“Manning up” your Church

There is a crisis in our churches in case you had not noticed. Despite the overwhelming number of male pastors, the ever-present exclusive language (“Rise up o men of God”), the deliberate “male-ing” of God (Father, He, His, Son, King, Kingdom, Shepherd), and the maleness of much thinking about God, apparently men are no longer feeling welcome. The male-centered church is not masculine enough having been too much affected at late by more feminine traits.

This is not a new problem, of course, since the American fundamentalist movement of the early 1900s was also concerned about the feminization of Christianity and therefore reacted by promoting a masculine approach to faith complete with tough talk while utilizing popular sports figures to promote manly Christianity such as Billy Sunday, the famous baseball player.

So, here we are again: masculine men feeling feminized by churches created by men and for men.

Lest we throw our hands up not knowing how to keep our manly men in church, David Murrows has created a much-needed DVD with tips on manning up our churches and has shared a few how-to tips on his website. Here they are:

1. A Manly Pastor. Men don’t like macho or power-hungry pastors, but a pastor who projects a healthy masculinity will draw men. This is because men see their churches through their pastor. If a man respects his pastor, then he likes his church. If a man doesn’t respect his pastor, he won’t like his church. Go ahead, ask a man about his church. He won’t talk about the ministries, or the facilities, or the programs; he’ll talk about the pastor.

2. Excellence is vital. Men are less forgiving of anything bad, hokey or half baked. The churches that are growing and attracting men consistently offer excellence – in the preaching, the music, the facility and the programs. You don’t have to be the best in town; just do what you do very well and men will be drawn. And if you can’t do something well, then don’t do it at all.

3. Give men space. Churches that attract men honor their need for space. Don’t force your men to hold hands or hug each other. If you must hug, there are safe ways to do it.

And you should also be judicious when laying hands on men. These days we like to put people in “prayer mushrooms.” You know what I’m talking about – Vince asks for prayer and soon he’s mobbed, with hands all over him. The other men look at what happened to Vince, so they keep requests to themselves, for fear that they will be mobbed too.

4. Make Prayer Real. Christians speak normally to one another, but when they talk to God they lapse into a strange language I call “prayer speak.” I’m not talking about speaking in tongues; prayer-speak is a nonstop petition to God, repeating his name over and over, punctuated by the word “just” (Father God, we just thank you for this day, Father God, and Father God, we just ask that you’d bless us Father God). The problem with prayer-speak is that it discourages plainspoken men from praying aloud, because the feel that their petitions need to be delivered in this “holy language.” If you want more men praying, cut the prayer-speak.

5. Honor Men’s Time. Nothing discourages men like a worship service that drags on and on. It’s no coincidence that African-American churches, known for their 3 hour worship services, are also very likely to have a man shortage. Jesus was not long winded; in fact the average parable of Jesus can be taught comfortably in under a minute. It’s not the length of your message but its impact that changes men’s lives.

We’d like to hear from you. Has your church been busy “manning up?” How masculine or feminine are your churches? What languages and images for God do you hear regularly? To what extent do you hear or see yourself in the songs, the sermons, the leadership, and the theology?