Three little ways to welcome men at church

  • Candlelight serviceAs I’ve written before, when it comes to reaching men, Christmas Eve services are the Super Bowl of the liturgical calendar. Literally millions of unchurched men make their way into our houses of worship on that hallowed evening.

    Many churches and pastors seem blissfully unaware of how to reach these men. They make little or no effort to make these skittish males feel included and welcomed.

    This Christmas Eve, I happened to attend two candlelight services. One church understood how to make men comfortable; the other did not. One church got the little things right; the other did not.

    So what were these little things? Here are three small things you can do any time of year to make men feel at home:

    1. Don’t load a man’s hands as he enters the sanctuary.

    Have you ever noticed how women pick things up and carry them around? Men usually don’t. This is because men are hunters – women are gatherers. Women love to scoop things up but men want their hands free in case they need to defend themselves or kill a wild animal.

    Church #1 didn’t understand this principle. The moment I entered the church I was met by greeters with cookies and cider. As I entered the sanctuary, ushers handed me a candle with a wax catcher, a bulletin and a candy cane. That’s WAY too much stuff for a man to handle. My wife, the gatherer, was happy to have her hands overflowing, but I was very uncomfortable.

    At church #2 the ushers handed out nothing. Bulletins and candles were already placed on each chair. Brilliant! Guys could walk into the sanctuary with hands free. Even the men who clutched cups of coffee still had one hand free just in case they needed to pick up a spear.

    2. Don’t just talk. Bring an object lesson into the pulpit.

    At church #1 the pastor did what pastors do – he talked for 30 minutes. It was a fine sermon, but hardly memorable.

    At church #2, the pastor spoke for about 5 minutes, and suddenly the entire room went black. He kept speaking from the darkness for two more minutes. Then he lit his candle and finished his sermon by the light of a single wick. He taught us the verse, “Those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.” As he finished his sermon, he used his candle to ignite every candle in the room. It was a powerful illustration of how the Light of the World passes from one person to another.

    Here I sit in late January and I cannot tell you a word I heard at church #1. But I am able to recall the main point of the second sermon and share it with you a month later. In fact, I recently walked into a very dark space and that sermon leapt to mind. I stood in the darkness giving thanks for Jesus, the Light of the world. Pastors, this should be your goal – to give your hearers  an object lesson so memorable they recall your preaching months or even years later.

    3. Don’t allow the band play after you dismiss.

    At church #1, as soon as the pastor dismissed us, the band struck up again and played at full volume. The loud music drove people out of the still-darkened sanctuary and into the parking lot. The church was virtually empty in 5 minutes.

    At church #2, the pastor gave a benediction and the band left the stage. The sound guy brought up the house lights and played a very soft collection of Christmas carols. People stood in the sanctuary and chatted for 20 minutes or more.

    Talk time at the end of the service is important – especially with men. Men are relationally starved. We get so little time to talk at church – why on earth would the band ruin that fellowship time by rocking out after the service is over?

    There – I’ve said my piece. So what are some other little things churches can do to be more welcoming to men? Comments are open below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

    • Print
    • Digg
    • Facebook
    • Google Bookmarks
    • email
    • LinkedIn
    • NewsVine
    • Yahoo! Buzz
    • RSS

    January 22nd, 2014 | David Murrow | 15 Comments |

About The Author

David Murrow

David Murrow is the director of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. In his day job, David works as a television producer and writer. He's the author of four books. He lives in Alaska with his wife, three children, three grandchildren and a dachshund named Pepper.

  • Elder Greg

    Well said sir. I agree with your observations. The only time our church puts something in the hands of men before the service starts is Communion Sunday (the third Sunday of every month). We use a communion “package” (which I think men like better than the traditional way, but that could be another subject). Otherwise, we place the tithe envelope and bulletin on the seats.

    One thing our church does to make men feel welcome is something that just happens spontaneously without any planning. We have a fairly large, front entrance and foyer with a “cafe” style coffee and doughnut area. There are several men who stay out in this area before and after church and “mix and mingle” with other men, and with men who are new to Harvest. They will actively seek out new men and get to know them. The new guys find this very welcoming especially considering that these men do it from their heart, not because it’s apart of some design or plan.

