David Murrow's book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, struck a chord when it was published in 2005. Seven years later, male church attendance is still low. So David went searching for the answer. What he found is reported in Why Men Hate Going to Church: Completely Revised and Updated (Thomas Nelson). Drew Dyck talked with Murrow about reaching men and creating a church atmosphere in which they can thrive.
How can churches attract men?
Make very simple changes, mainly in the area of décor, language, and culture. These can be very subtle. Here's a piece of low-hanging fruit: If you want a church full of men, simply bring an object into the pulpit every single week. Take your 25 minutes and build it around an object lesson, and I guarantee you in two years you will have a church full of men because men will pay attention. They'll be thinking, When is the object coming out, and what's it going to be?
Of course, I'm just ripping off Jesus. His teaching was very concrete. He says, "Show me a coin. Whose face? Whose description?" He was so visual. He's walking through a wheat field, and says, "Look, the fields are white for harvest." Or, "Go ahead, Peter. Step out of the boat. Feel the water on your feet. Feel the wind on your face." He was such a concrete teacher. So that's what I'm saying: steal from Jesus. He's more than willing to share.
You write that megachurches have done a better job reaching men. What can small churches do?
My heart is for small churches. I grew up in small churches. Ninety percent of churches are under 150 on Sunday morning. Many of them have tremendous growth potential. Their buildings are paid off and they sit in a strong financial position. But many are graying and failing to reach young people. The problem is that they're trying to reach young people by reaching young women. They do things like improving the nursery or starting a ladies' Bible study. Those things aren't wrong, but you're never going to get guys that way. You might get a few people right away, but what you don't realize is that you're hobbling your church for the long term.
Do you have to be a macho kind of pastor to attract men to your church?
Men have an instinctive BS detector. They walk into a room and within one minute they have a judgment about the man who's talking to them. So if you're not a manly man, if you don't have "man cred," if you're not a risk-taker, men are going to pick up on that.
But no, you don't have to be macho. I mean, Rick Warren is certainly not macho. He regularly tears up in the pulpit. But he is a big vision man. And that gives him credibility with men. You have to be able to inspire men, whether that's through swagger or vision or courage.
Tim Keller is not a macho guy. But he's a big idea guy, and he lives in the capital of ideas, New York City. That's his man cred. Manhattan men are thinkers. They don't make their money by breaking their backs; they make their money with their minds. So they're looking for a pastor who is similarly brilliant. And Keller fits that bill. He has an emphasis on mission and getting things done that men admire. Men don't want to sit in church for 30 years just to listen to sermons and sing songs. At some point men say, "Okay, I've listened. What is there to do?"
How have women responded to what you're saying?
I get more pushback from men who are well-established in the church than I do from women. Women sense the need. Women see their husbands bored. They see their sons dropping out. They see their brothers irreligious. They sit on the pew with nine other women. They know the situation on the ground.
The men who are already in the church and comfortable with the church and, quite frankly, for many of them church is their power area, they are the ones who push back. They are the ones who say things like, "Well, men should just learn to sing those songs," or "Men need to be comfortable holding hands or hugging." They have all these pious-sounding phrases.
But it reveals that they really don't have a missionary mindset. They are comfortable, and more concerned with protecting their own power in the current structure.
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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