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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why Men Hate Going To Church Reason #21: The Classroom Environment

UpsetmanMen and boys don’t need teaching as much as they need discipleship – the kind of intense, one-on-one leadership Jesus provided his disciples. Unfortunately, the modern church has discarded the discipleship model in favor of a classroom model.

Have you noticed how many church programs are built around a school paradigm? We offer adult classes, seminars, Sunday school, Bible Studies, etc. The centerpiece of our worship is a lecture (sermon) from an educated person with a seminary degree. Christianity has become an educational pursuit. The path to Christ now leads through a classroom.

Why is this academic approach to faith so discouraging to men? Simple. Men are less comfortable in a classroom. Figures from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that women are more likely than men to go to college and earn 57 percent of all the BA degrees and 58 percent of the master’s degrees. Boys drop out of high school at a rate 30 percent higher than that of girls. Girls outnumber boys 124 to 100 in advanced placement courses.

We cannot expect men to come to maturity in Christ in a classroom environment. Women will always outshine men when reading, study and verbal expression are the goal. Men (especially masculine men) feel incompetent in the house of God because they cannot hold their own against highly verbal, studious women.
Although reading, study, sermons, and classes can help, these academic exercises cannot penetrate to the hidden places in a man’s heart. But discipleship can, because it’s teaching by example. Christ didn’t hand out a study guide; He demonstrated a life pleasing to God. His example, even more than His words, produced eleven men who shook the world. That is why a man who has sat in church for thirty years without much life change will be suddenly transformed after going on a mission trip. Men are changed by what they experience, not necessarily by what they are told.

At the conclusion of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gave His followers three responsibilities: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (28:19–20). Our orders are simple: (1) make disciples, (2) baptize them, and (3) teach them to obey Christ’s commands. Today’s church has reversed this process. We teach a lot of people, baptize some, but produce very few genuine disciples.

Let me be blunt: men don’t need Bible knowledge as much as they need an example.  They need to be close to a man who is following Christ with all his heart. It’s time for our churches to back away from the classroom model and reinstate the discipleship model as our primary means of bringing people to maturity. It worked in Jesus’ day. It will work today.

Some of you pastors may be shaking your heads. You probably got into the pastorate because you have the gift of teaching. You love to retreat to your study and lose yourself in a good book. Preaching and teaching may be the highlight of your life. You probably can’t imagine a church where study is not the central activity.

Pastor, let me challenge you to pour yourself into a small group of men, the way Jesus did. It’s risky. It’s unpredictable. It’s inefficient, but far more effective. Men want to follow God, but until they have a leader showing them the way they’ll never be able to do it. Wean your church from the classroom model and push toward the discipleship model. Your men will come alive!

...from the ChurchforMen.com April Email newsletter

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April 27, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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Man. I can't believe I am the first one on this one.
Todd I really liked this post and it is very true.
What surprised me was when I finally stepped out from the Classroom (my crutch) and began to witness to people for Christ. But the surprise was just how much of His Word I really knew when the time came to witness. HIS WORD DOES NOT RETURN VOID... I have now been going strong for 11 years now.
Now I go to the classroom to get replenished instead of just learning more about him.

Posted by: Clairvoyant 1 | Apr 27, 2006 9:55:50 PM

i know there's a lot of truth in this, but i kinda irritated me just how broad a stroke they used in saying "men don't need..." and "men need..."

124 to 100 isn't a drastic variance. not like the 224 to 0 they make their conclusion sound like it was.

i especially was bothered by the "especially masculine men" notation. dang it - it makes it sound to me like if i enjoy a teaching setting that i'm effiminate?

too broad a stroke.

now, i get the point - churches that build their entire communication approach around a classroom flow are going to miss their opportunity to reach some. but to draw that line around the male/female distinction is (i think) a bit of a stretch.

thanks for getting me going this morning. the MMI classroom served me well today. and i'm manly enough to say it.

Posted by: dan ohlerking | Apr 28, 2006 8:34:52 AM

Dan writes [thanks for getting me going this morning. the MMI classroom served me well today. and i'm manly enough to say it.]

Me, too, but I'm still in touch with my feminine side...


(JK, I don't even HAVE a feminine side...)

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Apr 28, 2006 11:29:14 AM

I hadn't really thought about this before - especially since I love to teach - but it does seem pretty much on target...despite the broad brush strokes. I can enjoy a classroom experience, but that's because I'm a thinker (I prefer the term "ponderer"); I love to gather ideas and mull them over in my head. But even better than that is to have an opportunity to discuss those things with others. If I can do that in a classroom, great; if not, I'm not going to last too long.

Based on what I've studied in the area, adults learn differently than kids, just as boys learn differently than girls. Here are some ways adults learn best:

--intrinsic motivation; we need to feel that what we're learning has value to our lives;
--immediate application; we need to be able to use the lesson "now" (even if it's only a short-term application);
--real-life experience, rather than rote repetition.

These principles can be applied in a "classroom" setting through more discussion and less lecture, through real-life examples (i.e., stories and parables), etc., but it's not always easy and it won't always look conventional. For example, in the "classroom" setting of a sermon, why not include some opportunity for feedback and discussion. For example, if you're preaching on the Parable of the Sower, ask the congregation to suggest what some of the "weeds" may be in their lives. (Obviously, this will be more difficult in Joel Osteen's church than in a smaller setting....)

