Monthly Archives: August 2010

Why Men Hate Going to Church

As a pastor’s kid, I have grown up in the church and seen some pretty interesting things throughout the years.  One of the images from my early years in church is of an older gentleman, Harry Beeks, who would fall asleep every Sunday during my dad’s sermon.  Sometimes he would even snore.  Harry added an element of the unpredictable to church and I loved it.  Harry was one of the reasons I liked going to church but I wonder if he knew that he played an important role in the church.  Even though he slept through the sermon, Harry was always at the main door of the church handing out candy to all the kids as we left.

I am currently reading through David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church in an effort to find out why men don’t enjoy going to church.  You’ve probably seen Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character on SNL.  I wonder what the “Church Guy” character would look like.  Probably a mixture of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons and Phil Dunphy from Modern Family.  Not necessarily the image of a man that we aspire to.  Why is this?  As men what is it about church that makes us want to take a nap during the sermon or dream about the football game later in the afternoon?  Some of George Barna’s research shows that the spirituality of moms outpaces that of dads.  Why is this?  What is it about church and spirituality that men believe they have to leave their manhood at the door and become domesticated?

Now that I am back in church leadership I am asking some of the same questions that I asked a few years ago.  Now I am even more driven to find a solution.  Here are some of my questions as I attempt to dive deeper into what drives men specifically away from church.

  • How does worship and singing drive men away?  Take a look at worship song lyrics and you will discover that many of them vaguely seem like sappy love songs.  How could worship be different so that men feel like they can express their worship for God?
  • Does the sermon drive men away? Some controversy and debate would be good on Sunday mornings.  I think men also need specific, real world examples of how their faith should inform their daily lives.
  • Does the pastor drive men away?  Does your pastor connect with the men in the congregation?  I don’t think the pastor needs to talk like Larry the Cable Guy but he also needs to be honest about how his maleness affects his spirituality (this obviously only relates if the pastor is male).  Men need to feel that the guy teaching up front understands what his daily life is like.
  • Do the wives drive the men away?  Wives have an unbelievable power to either build up their husband or tear them down by what they say and don’t say.  Sometimes women can have unhealthy expectations of their spouse and his spirituality.  Whether or not your spouse is the essence of the Christian man that you desire, genuinely encourage him every chance that you get.  Fight the tendency to compare him to others.  Understand that a man’s relationship with God will look different than a woman’s relationship with God.

These are just some of my thoughts and observations on why men hate going to church.  It saddens me that the image of a Christian man is Ned Flanders and not the real men of the Bible like Peter, Paul and David.  These men were close to God and yet were men.  How comfortable do you think Peter, the hardened fisherman, would be in our churches?  I am determined to create a church environment where a man like Harry would feel comfortable and engaged.

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Death by Ministry

As a pastor’s kid I know firsthand what the trials of pastoral life are like.  Yet I decided to get into the ministry.  A former church colleague of mine, Justin Bullis, pointed me to this blog post by another pastor, Eugene Cho.  It explains the unique challenges that come with being a pastor.  It is definitely worth reading.  If you are a church attendee, make sure your pastor and their staff know how much you care.

Read Eugene’s blog post here:

http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/death-by-ministry/

Meetings are Toxic

One of my favorite book titles in my office is Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.  In any business there are many meetings that could be done away with and productivity would actually increase.  I have often wondered what are the purpose of meetings.  Why do we continue to schedule meetings that don’t seem to serve a purpose?  How often have you left a meeting and wondered, “What did we accomplish?”  Could we have accomplished the same thing in fifteen minutes instead of two hours?

I am currently reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals, in which they have a section titled “Meetings are Toxic.”  They raise the argument that meetings are the worst interruptions.  Here are three of their best reasons:

  • They frequently have agendas so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal.
  • They often include at least one moron who inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense.
  • Meetings procreate.  One meeting leads to an other meeting leads to another.

They don’t rule out meetings altogether but they do offer some tips for making a meeting productive.

  • Set a timer.  When it rings, meeting’s over.  Period.
  • Invite as few people as possible.
  • Always have a clear agenda.
  • Begin with a specific problem.
  • Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room.  Point to real things and suggest real changes.
  • End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.

