Get the Men, Win the War

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Revolution is going to turn 5 years old this Sunday. It is really hard to believe that the church God birthed in me 13 years ago while living in Chicago actually came to be with 11 people who prayed and dreamed together in Tucson, AZ. Over the coming week as we gear up towards Sunday I thought I’d share some of the dreams that drove us to start Revolution and still drive us to this day.

On Monday, we looked at our dream of helping people become who they were created to be. Yesterday we looked at how to help people take their next step with Jesus and why that is so important. Today I want to talk about the value of Get the men, win the war.

Every study says the same thing: the person least likely to attend church in America is a 20-40 year old man. Because of this, when we started Revolution we sought out to reach that guy.

This all gets down to target. Every church, regardless of size, location, history, how long they’ve been in existence has a target. Every church wants to reach everyone, but every church can’t reach everyone.

Let me give you an example: depending on the time of your service, the music you play, the style of preaching, the dress of those who attend, if you do sunday school or small groups, if you have a student ministry. All of these factors will determine who will attend your church. Many churches are not intentional about these things, they just do them and their target becomes who is already there. If you want to know who your target is at your church, simply look around and see who is there, that’s your target.

We decided from the beginning, we would choose our target, understand them, their questions, their needs, what keeps them from following Jesus, how to best help them follow Jesus.

Make no mistake. Revolution Church wants to reach as many people as possible. We love 60 year old men, 50 year old women and 30 year old women and want them all to find Jesus, but everything we do has to answer this question: will that reach a 20-40 year old man?

This isn’t just a question about target. Our culture has no idea what it means to be a man or a woman. In fact, just this week there was a story about a class offered at the University of Arizona on fatherhood that has a waiting list. Our culture wants to know and they will go anywhere to find answers.

Here are some ways you see this at Revolution:

  • Our name is Revolution. We intentional chose our name to be a name men would be intrigued by. I can’t tell you the number of men who have said, “I was looking online for a church and your name made me stop and I knew I had to check it out.” Just the other day a guy told me, “I wasn’t excited when my wife said we were going to church, but when she told me the name was Revolution I thought, it can’t be that bad with a name like that.” Our name not only describes what we believe Jesus started, what we are called to in our culture, but one that men don’t see as a roadblock.
  • We create family devotional questions. Men are called to lead their families and pastor them well. Most churches heap this on men with a side of guilt and shame. Why do men feel this way? They don’t know how to do it. Many have never seen anyone do family devotions, let alone come up with what to do during them. So, we create simple guides for men to use with their wives and kids. Instead of saying, “You should do this and good luck.” We create them and say, “You should do this and this will help you accomplish it.” Make no mistake, if men think they will fail at something, they usually won’t try it.
  • We challenge men to be who they are called to be. This goes with the last one, we unashamedly challenge men and women to be who God created them to be. We believe Scripture calls men to lovingly lead their homes, to serve and pastor their wives and kids. To have integrity in dating relationships. That women were created by God to help their husband and support him and respect him. I preach about this at least once a year. Ironically, this is the #1 reason people have started attending Revolution. Why? Our culture wants to know what it means to be a man and a woman and the media, TV shows, movies, books and magazines give empty answers. It usually boils down to sex, but Scripture gives such a fuller picture. Teaching men and women how to communicate, how to have friendships with integrity, how pursue your wife, how to date with integrity, how to fight well, how to achieve oneness in marriage (outside of sex). To get an idea of how we talk about this topic at Revolution, listen to the last sermon I gave on the topic
  • We are simple. I’ll talk about this more tomorrow, but we do 2 things at Revolution: Sunday morning and Missional Communities.
  • Our missional communities have end dates. Men like end dates. Our culture does as well. School ends and has its cycle of life. Men don’t like to enter a group setting that is meeting until Jesus returns. Now, my missional community friends will say, “We are family and family never takes a break.” That isn’t true. Families take vacations, parents go on getaways. Extended families don’t see each other every day or every week. So, it is possible to be family in an MC without meeting officially every week as an MC. We used to meet forever and men were scared. You could say, “Well that is an idol that needs some gospel truth.” That may be true, it may also just be how men are wired. So, we moved to having end dates. Men are willing to try something with an end date, something that has a way out that isn’t awkward if they don’t like it. It is easier for us to say to a man, “give this MC a try, it lasts until _________.”
  • We don’t have a women’s ministry (or a men’s ministry). I’ve blogged about this a lot and we get this question from women who come from a churched background. Churches that have women’s ministries often communicate to men, “You aren’t needed.” Think about it like this: a woman goes to her women’s bible study. She gets her relational fill, she is doing her Beth Moore bible study each day and growing. What is her husband doing? In the average church, nothing. He isn’t needed. She is getting all that she needs. As a couple, she is now growing faster than he is and they are growing apart spiritually. This happens more often than pastors want to admit. If you don’t believe me, ask most men why they aren’t leading their families and they will either say: I’m not needed or I don’t know how. Then, many pastors aren’t willing then to challenge men to step up and the cycle continues. We believe, the family should be split up as little as possible in the church. Now, when a woman in an MC says, “I’d like to have more.” We encourage them join an DNA group (accountability) or go to MOPS or a bible study at another church.
  • We preach through books of the Bible. Many men don’t know where things are in the Bible and they don’t know how to read it. By preaching through books of the Bible, men get confidence in the Bible and their ability to understand it. They begin to learn where Jonah and John are in the Bible. They begin to see how things fit together. When you jump around and preach from 10 verses from 10 different books of the Bible, you communicate to your church, “You can’t do what I do.” When you go through a book of the Bible and show your church how it unfolds, they start to think, “I could pick that out if I read my bible on my own.” Men also like to see a larger story and how things fit together. They also like preaching on hard topics. When you preach through books of the Bible, you can’t skip sections, you have to preach every page.