    Another thing we do that I think helps new men feel more welcome is that no one is standing at the front door to “greet” them. I know churches mean well by this, but I think most men are kinda put off with such “in your face” hospitality. Our “greeters” do stand at the entrance of the sanctuary from the foyer. It is there that the doors are held open for everyone, including guests. I think this gives new men a chance to get their bearings in an unfamiliar setting.

    That’s just a couple things that come to mind. I’ll post more if I think of something else.

  • Deano

    I like the idea idea of not putting stuff in men’s hands, but how have churches that do this avoided the wastage of extra printing and the mess of unclaimed materials on seats? As an example, we print 50 newsletters for our 125 person Sunday service, but if we placed them on seats (even every second seat) we’d have to place out 75 of them (we place out 150 seats for our congregation of about 125). This is not only an increased cost of about $200 per year, but an increased burden in picking up the remaining newsletters before seats can be packed away. I’m just not sure it’s worth the effort and cost to leave a man’s hands free???

  • David Murrow

    Most flyers go into the trash by the end of the service anyway. Most guys don’t like to carry anything – so if there’s a way to communicate the information electronically that’s a win-win.

  • Deano

    Our experience is that of the 40-50 newsletters we hand out, about 2-3 get left behind at church, so most are making it home. Whether they get read there is a moot point, but I do get good feedback that it’s a valuable tool (and yes, we back it up the important items verbally in the service and by email during the week). I suspect the saving grace is that we only hand one newsletter to a family and it is probably the lady who is taking it, not the man, so most guys are probably hands free. We do hand out a newspaper thing monthly, but it’s optional and once again, I suspect the woman take it for their family. So, I tend to think we are doing pretty well on this count, albeit, not perfectly. I was just interested if others had a clever way to do what you suggest and avoid the pitfalls that I could see :-)

  • David Murrow

    Sounds good Deano. Anyone else have any ideas on this for Deano, a Kiwi ministering in OZ?

  • Deano

    By the way, thanks for sorting next year’s Christmas Eve message :-)

  • David Murrow


  • David Murrow

    maybe if the bulletin was cut into the shape of a knife…

  • Laura

    “ want their hands free in case they need to defend themselves or kill a wild animal.” Hilarious! Just bought your book Why Men Don’t Go to Church as my boyfriend isn’t interested in going (even though his dad’s a vicar), I’m looking forward to reading more. The accessible writing style and humour is just the sort of thing that would make him laugh and sit up and listen. Thanks for this glimmer of hope!

  • Guest

    That would drive me away so fast…I’d walk out of the service as soon as the music started. Why would I want to walk into a cavern and listen to angry guitars, aggressive drums, and see an action film for church? I would almost literally run out.

  • Guest

    When I visit a new church, I find greeters to be tolerable in general – so long as they aren’t shaking your hand with a vice-grip.

    As a guest, I’m very UN-comfortable in churches with coffee-shop environments! I don’t know if I should be buying something, if I’m allowed to sit in the chairs (paying customers only), if I’m sitting in someone else’s spot, etc. I’m trying to figure out: am I in church or a coffee-shop? How does this work, exactly?

    When I’m a visitor in someones home, I don’t just walk into the kitchen, pour myself a cup of coffee, and dig in the cookie jar. I’m visiting this church, do I just walk into the coffee area and pour myself a cup of coffee and dig in the cookie jar?

    I imagine that if the men that spend time there are good at engaging guests, it would be a lot easier, but my experience has been that guests really get ignored. Especially in large churches (200+ people).

    Plus I find that a church lobby/coffee area isn’t the best place in the world to engage someone. They’re more like transitions areas: you go there until the service starts, then you go there until you’ve done whatever business you have to do while you leave. The lobby/coffee area is the place you go to be invited somewhere – like a real coffee shop!

  • Guest

    Love this! I’m not fond of a lot of Eastern Orthodox doctrine, but every single point this article made was exactly what I’ve been looking for in a church.

  • Tom McClung

    Move everything to email and don’t hand out anything. Important items are backed up verbally for visitors and members. If you do a visitor’s info card, ask if they want to be added to your email list.

  • Deano

    Sadly a big chunk of my all-age congregation are not on email, so that strategy alone is not currently an option that will work entirely. And of the ones who are on email, I’m regularly shocked to discover how many rarely read their emails. I think for now the ‘hand it out in a newsletter, back it up verbally from the front, remind them in an email’ strategy is going to have to suffice…

  • David Murrow

    Hey Deano, you need to get those Gypmies up into the 21st century!