I would definitely recommend picking up Rework.  As Seth Godin puts it, “Ignore this book at your own peril.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Find more about the book here.

What the Church Can Learn from Apple: Less is More

I remember the first time Hillary and I purchased an iMac and unpacked it in our home office.  It felt so weird to set the monitor on the desk and realize that we didn’t have to plug multiple cords into a tower below the desk.  Compared to our old Dell desktop, this new iMac was a breeze to setup and get going.  I loved walking people to the iMac table at the Apple Store and seeing their amazement that there wasn’t a tower below the table.  Everything was inside the monitor!

Apple has been driven by the minimalist principle that “less is more.”  Ever since Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he and product designer Jonathan Ive have been driven to bring a simplicity and easy of use to Apple products.  Read more in detail about Jonathan Ive here.  This simplicity is apparent in Apple Retail Stores and the minimalist nature of the wooden tables, even down to the small details such as the product descriptions.  On Apple’s website it is clear that there are five main Apple products:  Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes.  Even these products interact with each other in a very simple manner.  Steve Jobs doesn’t even want a cashier sign in the store because it distracts from the other elements in the store.

Take a look at your church’s website and see if you can pick out what the main “products” of the church.  What is your church committed to?  Take a look at the church calendar.  How many events take place on a weekly basis?  I think that too often we think that the busier we are as a church, the more productive we are.  We have so many programs and outreach opportunities that we spread ourselves too thin.  Jason Fried and David Heinemeier write in their book Rework, “Cut your ambition in half. Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.”

In the church we need to ask some important questions about each of our programs.  Here are a few:

1.  What is the purpose of this program/group?

2.  What would happen if we cut this program/group?

3.  Are we keeping it going because it meets a need or just because we have always done it this way?

4.  How does this program/group fit into the greater mission of the church?

5.  Does this program/group overlap with another program/group?  How can we merge these groups and make them more effective together?

What the Church Can Learn from Apple: Enriching Lives

To some computers and technology seem cold and non-relational.  One of the first questions I would ask people who were purchasing a new computer was, “What did you use your computer for in the past?”  From PC users I would get answers like, “Just for email and writing documents.”  I just smiled knowing that if I could help them decide on a buying a Mac, their lives would change.  Some of you PC users are smirking now but honestly I saw people’s lives being changed as a result of buying a Mac.  We had an older gentlemen who built a website for his bowling team.  Another wrote a book on his World War II experiences all on a Mac with Pages.  Computers can change people’s lives.

Apple Retail is driven by their credo which is “to enrich lives.”  We used this statement to motivate team members who became discouraged and felt like they were just selling computers.  Everything we did revolved around this statement of enriching lives.  It helped us realize that we were part of something bigger than just selling the newest tech product.  The fact that I was enriching lives kept me working in a retail job for two and half years.  I loved talking to a Special Forces member about to be deployed to some exotic location and selling him a Macbook knowing that he could Skype with his family at home.  I got teary eyed as I saw a father hug his son as they walked out of the store with a new Macbook Pro for college.

In a church, it is so easy to focus on a lack of tithing and shrinking budgets, while forgetting what a church is all about.  What is the vision of your church?  If someone sat in on your church board meeting, what would be their sense of what motivates you to keep going?  Is it money, new buildings or the number of people in the pews?  It is essential that a church know what their credo or vision is.  How many of your church members and employees can articulate the vision?  Is it memorable and simple?

I think many churches work hard to come up with a vision statement that makes them feel good and then they just put it on their letterhead.  It is never infused in the life of the church.  Stories aren’t told of how lives are being changed as a result of the vision and credo.  Quickly the focus goes back to getting people in the pews so the bills can be paid.  These are the kind of places where Jesus would have stormed into and started chucking tables and pews.

One thing we can learn from Apple is to come up with a dynamic vision of why we exist and then to infuse it into everything that is done.  Tell stories of lives that are changed as a result of the vision of the church.  Allow the vision of the church to come from the grassroots level instead of some outside church consultant that is paid the big bucks to tell you what to do.  This will motivate your members to change the world instead of just focusing on a lack of tithing or a shrinking budget.  It saddens me that a computer company can change lives better than a church can.

