February 6, 2010

Man Caves or Women's Clubs

Apparently men hate going to church even more than singles in general. So imagine the number of men in the single adult ministry, where women greatly outnumber men in most singles classes. Those who think singles classes = singles scene could not be further from the truth.

There's a whole movement dedicated to trying to get the church to become more welcoming to men. Check it out at ChurchforMen.com. On the Pastors/Leaders page, you'll find this quote:

There are signals in the sanctuary. Let’s say a common working stiff named Nick visits your church. What’s the first thing Nick sees? Fresh flowers on the altar. Soft, cushiony pews with boxes of Kleenex underneath. Neutral carpet abutting lavender walls, adorned with quilted banners (or worse: Thomas Kinkade paintings). Honestly, how do we expect Nick to connect with God in a space that feels so feminine?

I think their point is absolutely valid. I can tell you from writing this blog that men will read the posts with a picture of a power tool, but a picture of a flower? Um, not so much.

Combine the reticence of men to go to church with the demographic disparity between men and women in many of our cities, and you can understand how it's so easy for the older singles classes to become women's classes in the blink of an eye. Check out this map from WhosYourCity.com.

I live in a city where single women outnumber single men by at least 10,000.We're in the hole going in. But that's not enough.

Sometimes we seem to go out of our way to created a self-fulfilling prophecy, to create a place where men feel like they don't belong.

I love to watch Sell This House on A&E. You may have seen it, too. Potential buyers walk through a house that's not selling and their comments are recorded. The comments are played back for the homeowners, and most of the time, it's a painful experience. The strangers who comment on the home don't know the owners, and they see things the homeowners have missed. My all-time favorite comment came from a young man in his 20s who saw the dated furniture and lace doilies and remarked, "It looks like dead people live here."

The 50-something homeowners were horrified.

After I saw that episode a few years ago, I started looking around my church and wondered what the guy who saw dead people would think.

We have areas in our church that have been beautifully decorated...by women. And they look like it.

We have too much artwork that looks like someone's grandmother chose it. We'd probably be better off if we left the walls blank. (In design, blank walls are considered "negative space" and are often a design advantage.)

We have a commitment room where people who make professions of faith meet with a counselor in order to join the church. A room with silk flowers on the tables. The flowers are supposed to make it feel homey.

If the home is a funeral home, then yes, those silk arrangements are doing their job.

Read the New Testament where the early followers of Christ lived with a sense of adventure and excitement. If we want today's men to feel like they're on the adventure of their lives by choosing to become followers of Christ, well, silk flower arrangements aren't sending the right message.

Then I look at the single adult classrooms and I shudder.  I think most men have a harder time with the idea of singleness than most women do. As hard as it is for women to walk into a class by themselves for the first time, it's even harder for men. And too often what we give them when they walk through the door is nothing but reasons to never return.

It doesn't feel adventurous when there are at least 5 women to every man who is in the room.

It doesn't feel adventurous when you walk into a room where people grab a donut, sit in their chairs and stare at a wall until it's time for class to start.

It doesn't feel adventurous when you walk by a singles classroom that is decorated for Valentine's Day. Seriously. A heart on the door, and hearts on the wall. We're not talking about symbols for Wild at Heart here.

It doesn't feel adventurous when your class has dumped a Super Bowl Party in favor of a Valentine's luncheon...and a chick flick.

It doesn't feel adventurous when women take all of the leadership roles and never ask for input from men.

Feeling like an alien who has landed on another plant is not the kind of adventure men are looking for. But that's what we've given them.

Is it too late to create a place where men will feel welcome? I hope not. I think the encouragement we receive from other followers of Christ is just as much needed in the lives of men as it is in the lives of women. But we have to find a way to make our churches and our classes feel more like man caves than women's clubs. It's more than decor - although clearly that's the first message we send. Our attitudes have to change, too.

Otherwise we might as well just paint the walls pink and be done with it.


  1. A timely post...seriously thought-provoking.

    One of the keys to a successful singles ministry is to have the men involved...in significant roles. Sometimes, it may appear that there aren't any qualified men to step up to the leadership roles. However, every man has in him God-given leadership qualities that need an outlet (maybe even mentoring) to shine.

    A church that I used to attend did this with great success--there were fun, adventurous activities (such as a scaled-down "The Amazing Race") that had large turnouts of men and women.

    Thanks, I appreciate your post.

  2. ok, we know power tools work, how about ladders, shotguns, bows
    and arrows? i never thought about what a dilemma we have made
    for our funeral parlours, i mean churches!

    what an innovative, fresh idea for a post and excellent writing, as

    eldredge, author of "wild at heart" is speaking at our church tonight, and i'm so chilled (from running around a little sweaty after working out) that i'm sending hans without me.

    i said, "think of this as an amazing opportunity to tell everyone to
    pray for your backslidden wife who won't go with you to counseling
    or anything!"


    ps. i love the last refrain of the watt's song, too.

  3. sorry my comments fly all around in such a higgledy, piggledy
    way. i write them in neat little paragraphs...

  4. I hate it when that happens!

    I'm sorry you couldn't make it to the Eldridges' conference tonight. I saw the article in the paper and it looks great.

    When Hans gets home, ask him how it felt to be "single" among all them thar couples. ;-)