AngelA sporting venue is masculine territory. The key value is competition. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Yet women feel perfectly comfortable there. Many women follow sports with rabid devotion.

However, men generally do not feel comfortable in feminine venues. Men avoid places like fabric stores, flower shops, and women’s boutiques. A few years ago it was popular to invite men to baby showers. That trend was short-lived, because the men didn’t come.

Even sporting events that feature women competitors are shunned by males. A survey by the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) found that only 2% of the men who attend their games come without women. Most of the men in the stands are fathers bringing their daughters. Only 6% of U.S. men identify themselves as fans of the WNBA.

What’s this got to do with church? Lots of men perceive the church to be a women’s thing. So they avoid it. On the other hand, lots of women perceive the church to be a men’s thing. So they love it.

What’s a church to do with this information? Here’s my advice: if you want to attract both men and women to your church, it’s often wise to err on the side of the masculine, especially with the imagery you put in your teaching, your print materials and your sermons.

I picked up a recruiting brochure for the U.S. Army. Bold letters on the front cover invited me to Rise to the Challenge. As you read, notice the masculine imagery and language:

If you’re looking for a job that will challenge you from day one, look no further than the U.S. Army. As a Soldier in the Army of One, you’ll engage in life faster and better than most people your age . . . you’ll experience things that you never thought possible and go places most people only read about. You’ll learn your capabilities, sharpen your skills and then push yourself to the limit on a daily basis. You’ll grow stronger, physically, mentally, and feel a sense of pride you’ve never felt before.

This ad copy can teach us a lot about men. Listen to what it promises: challenge, rising above the rest, adventure, increased competence, skill, endurance, strength, and pride. It’s competitive: you’ll be faster, better, and stronger than the rest. With such imagery the army attracts sixty to eighty thousand volunteers each year, most of them male.

Church teachers can use similar imagery to engage men—and women. Dorothy Cassel is a member of Wesley United Methodist Church in El Reno, Oklahoma. She teaches a class called Expereincing God. Dorothy noticed that most men would drop out of her class by the third session, and the withdrawal of men caused overall attendance to sag.

Dorothy realized that she had to attract men to grow the class. So she decided to insert as many masculine themes as possible into her teaching. She did not change her content. Instead she expressed it in terms of influence, belonging to a team, purpose, character, courage, discipline, power, and perseverance. Attendance at her first session was 60 percent women. But by the third session Dorothy drew a crowd that was 60 percent men! Plus the class doubled in size (more men and women came).

Dorothy has used this technique again and again and cannot believe the difference it makes. When she stresses feminine themes such as sharing, nurturing, and becoming, the response is tepid; when she stresses the masculine themes like influence, courage, and accomplishment, both men and women respond with enthusiasm.

Now, if a 60-year-old grandma in a United Methodist congregation in Oklahoma can attract men to her group, you can too. Leaven your lessons with stories and metaphors that men can relate to. Analogies from sports, battle, business, and survival capture men’s hearts. So does the language of death and sacrifice.

This is not to say that you should drive all the feminine imagery from the church. The goal is balance. However, in today’s church, we tend toward the feminine. I’m speaking of everything from the way we decorate our worship spaces to the lyrics of our praise and worship music. Mainline churches are deleting masculine images from hymns, prayers, readings and even scripture.

But if the sporting world is any indication, the way to attract both men and women is to create an environment where the masculine spirit leads. It makes a difference.