Over the past 13 years, (8 full-time) I have traveled and spoken to men’s groups throughout much of the nation. I do a ministry called Outdoor Truths. It started through an article that I began writing to newspapers. The article spread and eventually churches started asking me to come and speak at their men’s events. These events were mostly geared to hunters and fishermen and were designed for evangelistic results. I would have never thought that I would have become an evangelist to outdoorsmen. This was so far from what I thought my giftedness was – especially after pastoring one church for over 15 years at that time. Not only did I see results that only God could have brought, but I began to learn something about men that has literally changed my life. And after having garnered a big enough sample size, I begin to be able to help churches design effective evangelistic outdoor events and I was also better able to understand the faithful Christian man and what many of us pastors and churches have done to limit his Christian effectiveness. This also helped me to see why, as David Murrow wrote, “Men hate going to church.”
Even though I still do this ministry, I am also the pastor of a little church plant that is just over one year old. Our average attendance since January is 160 people. PTL! We are terrible at most things. I am the most reluctant pastor they could have for lots of reasons. I look up to and want to learn from you who are having so many successes. I hope to be there one day. I am however thankful for the men at my church. Many of them are young adults with children who had either stepped away from church or had never gone before.
With this in mind, let me give you some things I have learned and humbly suggest for a pastor who wants to connect with men.
- Be a man in the pulpit.
That doesn’t mean that you have to like to hunt or fish, but it does mean that you like to beat other people at golf or tennis or basketball, and talk trash while you do it. It’s just what we do and it’s okay.
- Be real
Men want a friend not a pastor. Don’t try to be hip or relevant. You will be if you are real. They want to see your humanity. Whatever you dress like on a regular weekday, do so on Sunday.
- Sometimes on Sunday talk directly to the men.
Say things like “Ladies, you can check Facebook a minute while I talk to the men.” That way if you want to say “kill a deer” or talk about NASCAR, you can.
- Stay away from “churchy” words as much as possible.
Unchurched men don’t know any of them and your churched men never use them around their unchurched friends. Any time you can use a common word to replace a church word, do it.
- Don’t emasculate men by telling them to be safe and predictable.
If you do they will be confused when you ask them later to step out in faith to build a building you have no money for.
- Don’t beg men. It embarrasses them.
My neighbor is 29 years old and is unchurched. He has had four tours in Iraq in the Army. His superiors have never begged him to do anything and he has never begged another man to do something as well. That means when you sing 64 verses of Just as I Am, and beg him to come to the altar, he feels that you are less than a man.
- Don’t challenge men. It insults their intelligence.
Your locker room speech says to them that you think you can stir them to action by some emotional tirade. As you know, most men are not very emotional. Passionate, yes! Emotional, no. Instead talk to them from the heart about what it means to walk by faith. They will resonate with that because that is how God made men. Faith is risky and adventurous. It doesn’t scream success, it screams failure. It reminds us of terrible odds and unlikely victories. Men thrive when the odds are against them.
- Make Sunday look like Saturday.
Recently I was in one town getting ready to speak on a Saturday night. I was standing in the back of a full auditorium. I noticed the men who were there. They sat in the same pews that others would sit in that next morning; except this night they were sitting there dressed in blue jeans and wearing their favorite hat. They were perfectly comfortable. Many times pastors are confused as to why they can get men to their event on Saturday night but not on a Sunday morning. I think one answer is this. When Sunday morning looks like Saturday night, men will come.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about being crude, rude, or ill-mannered. I can’t stand a man who is not kind, considerate, and humble. I am also not talking about forgetting about the women. What I am talking about is bringing the balance back that we have lost over the years.
Gary pastored one church in a small town in Tennessee for over 18 years. It grew from a small, very traditional church to a contemporary congregation with several hundred in attendance each week. For the past 13 years he has led Outdoor Truths Ministries. Through that ministry he writes for approximately 70 publications each week, speaks at wild-game dinners, and men’s conferences. For just over one year he has been the lead pastor of a new church plant in Kentucky, Locus Church. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Liberty University and a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Gary is married to Teresa and they have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.