characteristics is tricky business. Who decides what should be on the list?
When I got married, I was the family treasurer even though I am horrible with math. Why? Because that is what a “man” does. Also, I am terrible at anything mechanical, another trait on the masculine list. Wisely, I turned over to my wife all things financial and mechanical. So am I less of a man? There will never be a long enough list to fit all men.
Second, there is no “magic bullet” event that puts you over the top. Many men look for some sort of defining moment that makes them a man. Some societies have formal rites of passages. Others have informal ones. I know in our country, in most non-Christian communities, it usually involves conquering something.
Maybe its women, so when you have sex for the first time, you’re in the club. Or alcohol, as if when you can, “hold your liquor,” you’re a man. It doesn’t make sense that one day you are a boy, you do something, and then you’re a man.
I will let others debate about whether or not there is such a thing as a feminine worship song and masculine preaching. To me, that is not the heart of the matter. At the core, what the church needs to do is help men figure out what it means to be masculine.
If we do that, the songs and preaching take care of themselves. Based on two decades of ministry, I believe any church that helps men do the following will have no problem being considered a masculine church:
Navigation help on relationships with women. We are a mess in this area! Some men view women as the enemy, or as I mentioned earlier, something to be controlled or conquered. Others are scared to death of women. Most don’t know how to deal with their mother, wife or daughters in a healthy manner. Church needs to be a space for men to learn how to engage the women of their life in a healthy way.
Helping them deal with their upbringing. Today, it’s rare to find a man without emotional baggage from his family of origin. Most of them have never dealt with it, because as men we are conditioned to “buck up” and “get over it.” It leads to an emotional deficiency. Church needs to be a space where men can learn to deal with the pain of their past and forgive those who have harmed them.
Providing fellowship. Whether it is a sports team or a gang, men want to feel they are part of something outside of themselves. It was the primary drawing card of the meteor that was Promise Keepers. It was a well-run event for fellowship to happen. What I remember about those events was not the event itself, but all the camaraderie around it; the long van trips, conversations into the wee hours, the laughter during the meals, etc. Church needs to provide opportunities for men to be real with one another in the presence of only other men.
Let them share their gifts. Men want to do something that makes them feel significant. My grandfather was not a church-going man, but unlike me, he was good at fixing things. Whenever my grandmother’s church needed something fixed, they called him and he was there. However, they never picked up on that, so he wasn’t there for anything else. When I was a pastor, I “tricked’ numerous unchurched men into being churched by simply finding out what they were good at and asking them to use that gift within the confines of the church. Whether they are churched or unchurched, create places for men to use their God-given gifts.
Three for life’s road. I have no idea where this adage came from, but I hear Christians say it all the time. Every man needs a Paul, Barnabas and Timothy in their life. In other words, we need mentors, colleagues and mentees. The church that masters this among men will be the church that will have no problem drawing them in.