Practically for Revolution, this means we are always asking the question, “Will this help us reach 20-40 year old men?” We’ve learned if you answer that question, women of all ages like what you do. As every church has learned (because 60-70% of church attendees are women) men do not like everything that women do.

Target, Customer Service & the Church

The other day, Katie, myself and the kids went looking for furniture to put on our back porch. We started at Target since Katie knew there something she wanted and it was 50% off.

We got there to find out that they had the two chairs we wanted, but not the love seat that went with them. A salesperson said she would call around for us. She came back and informed us that a Target an hour away had the love seat we wanted. Unfortunately, the sale was not valid on the website (not sure why companies still do this). She also said, they can’t put it on hold because it is on display and on sale. So, we took home the new chairs, made dinner for our kids and headed an hour to the next Target.

What awaited us?

No love seat. Not only that, this Target claimed they sold the last one 4 days ago. Meaning, the salesperson did not call around for us.

Now, that’s customer service!

It got me thinking about leadership and the church. Do we put forth false advertising? Are we too lazy to help people?

Let’s start with the advertising. Many churches say they don’t advertise. Usually, they have a low opinion of the churches who advertise. The problem with this mindset is that every church advertises. Every time someone drives by your building, looks at your website, any time someone says, “I attend ______ church.” All of those things are advertisements for your church. It isn’t that you don’t advertise, you don’t have a plan for what you are advertising.

The other thing churches do is advertise laziness. Everything from not having clear signs at your worship gathering, a website that is not updated, not prepping a sermon, not starting on time. Every time I meet with a pastor I ask them what they are preaching on and most pastors look at me and say, “I’m not sure what I’m preaching on next, maybe I’ll check to see what ________ church is preaching on and use that.” Your people know if you prepped something, stole something or threw something together.

Or else we advertise we are a church and then when people show up for a worship gathering, we spend the next hour trying to convince them we aren’t a church. Almost like we are embarrassed. They came to church. They came looking for Jesus. Open the Bible and show them Jesus. One night after a gathering, I had a guy tell me that he was not going to come back because “we used too much Bible.” At least he knew what we were.