These principles also speak to the value of small groups, where the principles can be applied more readily.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Apr 28, 2006 12:06:56 PM

Peter, (JK, I don't even HAVE a feminine side...)
come on fess up...
or we'll have to post those embarrassing photos we found of you...

Celebrate, He Is Risen... (yes, still)

Posted by: Jeff | Apr 28, 2006 1:41:17 PM

I think the "broad strokes" cannot be supported with hard, statistical evidence, that includes all the "variables." There are more "women" on earth than men....

There are far more men in seminaries and graduate schools than women.....

And yes, I don't think the "classroom" paradigm works for everyone. And yes, we need to find new ways of communicating Christian discipleship.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Apr 28, 2006 2:25:57 PM

"Let me be blunt: men don’t need Bible knowledge as much as they need an example."

I don't believe the "either or" approach - Jesus gave some pretty serious Bible knowledge to his disciples, he also did use the "lecture/classroom" setting as can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount, etc. Certainly there were discussions enroute to different places, but it wasn't just following Jesus around. Questions were asked, but instruction was given. We have recently begun a "Church Basics 101" for new believers / seekers about half are men and asking good questions, and wanting to return! I haven't seen a study done, but my guess from reading through the gospels is that Jesus gave his disciples as much Bible knowledge as He did example. One further comment, the statement quoted above may also give men the excuse not to get into the Word themselves, which seems to be pretty much expected in Scripture, ie., "I don't understand the Bible, so I need an example."

Posted by: pritchett4 | May 1, 2006 9:13:52 AM

I agree it is not an either or proposition to making disciples. If you look at the first chapter of Acts it says all that Jesus began "to DO and TEACH". So Jesus was a continual balance of instruction through stories, parables, lectures and then followed it with ministry so His disciples could see that truth in action.

We have a many churches that are great at the "DOING", yet are not building Christians who are strong on Biblical truth. So they are not equipped to teach the next faithful man.

And then we have churches who focus on "TEACHING" so much that they have Christians who have great Biblical knowledge, but are not actively serving, witnessing or ministering.

We need to follow Christ and find that balance of doing (making sure we have guys with us who can see and learn from the model) and teaching (explanation and instruction of Bibilical truth and principals that can be passed on to other faithful men. - II Tim. 2:2).

Posted by: jaydilli | May 1, 2006 3:54:18 PM

Working in a new church situation this is one of the best concepts I have heard. No more classroom settings for adult males. They are going to be open forum and away from the traditional as much as I can make it. Children seem to like the classroom set up from school I guess, but for the older teens through the old folks, it's open air.

Now If I could just get a building to worship in...

Posted by: Jay Gainer | May 1, 2006 4:11:12 PM

"Let me be blunt: men don’t need Bible knowledge as much as they need an example. They need to be close to a man who is following Christ with all his heart."

Assuming this is right, the man following Christ with all his heart, also does not need Bible knowledge and is follwoing a man who is following Christ with all his heart, etc..

How can you follow Christ with all your heart without knowing who Christ is. I 100 percent agree that men and women need to be discipling and being discipled. I 100 percent agree that if all a Pastor/teacher Sundacy School teacher does is read and preach at people he has failed.

We need to balance Biblical knowledge with Biblical doing. Knowledge without doing is one that says he believes with his mouth, but proves he does not with his actions. One that is doing without knowledge is much like Saul before he became Paul.

Philemon has a verse that tells you how to come to the knowledge of all good things you have in Jesus. Go find out what that thing is, then do it.

Posted by: Franklin Reeves | May 2, 2006 11:49:36 AM

Men don't go to church because they don't buy into the gospel. Period. It has nothing to do with the "feminization" conspiracy. My grandfather,a Pentecostal Preacher told me that more women attend church because they have more disappointements and sorrows and less control of their own lives. Men just don't care. Men are self sufficient - they don't think they need it. Many find it hypocritical or just plain dull. When our church holds "manly events" i.e. basketball tournaments, our version of habitat for humanity and outdoor "masculine" fishing trips to Colorado or the like, the attendance is still abysmal. The thing is, research is starting to show women falling into this pattern now that they have achieved advanced education and economical independence. My own wife falls into this category; that and she feels that the church is too male centered - pidgeonholing women into cookie and casserole bakers for fellowship gatherings. And in many evangelical churches, she would be right. I can't convince her to go at all anymore and it was always hard as she felt subordinated and unequal. She always said that she'd worship no God that only gave her equal status in heaven but not on earch. I did my best to convince her otherwise suggesting that she'd had previous bad experiences. But about 4 years ago, the final nail on the coffin was hammered in starting with Mothers Day. Our pastor gave the typical evangelical sermon on the evil's of women and the whore of babylon. Then on Father's Day, he preached on the evil influences of women on men and how it stains a man's character and as a father. I have never felt so small in my entire life. Up till then, I thought our church (Baptist) was pretty balanced. No amount of prayer on my part has washed the taste of bigotry from her mouth.

The lack in male attendance is nothing new. It's been going on for over 100 years. People have more these days and suffer less hardships that their focus becomes self centered instead of divine. Whether you agree or not, many scholars believe that religion was born out of fear during primitive man's hardest times. You have only to look at the jump in church attendance over the months after September 11th to see that. I think all churches need a balance as all men and women are not cut out of the samw cloth. I know my wife would certainly fall in to the "experiencer" instead of the "listener" category...

Posted by: Marcus | Jul 6, 2006 3:41:00 PM

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