|I am constantly amazed at what churches will do to get people inside their doors….but with “Beast Feasts” I think I have now heard it all. ;-) This article was taken from USATODAY on ths date. -jp|
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
Women outnumber men in attendance in every major Christian denomination, and they are 20% to 25% more likely to attend worship at least weekly.
Although every soul matters, many pastors say they need to power up on reaching men if the next generation of believers, the children, will find the way to faith. So hundreds of churches are going for a “guy church” vibe, programming for a stereotypical man’s man.
“I hear about it everywhere I go,” says Brandon O’Brien, who detailed the evolution of the chest-thumping evangelism trend this spring in Christianity Today.
One church, 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside Dallas, was even designed with dudes in mind, from the worship center’s stone floor, hunter-green and amber decor and rustic-beam ceilings to woodsy scenes on the church website.
No pastels. No flowers. No sweet music. No sit-with-your-hands-folded mood. Women are welcome, but the tone is intentionally “guy church” for a reason, says Ross Sawyers, founder and pastor of 121.
“I have read that if a child comes to Christ, 12% of the time the whole family will follow,” Sawyers says.
“If the mom comes, there’s a 15% chance the family will. But if the man comes to church, 90% of the time the family will come along behind.
“That’s the reality, and that’s why we do this.”
He couldn’t cite his source, but recent surveys show:
•52% of women and 48% of men say they identify with a particular religion, and women are the majority in 21 of 25 Christian denominations, according to the recent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 people by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The survey found 39% of U.S. adults — 45% of women and 34% of men — attend worship at least weekly.
•31% of men and 27% of women say they never go to church, not even on holidays, according to a new survey of 1,007 adults by Ellison Research, a market research firm in Phoenix.
It found 62% of those who attend regularly as adults say that as children they went to church with both parents. If only one parent went, usually the mom, the likelihood of the adult regularly attending dropped to 50%. If neither parent took them to church, 33% now attend.
“Dads need to model the behavior,” says Ellison president Ron Sellers.
•77% of women but just 65% of men say their faith is very important in their lives, according to a 2008 survey of 1,006 adults by Barna Research in Ventura, Calif.
Decades of traditional men’s ministries and fellowship groups within most churches, even the stadium-packing 1990s all-male rallies run by the Promise Keepers, haven’t made a dent.
Blame the church, not the men, says David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church.
Warm, nurturing congregations ignore men’s need to face the epic struggles of living for Christ, writes Murrow, of Chugiak, Alaska, on his website, churchformen.com. He trains leaders for Promise Keepers and writes on his website: “We’ve wrapped the Gospel in this man-repellent package.”
Murrow recommends a free “Go for the Guys” downloadable action plan that advises pastors to infuse “adventure, challenge, boldness, competition, hands-on communication, ferocity and fun” into congregational life.
If they could pump essence of testosterone into the sanctuary, some churches might try it.
O’Brien says most of the “guy churches” don’t go to the degree 121 has, “but much more prevalent and more alarming is the number of churches that promote a stereotype of muscular male behavior as the only correct godly way to be.”
He describes a 2002 gathering of comedian Brad Stine’s GodMen ministry, featuring videos of karate fights, car chases and a song with lyrics urging, “No more nice guy, timid and ashamed … Grab a sword, don’t be scared — be a man, grow a pair!”
O’Brien counter-punches that those who prefer lattes and books to bows and arrows are equally able to embody Christ-like qualities. “Guy church” pastors should not forget that “humanity in the image of Christ is not aggressive and combative; it is humble and poor.”
There aren’t a lot of lattes at a church banquet where your host may have shot your supper.
Congregations across the Sun Belt are holding “Beast Feasts,” where the flock’s outdoorsmen invite their unchurched male pals to a game banquet, served up in good fellowship in hopes guests will find a trail toward Jesus.
“Men are driven by activity, by events, by doing. That’s our nature,” says Mark Estep, senior pastor at Spring Baptist Church near Houston. “Beast Feasts. Fishing. Hunting. Golf. … They build bonds with each other. That’s the open door into their heart. Then you can begin to talk about their spiritual condition.
“A man is far more apt to come to a church event if another man asks him. If his wife asks him, he’ll interpret that as nagging.”
It seems to work.
At Thompson Station Church, south of Nashville, where the last Beast Feast in March drew 350 men, “26 men made decisions for Christ that night and have stayed in conversation with us,” says administrative pastor Duane Murray.
Women aren’t forgotten, Murray says. “But I don’t know what woman wouldn’t be excited if her husband showed more interest in coming to church. When a man’s life is changed, he becomes a more effective father and loving husband. We choose to invest and go after the higher returns.”
That’s what Ross Sawyers had in mind when he launched 121 Community Church in 1999.
“We wanted it to feel like some guy’s really, really cool home,” albeit one with lots of high tech and a staff videographer, says David Parker, 121’s associate pastor for worship and creative arts.
Between the two Sunday services, 1,200 folks attend worship and hear Sawyers offer verse-by-verse Bible preaching, punctuated with videos, skits and music.
Men make up a third of the volunteers working with children from preschool through teens. Vacation Bible school, renamed Bible Extreme, was shifted to an evening session this summer, allowing nearly four dozen men to volunteer after work.
Sawyers says worship is “free and flexible” so that a man might join in song and praise or stand skeptical by the back door with a cup of coffee and try to assess if this is a place “where his heart can open to God.”
No first-time male visitor at 121 leaves without being greeted by a volunteer, often Ross’ older brother, Loyd, an auto auctioneer.
“I’ll chase them into the parking lot if I haven’t seen someone else already welcome them. I’ll talk to the dad. Give him a card. Say, ‘Call me if you have any questions,’ ” he says
“They don’t know the Lord, and they don’t trust places with steeples. They’re just struggling with the idea they have to get this or that right before they can come to Christ. I tell them, ‘You have it backwards. You come hang with us, and you’ll see.’ ”