Target advertised that they have great customer service. Churches advertise they are a church. Be a church.

When it comes to customer service, many churches say that is beneath them. We aren’t pushing a product. Which I agree with. But most churches communicate, we don’t have a servant mentality and we are here for the people who know us and their way around.

Here is what I mean. If I walked onto the campus where your church meets, could I find where everything is without having to ask someone or look lost? Could I drop my kids off? Is someone there with a smile? If I asked you where something is, would you tell me where it is or would you show me?

If you think you have enough signs, make some more. You don’t yet.

Smile. Communicate you are glad that someone took the time to come and be a part of your worship gathering. There are a hundred other things they could be doing instead.

If someone asks, “Where is _____?” Don’t point. Don’t give them directions. Show them. Walk them to where they need to go, make sure they get checked in okay. Then ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help you?”

That’s being a servant. That’s being helpful.

Even though it was completely frustrating. And Target lost our business because we bought the same love seat somewhere else. It was a good learning experience.

What Guides Revolution #9 [Rewind]

On January 9th, we launched a brand new series on the book of Nehemiah called Building a City Within the City. Every church, organization or family has a list of seen and unseen things that guide decisions, what they value and how they function. Since we have so many new people at Revolution, I thought it would be good to share what guides us.

#9:  We will target men.

Whether you realize it or not, every church and organization has a target. I hear pastors say all the time, “We’re trying to reach everyone.” This sounds right and biblical, but is not possible. Whether a church admits it, they have a target.

What kind of music is played?

How loud is it?

What is the preaching like?

What is the dress like?

How much money and manpower is spent on kids and student ministries?

What time are the services?

These are just a few basic questions. Another way to figure out your target if you don’t know, look at who is coming to your church.

When we started Revolution, we looked at this idea and we looked at who we could best reach with the people already in our church, who was on our heart and who didn’t go to church. Across the nation, the least likely group to go to church are 20 – 40 year old men. So we set out to reach them.

When we think about sermon ideas, music, videos, how we do church, we filter it through the lens of a 20 – 40 year old man.

This gets misinterpreted as “Revolution doesn’t like women.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here is one thing that is true about churches. When it comes to graphics, sermons, songs, atmosphere. Women like what men like, but men don’t like what women like. Don’t believe me? Ask a man.

This was brought home to me yesterday. We were hanging out with some new Revolutionaries and she said that before coming to Revolution she was told, “we don’t like women.” We talked with them about it and she shared some of her thoughts about it. I mentioned, that if a woman gets connected at a church in women’s ministry and gets her spiritual needs met, not only does this keep her husband from having to fulfill his God given role as the spiritual leader of the family, but it will keep him from getting connected at that church. He will come home from work, feel tired and think to himself, “She’s connected, I’m tired, so we don’t need to do anything else at church.”

At this point, most women will speak up in disagreement. Yet (and her husband did this), almost all men will say, “That is exactly true.”

Ask most Christian husbands why they aren’t more involved at church and they will eventually tell you it is because they don’t need to be because she is. He is “So and so’s husband.” Too many churches by looking through the lens of women have actually created a place where a man doesn’t want to or feel connected to. (A great book on this is David Murrow’s Why men hate going to church).

The funny thing is that if I didn’t tell you this was our target, you might not be able to tell. We try to do it in subtle ways, but the reality is women will go to church with a man, but it doesn’t always happen the other way around. In fact, I can’t tell you how many women have come up to me and said, “This is the first church my husband likes.”

We believe that biblically, the husband is to lovingly lead his house, he is to pastor his wife (and kids), he is responsible to God for the spiritual well-being of his wife and kids and will one day make an account for this before God. Not the woman. This doesn’t mean that men rule over their wives in a domineering way or always get there way. Men are called to love and serve their wives and kids. But they are also called to lead them spiritually. That’s what we want to do, call men to fulfill their roles and responsibility. We want men to be men.

If we pull this off, we will be the most family friendly church in Tucson.

