I was sitting in church one Sunday…
I was half-listening to the sermon, when a thought occurred to me: Everything about my church was designed to appeal to women.
Lavender carpet. Pink walls. Quilted banners. Flowers. A lace doily on the communion table. The hallways were festooned with classroom-school style bulletin boards made of construction paper, crayon drawings and yarn. The pastor – wearing a robe that looked like a dress.
I looked down at my bulletin. Every ministry opportunity ended with a woman’s name: For more information or to sign up call Lauren/Victoria/Andrea/Heidi/Bonnie. Understandable, because every ministry revolved around traditionally female roles: child care, teaching, music, caring for the sick and cooking. There were many events for women: a ladies’ tea, a scrapbooking circle and Moms in Touch. Dads, apparently, weren’t in touch.
I tuned back into the sermon. The words coming out of the pastor’s mouth were all from Venus: Love. Communication. Beauty. Relationships. Support. Feelings.
I began to ask myself: why would a typical man want to be a part of this?
The target audience of church is…
I’ve worked in the TV advertising business since the early 1980s. One of the things you learn early in your career: every TV show and commercial has a target audience.
In that moment I realized the target audience of my church was a middle-aged woman. The church system was built to keep these empty-nesters volunteering, praying and giving. The church regarded men like hood ornaments on cars: nice, but not necessary.
One of the reasons the Promise Keepers rallies of the 1990s had such a profound effect on men: many had never experienced Christianity apart from the presence of women. That’s because, whenever Christians gather, women are almost always in the majority.
“This is such a huge issue. Somebody must have written a book about it,” I thought to myself.
I logged onto a new website I had recently heard about called Amazon.com. Nothing.
I drove over to Barnes and Noble Booksellers. Nothing.
I checked the local library. Nothing.
Then I heard a voice in my head. “You write it,” the voice said.
Of course I argued with God. “I’m a TV producer, God, not an author.”
I decided to compromise with God, and began writing a script for a television documentary. But the more I wrote the more I realized the finished product was going to be a book.
I pitched Why Men Hate Going to Church to seven publishers in 2004. As an unpublished author I steeled myself for rejection. To my utter surprise, four publishers offered me a contract, including Thomas Nelson, the biggest publisher of Christian books in the world at the time. Nelson was so selective they only published 1 new author in 2005: me.
Even before the book came out the phone started ringing. I got calls from the Washington Post. The Wall Street Journal. PBS television. Why Men was reviewed in the New York Times. Thom Fortson, the president of Promise Keepers, flew me to Denver to train their staff. Patrick Morley, the author of Man in the Mirror, the bestselling men’s ministry book of all time, invited me to Florida to speak to their area directors.
I never intended to become an author or start a movement, but since 2005 Why Men Hate Going to Church has sold more than 150,000 copies in a dozen languages. I’ve heard from hundreds of church planters and leaders who’ve used the concepts in the book to create man-friendly churches (that are growing!). Most exciting is the large number of seminaries that have assigned the book to pastoral candidates, who are building a new generation of churches that are more welcoming to men and boys.