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Men-Only Church Times Sermons, Meets in Gym

The Church For Men meets one Saturday evening per month, drawing about 70 guys dressed in everything but straight-laced shirts and neckties.
( [email protected] ) Apr 09, 2007 03:04 PM EDT

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - No hymnals. No pews. No steeple. No stained glass windows. And no women.

This ain't your grandma's church.

Organizers of the Church For Men say that guys are "bored stiff" in many churches today.

"We try to make it interesting for them. We meet in a gym and we talk about issues that mess men up," said Mike Ellis, 46, the church's founder.

The Church For Men meets one Saturday evening per month, drawing about 70 guys dressed in everything but straight-laced shirts and neckties. The service features a rock band, a shot clock to time the preacher's message and a one-hour in-and-out guarantee.

Ellis' church is part of a national movement to reverse what many Christian pastors and ministers are calling a troubling trend. Studies show that men are less likely than women to show up on Sunday mornings, and the reaction has been an emerging testosterone theology of sorts. Churches nationwide are now reaching out to men.

One study found that the average U.S. adult church congregation is 61 percent female, said David Murrow, author of "Why Men Hate Going To Church." The research shows women are more likely to attend church, Sunday school and small church groups.

"Going to church is perceived as womanly behavior," said Murrow, who is based in Anchorage, Alaska, and travels the country lecturing about the issue. "We don't go to church for the same reason we don't wear pink."

Communication skills, public forms of affection, such as hugs and hand-holding, and other "soft skills" make many men feel incompetent in church, Murrow said.

Long church services also cause men to leave the fold, said Ellis, who first got the idea for a man-only church six years ago.

"I have the attention span of a flea," he said. "They say that if you don't get a man's attention in six to eight minutes, you lost them."

To that end, followers at Church For Men meet on a basketball court, a large scoreboard with a time clock ensures the preacher's message is delivered in 15 minutes, and the same rock band that opened for Bad Company and the Georgia Satellites a month ago bangs out a three-song set of hard-rockin' tunes.

Ellis maintains his church is not a replacement for the traditional weekly service, but an outreach to what he calls the "largest unreached people group."

Guest preacher Tom Trageser, 45, talked about lust during the church's March service. He finished his message, prayer and all, with five seconds left on the clock.

Some women in conventional churches say the movement to actively involve men is positive and they don't feel threatened by the men-only concept.

"It made me excited to see the men getting together and discussing what they need to be doing," said Carolyn Mills, 58, who attends United Brethren in Christ in Holly Hill.

The religion that began 2,000 years ago with Jesus Christ convincing 12 male disciples to travel throughout the Holy Land on foot has been "feminized" during the past century, Murrow said.

Christian comedian and blogger Chris Elrod recently wrote in his blog: "Musically (men) want AC/DC and we give them Celine Dion. Lyrically (men) want Tom Clancy and we give them Danielle Steel. Spiritually (men) want 'Braveheart' and we give them 'Sleepless In Seattle.'"

The transformation of the church, many think, began with the Second Great Awakening during the early 1800s, which helped to advance the liberation of women. Not only were women attracted to the sweeping reforms pushed by revivalists of this period, but the evangelists would also attempt to reach men through their wives, hoping the wives would pressure husbands and sons to join them in the church, writes Leon Podles in his book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity."

The result, Murrow says, is more women in congregations assuming leadership roles and a natural shift toward a service catered to women.

"If the church is going to survive, we have to get men plugged back in," said Chuck McKeown, pastor of the United Brethren in Christ, where about 55 percent of the congregation is female.

McKeown launched a Sunday night service just for men in November. About 60 men convene outside, cook meat on the grill and separate into discussion groups.

"Men have an affinity with the outdoors," McKeown said.

McKeown also made changes to the Sunday morning service, shortening the service time from nearly two hours to about an hour and featuring more upbeat music, all in an attempt to engage men.

Other churches with a male bent include Grove Community Church in Peoria, Ill. Members there don't have a pastor; they have a "coach," who "integrates a healthy, life-giving masculine spirit throughout the entire church," according to the church's Web site.

"Totally unchurched men are now attending church on a regular basis because of this ministry," Trainer said. "It's an absolute turn toward God through using something men are interested in."

McKeown said that women benefit too.

"We just encourage men to do what's right, to love their wives and family and protect their children," McKeown said.

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