Links of the Week

  1. Tiger Woods trangression & the gospel. Great insights as to what we can learn from what has happened in Tiger’s life.
  2. Aaron Menikoff on Preparing to preach.
  3. Cody Brasher on the courage needed to be a leader.
  4. 7 ways to protect yourself and your marriage from an affair. I wrote something similar about the boundaries Katie and I keep, this is incredibly important for every couple, but especially for pastors.
  5. Mark Driscoll on When was Jesus born? This is a common question I get a lot from people and this is a good answer.
  6. Stuff Christians like asks the questions, “How do you invite people to church?” This will make you laugh.
  7. Pastors are always there for people who are hurting, but what about when they hurt? Who Pastors the Pastor? This is a great article in Christianity Today.
  8. Tim Keller on How to handle criticism.
  9. What if Target operated like a church? Great question, they would probably go out of business or at least turn people off.
  10. Perry Noble on 7 reasons church plants fail. This is right on.
  11. 5 hard truths for church planters. If you are a planter, thinking about planting, part of a church plant or support someone who is, you need to read this. It is hard to describe what planting does to a person and their family.

Planning a Preaching Calendar

Ironically, how we plan our preaching calendar at Revolution is one of the most common questions I get from other pastors. In fact, in the last 2 weeks I’ve been asked about it almost a dozen times that I thought I would share how we decide what we preach on and how far out we plan and why we do it this way.

First off, plan ahead. I am stunned by how little planning goes into some churches. You would think that pastors don’t care what is happening in their churches. Naturally, I am a planner, so this is easier for me and actually more comforting when it is done. For example, the other day I talked to a pastor that said, “It’s Thursday and all I have is a title.” That’s like saying, “All I need is a chip and a chair.” We need better odds than that when it comes to preaching. Now, before you get on my case, God does speak at the end of the week, God does change what we are to see while we are walking up to the stage. It has happened to me and it is exciting and scary all at the same time, but this cannot be our normal practice.

At Revolution, we have decided that the best way for us to reach our mission and target is to preach through books of the Bible. This does not mean we are against topical (that’s a bad discussion in my opinion), we just like doing it this way.

We split series up into two categories:  attractional and missional. Attractional will feel more topical, felt needs, but are based on a book of the Bible. Some examples:  Song of Solomon, 30 Days to Live (which was topical, see we aren’t against it), The Sermon on the Mount. The other category is missional which tends to be more formation, doctrine, theology. Some examples:  Becoming, Jonah, and Hebrews.

We also try to alternate between Old and New Testament books of the Bible. What we are trying to do is to make sure we are giving our church a healthy balance not only of books of the Bible, but also styles and feel.

After the sermon on the mount, we are planning to kick 2010 off by preaching through Nehemiah which is a very mission/leadership focused book.

One thing that we preach on every year is marriage, dating and relationships. For our target and culture, this makes sense. You can check out the series we are starting in 2 weeks here: www.iwantanewmarriage.org.

What about length?

We haven’t bought into doing a 3 – 6 week series only. Hebrews took 18 weeks and Nehemiah will take 22 weeks. For the sermon on the mount, we decided to break it up into 4 smaller series to create more on ramps for our church and guests this fall. The length of the series is not that big of a deal as long as the speaker is up for it. Long series are draining. We try to stay away from doing long series back to back as that is draining on me, our team and our church. After the serious feel of Hebrews, we did a video teaching series with Dave Ramsey which felt completely different.

How far out do we plan?

We look about 12 months ahead when it comes to thinking through topics. This is where so many pastors do themseles a disservice. The other day I was reading a leadership book and the author was quoting and pointing to the book of Nehemiah all over the place. Without knowing that I wanted to preach through this book, I would have missed a ton of great information. Could I have remembered it and gone back to it? Sure, but that is risky.

My point is, plan ahead in some way. By planning ahead we are able to do a lot more creatively as opposed to go week to week.

Are we flexible?

