As 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.