How can your church intentionally reach and lead men?
God has a high opinion of men. That may sound presumptuous, but Scripture backs me up. He created man, so He obviously had in mind a purpose for men. And it's difficult to overlook the fact that Jesus founded the New Testament church on the hearts and minds of a handful of male apostles. Yet according to polls conducted by Hartford's Institute of Religious Research and the Gallup Pollsters, the average church in America is comprised of only 7 to 11 percent men. What has robbed the church of its male leadership and effectual ministry? When we attempt to answer this question, we find dozens of dynamics that researchers use to extrapolate explanations as to the various reasons why men don't see the need to be a part of a local church. One of the reasons they cite is that men feel pastors do not address "relevant" issues. Prior to becoming the founder and senior pastor of an independent church in Tampa, Fla., I was an ordained evangelist in the oldest Pentecostal reformation in America, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). For more than 20 years, I have preached both in the COGIC as well as every other mainline and interdependent denomination in this nation, and my informal research juxtaposes with studies conducted by sanctioning research bodies. For example, several months ago one of my parishioners informed me that her father would be attending Sunday's service. She showed such exuberance I was compelled to ask her why was she was so elated. "Well," she said, "my father was raised as a child in church, but as he aged he almost completely stopped attending." She continued to share with me how her dad's views on interracial relationships had been polluted by the bigotry he had been taught in church as well as by society. She shared how she had given her father CDs from several of my teaching series, including ones on historical Christianity, God's view on relationships and how voting for a president sets the agenda for the moral direction of our nation. Her father described my messages as "relevant" and thus decided he had to see for himself who and what we were. I've heard similar stories throughout my ministry. Relevance is of utmost importance to men. Most don't have the time or energy for periphery discussion. Yet relevance is only one of a cauldron of ingredients as to what draws men to church.
In contrast to the normal percentages, our congregation is comprised of 43 percent men. I believe this is a direct result of several concrete strategies we've implemented:
We intentionally create an environment where men are the first people you see when you pull up to the front of the building.
We encourage men to participate in the lives of the sons from single-mom families. These men are visible at academic or ath-letic functions.
We provide a monthly men's meeting to allow a time of fellowship and talk about subjects they favor; nothing is off limits.
We mobilize men to help single mothers with important tasks, such as moving or car repair.
We encourage open displays of affection from men toward their family members. I personally embrace and kiss my two sons in front of our entire congregation.
We counsel men who have fathered children outside of matrimony to become active fathers in their children's lives.
Unless we transform and help our men, the words of Malachi will undoubtedly never be fulfilled in this generation: "And He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (4:6). Pastors, men need you! Invite them to become the leaders God has created them to be.AUBREY SHINES is one of the leading prophetic voices in the nation, ministering prophetic insight into the lives of key spiritual leaders, top athletes, entertainers and government officials. He serves as senior pastor of Glory to Glory Ministries of Tampa, Fla., a multicultural and multiethnic congre-gation of 650 that is made up of more than 40 percent men.