Creation the Movie: The Humanity of Charles Darwin

Two nights ago Hillary and I watched the movie Creation which stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin and Jennifer Connolly as his wife.  The movie chronicles Darwin’s struggle to reconcile science, the religion of his wife and the death of his daughter.  Regardless of who we are, our experiences shape our beliefs and the same is true with Darwin.  Creation shows how Darwin struggled with the religion he was raised to believe in the midst of his daughter’s declining health.  Interestingly, Darwin initially went to Cambridge to become an Anglican clergyman.  After his daughter’s death, Darwin found it hard to believe in a God that would allow this horrific event to happen.

The other struggle that this movie portrays is the growing distance between Darwin and his wife who is devoted to Christianity.  Throughout most of the movie, it seems as though their opposing views on religion are what separates them.  Near the end, in an emotional charged scene of reconciliation, we find out that it is not their religion or lack thereof, that separates them but the fact that they each can’t forgive themselves for their daughter’s death.

I would definitely recommend this movie to those who seek to understand the views of Charles Darwin.  I know that some of you cringe at the idea of watching a movie about Darwin but I think it is wise to read books and watch movies that have views that differ from our own.  Some close themselves off from outside views and beliefs.  If you believe your ideas are right, then what are you scared of?

“What the Church Can Learn from Apple” Series

For two and a half years I worked in Apple Retail and from the very beginning, I realized there were strategies and values that Apple uses that could inform the Church.  Starting tomorrow, I will blog about some of the specific strategies in marketing and culture that could  help the Church in its mission.  Fundamental to this series is the idea that Truth can be found in a number of different places and is not just limited to the Bible.

Emerging Adulthood – The Trials of the 20-Somethings

In May of 2002, my soon to be wife, Hillary, and I graduated from Taylor University and expectantly looked toward our future together in Colorado.  We were married in August and moved to Colorado without jobs but knew something would work out.  Like many before us, we were married in our early twenties and as I put it back then, “moved from the dorm room to the marriage bed.”  By the end of our twenties, we had two beautiful daughters and a job that paid the bills.

We are realizing that our 20’s were not like many of our fellow graduates.  We were the exception not the rule.  A growing number of people in their twenties are delaying important life events that used to be normal for college graduates. Robin Marantz Henig of the New York Times wrote this insightful article in which she details what some are calling a new life stage, “emerging adulthood.”

Here is an excerpt:

Among the cultural changes he [Jeffrey Arnett – Professor at Clark University] points to that have led to “emerging adulthood” are the need for more education to survive in an information-based economy; fewer entry-level jobs even after all that schooling; young people feeling less rush to marry because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation and birth control; and young women feeling less rush to have babies given their wide range of career options and their access to assisted reproductive technology if they delay pregnancy beyond their most fertile years.

How will this impact our American society in 5, 10, 20 years?  How is and will this impact church ministry to this generation?  What parenting styles led to this generational shift?  The article definitely raises some interesting ideas.

Christianity and Syncretism

Sometimes (ok quite a bit) others can say what you have wanted to say but they say it much better.  Check out this blog entry by a college friend of mine, Ed Cyzewski, in which he discusses how far too many Christians have become syncretistic in their beliefs.

My New Stand-up Desk

If you were to walk by my office today, you would notice something peculiar.  You might think that I had put a coffee bar in my office and was serving drinks.  For two and a half years I was on my feet for eight hours a day in my sales job at Apple.  I became so addicted to standing up that I had a hard time sitting in my new office environment.  Today I made the switch.  Now I am standing at my desk eight hours a day instead of sitting down.  I have chosen to buy into the idea that we as humans are meant to stand, not sit.

The benefits of a standup desk are numerous though only a few actually make the jump to the abnormal desk.  First, standing instead of sitting is beneficial for the back.  Second, standing can help a person become more productive.  How many of us have slouched back in our chair and just day dreamed about meaningless stuff?  This is tough to do while standing at your desk.

Today I received some strange looks as I worked at my high desk.  It is abnormal but I am definitely enjoying it.  It is the perfect height for typing and writing.  I have also found that I now have more desk space because the back of my desk is more useable space.

Read more about the strange phenomena of the stand-up desk here.