Yes. Just because we are planning something does not mean it is written in stone and unchangable. Over the summer we were actually planning to preach through Habakkuk but decided about 4 weeks out to do the life of Elijah instead, which proved to be the right move. Before making the change though, our creative team let me know we had not gone far enough into the creative process for that series. It is important to not waste your team’s time.

For our creative process, we look 6 – 8 weeks out as we think through atmosphere, visuals, video clips, dramas, cover songs. As we get closer, Paul takes us through a process of honing in on what we will use and how it will flow.

How long would this take? Not very long. In fact, if you sat down right now and made a list of topics you would like to teach on in the next 6 – 12 months you would be well on your way.

When I started preaching through books of the Bible, I picked James to start out with because it was my favorite book of the Bible. Not very spiritual, I know, but it worked and I started to get used to it.

The point is, plan ahead. Way too much is at stake to go week to week.

Now I’ve told you how we do it, how do you plan your series? How do you decide what to preach on?

Assumptions

Assumptions can be a dangerous thing.

In churches, our assumptions keep us from actually reaching people.

We often assume that we can reach everyone. Churches will often say, “Our target is everyone.” While it is true that churches should want to reach everyone, (we want everyone to find Jesus and be a part of Revolution). The reality is, this is not possible. Many churches in this boat actually have no idea who they are trying to reach.

We assume that what worked for us will work for everyone. This just means we get to keep doing the same things and then complain that they no longer work. Only, we won’t say they no longer work, we’ll just start to complain about the culture, how sinful it is, how no one attends church anymore, how church isn’t a priority anymore. When the problem is, we actually don’t care enough about people to change our church to reach them. As Perry Noble said, “These churches give the world around them the finger.” In this boat, we also don’t evaluate our ministries and churches to see if they are still effective. We just assume that because about 10 years ago, we had a group of kids find Jesus in that ministry, it will still work.

We make the wrong changes. This is dicey. We often change the wrong things or don’t take our changes far enough. In many churches that are trying to reach our world, churches that actually do care about the world around them, they change the wrong things. We add some candles, loud music, the pastor wears jeans and talks about starbucks, we think this will work. Churches in this boat make organizational changes when in reality, they need to be making cultural changes. Lipstick on a pig still makes a pig, I don’t know where I got that, but I can see Alaska…

We need to get past our emotional ties and our assumptions about ministry if we are going to actually reach people.

Revolution’s Target

A little over a year ago I was reading Why Men Hate Going to Church and felt one of the clearest callings I have ever felt. Most churches, without even trying are geared towards women. The way small groups are done, the types of ministries that people can help with, the way preaching is done, the title of messages and series, as well as the kind of songs that are sung.

After spending some time praying through what I felt, as we talked about Revolution it was clear, we need to target men. We need to call men to be men, to fulfill their roles, to raise up men. One thing every study has ever proven is that if you get the man, you get the wife/woman and kids. If you get the woman, you get the kids and most of the time, the man stays home. For us it isn’t about being cool or even growth as much as we clearly know we are called to this.

We started asking, what do men look for, what does the Bible call them to be, what kinds of sermons and titles would appeal to them, what do men value? At Revolution, we want to be action oriented, we want to be doing something, church is not about sitting on your hands watching the parade go by. When we think through sermons and titles, we ask “Will this appeal to a man?” Again, this appeals to women as well, this does not mean you don’t think about them.

We are also right now thinking through how to do small groups through this lens.

As we looked at who was at Revolution and the city of Tucson (55% of the city is in the 20 – 40 age range) we said, “Our target is 20 – 40 year old men.” That doesn’t mean people out of that age range or gender don’t matter to us, they do. That also doesn’t mean people out of that demographic arent’ welcome, they are. It also doesn’t mean that if you aren’t in that demographic you won’t like Revolution, because you might. We have a good amount of people outside of that demographic. Revolution is 50% male and around 15% is older than 40.

What this means is that when questions come up about what to do at Revolution we ask 3 questions:  1) Does it help people find their way back to God? 2) Does it fit into our strategy, will we stay simple if we do this? 3) Does it reach our target?