Why is church so uncomfortable for men? Why is public worship so difficult for men? Why do football, sleeping in, and NASCAR have a better grasp on how to reach men than the Church does? I’ve been wrestling with these questions for the last 10 years and I think we (the Church) can improve.
When I was a teen, it was always my Mom that would put the pressure on me to go to church and youth group. She wanted me to make my own decision on the matter but she definitely wanted me in fellowship every Sunday. As a teen working his way toward manhood the only idea I had of what a man was came from TV and watching from my Dad day in and day out. What did my Dad teach me? Work ethic and to provide. That was what my Dad was about. On the weekends when he wasn’t at work he was either working on the honey-do list or hiding in his room watching TV. But I knew Dad worked hard so I did my best not to burden him with my desires to throw a baseball around the yards or shoot baskets in the driveway. Instead, I just assumed that this was how married men with children functioned. Yet it seemed strange that I had friends whose fathers were active participants in their lives and yet they too had jobs, families, and honey-do lists. I was thrilled that my Dad wasn’t a babbling buffoon like Al Bundy in Married W/ Children but I also wasn’t being taught what it was to become a man. I know that there are a lot of Father/Son relationships like this and there are a lot of them in the Church.
My Dad professes to be a Christian. I often wonder about it because he doesn’t attend church, seek God, or show fruit. While I know attending church is not a perquisite to getting into heaven I also know that the Father wants relationship with us and wants us to have relationship with each other within the Church. So why do men like my Dad not attend? Today I will start with the music.
I spent almost half of my life involved in the worship ministry and there are a few things I’ve discovered since taking a break from the ministry. I think what I’ve learned sheds some light on this question. For starters, the Church is well equipped to reach men but ill-informed on how to reach men. Until we reach the men we will never reach the children. If Mom goes to church she will get her children to attend for a little while but if Dad attends there’s a better chance that the whole family will be there on Sunday morning. Yet churches seem to target the wife and the children. They have big budgets reserved for the children/youth ministries and there’s never a shortage of women’s events. Men typically tune out of the announcements because deep down we know there’s not going to much there for us.
Then the worship team stakes the stage. How many families do you think show up late just because Dad wants skip the music? My church recently rearranged the service so that our pastor started with teaching and then ended the service with praise and worship. Now, instead of men walking in late they’re now standing there bored and thinking about lunch. But does it need to be that way? I say no. Most men are uncomfortable singing in church because a majority of worship leaders make the same mistakes every service. For starters, they choose vocal ranges that no man is comfortable singing. Every woman is singing along and dear old Dad is now relegated to singing in a key that’s so low that it’s in the basement, but at least he doesn’t feel like he needs to sing in falsetto. If worship leaders chose a key comfortable for a typical man to raise his voice in they would probably see more men actively participate in worship.
The next major worship error is choosing lyrics that are too picturesque. Let’s not forget that most men are visual thinkers. When we hear a song or sing a song we tend to picture it. Now imagine when the worship team cues up David Crowder’s “How He Loves” and the lyrics “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss” are sung. Most men I know are immediately turned off because our minds are no longer focused on anything other than the idea of a sloppy wet kiss. I love to worship and every time a worship leader leads a song like this my mind is jolted and the last thing on my mind is the Father.
The next major worship faux pas is the worship leader that chooses complicated lyrics. Most men are NOT wordy people. We don’t typically want our worship songs to resemble complicated Shakespearean poetry. If we have to concentrate that heavily on the lyrics on the overhead projector we’re probably not going to be or get engaged in worship any time soon.
Lastly, worship leaders tend too overcomplicate things. They end up bouncing back and forth from melody to harmony and leaving the congregation guessing what great vocal feat they’re going to attempt next. When I worship leader does this they typically are no longer leading. They’re performing. I will be the first to admit that I love tasty vocal leads but they are NOT for the worship leader to be attempting. They are supposed to be LEADING. I think that that worship leaders would be more effective having 2-3 background vocalists available to add these vocal parts he/she wants. As “cool” as those vocal parts are they can be very distracting when you’re no longer sure what to follow.
I will tackle more worship issues in a later blog but this is a pretty good start….