By: Kris Dolberry– What’s your favorite movie? Mine is Remember the Titans. There is a scene in that movie where the Titans are facing major adversity. So, defense coordinator, Bill Yoast, calls timeout and huddles his defensive unit up. He then launches into a speech that becomes a turning point in the game. He emphatically declares, “I don’t want them to gain another yard!…. You make sure they remember forever the night they played the Titans!” The team rallies and goes on to dominate the game. Remember that scene?
My heart comes alive every time I watch it. The same thing happens when Maximus reveals his true identity to Commodus in Gladiator and in Armageddon when Harry chooses to stay behind on the asteroid and give his life for the sake of the mission. Must I go on?
There’s something about the flywheel of masculinity that it is engaged in moments like this. Why? Men have a longing to be great. We resonate with danger, challenge, and achievement.
To men, many churches feel more like The Notebook than Gladiator. Think about it. Change a word here and there, and many modern worship songs could be a contemporary love song played on mainstream radio. In many churches are terms like “sweet Jesus”or “intimacy with Him”common language? Do I believe Jesus is the greatest delight one can have? Yes. Do I desire connectedness to the heart of God? Deeply! But as my friend David Murrow told me recently, “to men the decor, language, and culture of many churches feels more geared for my mother than for me.”
In my observation of churches of all styles, sizes, and theological positions from all around the country, I believe there are at least 5 mistakes church leaders make when it comes to creating a culture that men can relate to:
1) Shallow, watered down teaching
Men will give their time and attention to something if it is worth it. Shallow fluffy sermons or Bible studies led by someone who’s unprepared suck the life out of men and leave them starving for more. Churches that do the best job at reaching men are those with faithful Bible teaching that doesn’t water down the severity of sin nor the greatness of the gospel. Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas area is reaching men by the truckloads as he dives into the deep waters of Biblical depth and theological richness with a very direct, challenging, and practical style. Men starve to be given truth– good or bad.
2) Lack of a compelling vision
Every man on the planet wants to fight for a mission greater than himself. The reason we are wired that way is by God’s design so that we would fight for the greatest mission– His Kingdom. Pastor, if you want to keep men interested (especially strong, driven men), you must give your them a clear picture of where your faith community is going and why you believe God is leading you to go there. Proverbs 29:18 is clear, Without vision the people perish. But isn’t the opposite also true? With vision the people (especially the men) flourish.
3) Environment that doesn’t relate
From fresh flowers to bulletin shells splashed with pastel colors, the design of many churches pings the feminine meter. They do not feel like places men are typically comfortable. Think stadiums, man caves, and garages. LifePoint Church in Smyrna, TN has done a great job creating a masculine environment. From the titles of sermon series, to the church’s logo, to the stained concrete replacing the carpet, even special parking for guys on motorcycles, LifePoint has created an environment that is engaging and comfortable to men. I’m not advocating for turning your church into Buffalo Wild Wings or the NRA convention. But, if you want men to want to be there, you must consider the message your environment sends them.
4) Nothing for men to DO
I recently had a… ahem… misunderstanding with my wife. It was one of those moments when she just needed me to listen and empathize. But what did I try to do? Fix the problem. Empathy without offering solutions is a learned behavior for men. Why? Because we are naturally fixers and doers. Bill was a metal worker at the most recent church I served. You should have seen his eyes light up when I asked him to build me a custom pulpit. He felt valued and engaged, and saw a problem he could fix. And, the pulpit was amazing! If you want to engage the men in your church, give them something to do- building wheelchair ramps for the elderly, short term mission trips, security team for your kids ministry, etc. Caution: Don’t just give them busy work. Show them the “why” (see Lack of Compelling Vision above).
5) Excessive tenderness
I mentioned my friend David Murrow. In his helpful book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, he references a study by Dr. Woody Davis. He asked 100 men why they didn’t go to church. The number one response was, “Church is for women, children, and wimps.” Take an objective look the way you program your services to the tone and voice inflection used by worship leaders and pastors. Think about the most rugged man you know. Ask yourself. “Do my church’s language, tone, and feel relate to him? Spiritual matters are emotionally heavy, sure. Pastoral leadership requires tenderness, yes. But, the reality is– men follow strong men. Bottom line. Pastors who are overly tender and gentle can be perceived as weak and thus a turn-off to many men.
What would you add to the list?
Kris Dolberry is a pastor, speaker, writer, and trainer of leaders. After serving in pastoral leadership for 17 years, Kris now leads Ministry to Men at LifeWay and serves as Executive Editor of Stand Firm, a daily devotional magazine for men. Kris is husband to Vanessa and dad to Konnor, Emma, and Brady. They live outside Nashville, Tennessee. Find out more at krisdolberry.com