For as long as I can remember, I have heard this saying: "If you get the girls to come to church, the guys will follow." For several years I believed that saying and even have a number of friends who followed girls to church and ended up becoming great men of faith. Unfortunately, most of the ministries I've known over the years have had tremendous women involved and serving, but still the group struggled to have consistent male connectivity. So, I wonder if the old adage is really true?
If the Scripture is true about the importance of male leadership, then how do we engage the young men of our communities? Perhaps the most basic way for our churches to reach men is to help them find commonalities with other men. This, of course, is not rocket science, but guys want to find other guys who like the same things they like. Helping the men in your ministry understand this is crucial.
This common ground approach is how I got involved in campus ministry many years ago. I met a guy in class who said he was involved in a campus ministry that played football on Monday nights, and I should come play with them. I showed up to the football game and for the next three years invested my life with men and women who wanted to make a difference on my campus for the sake of Christ. Successful ministries will have engineers, musicians, scholars, athletes, gamers, techies, entrepreneurs, etc. Now, you may not be able to appeal to everyone, so find out what commonalities already exist in your ministry and build on those while seeking to reach new guys to fill in the areas you are lacking.
If the ministry is lacking in an area, the second way you may able to reach men is through acceptance and authenticity. One of the great difficulties for men is the perception of always being in a competition with other men, especially when it comes to interaction with the women in the ministry. If your ministry will welcome each person as he is and provide a non-competitive environment, each man will flourish. This means the guy must believe he is accepted by the other men and not seen as a threat to them. Though he may not admit it publicly, he must have a safe place to be himself and not feel like he has to always be on his "A" game to impress the women, the other guys, or the leaders. In providing this authentic environment, you allow men to shed the stereotypes of culture and develop into well-rounded followers of Christ.
For men to develop into mature followers of Christ, they must also have a venue to openly dialogue about questions of faith. In your ministry's attempt to reach men, provide a healthy environment for intellectual discussion. More and more of our young adults are educating themselves on the social, political, and moral issues of the day. Rather than holding firm to the ol' "because the Bible says so" answers, help the young men of your community find open forums of discussion where they can hear and discuss the truth without it being an emotionally charged dialogue or one-sided affair. They are looking for solid, biblical answers to life's questions.
Zacchaeus and Nicodemus are perfect biblical examples of the importance of open dialogue in matters of faith and life. They were intellectual men who needed real answers to the deep questions of life. We must allow men to ask questions and wrestle with them so they can then take the answers to a world that is asking the same things.
Though it may be true that women will attract men, it is a short-term/short-sighted solution to reaching the men in our colleges and communities, especially if we want these same men to lead out in their faith now and in the future. May we be challenged as leaders to "get the guys," so everyone will come.