Reaching Men Through House Churches

This is an old article I wrote at another site that I am removing from there. If you know me, you know that I am now in a "sanctuary church" and not a "house church"


The question has been asked in recent years how men can be brought into the church community. Having planted a church in Lansing, Michigan, in which we met in houses, remained intentionally small by dividing, focused on active love, and did not have a paid minister, was very difficult for some people, mostly women, to get involved in. They just did not view it as church. There were a couple of guys that wanted to become part of our house church but their wives just did not want to. I also experienced this recently with a man who was discouraged with church and excited about the opportunity to be a simple, serving church; his wife was not as hip on the idea and they remained where they were while the man wished he could do more. Some people do not like the idea of a church without all of the bells and whistles while others, and it seems this is typically men, hate the bells and whistles and just want to get dirty serving. Maybe there is a happy middle ground.

When I planted the church in Lansing, I focused on, through prayer and seeking God's will, to plant a church for those who did not like church. It was not to reach men although it became surprisingly effective at doing that. I was/am a man frustrated with the way church is typically done, as if church can be done. I want/wanted a group of people to be the church rather than do church.

Some people, typically men, are interested in doing. Tangible loving actions, otherwise called service projects, would be a better way of reaching these doers (through them participating, not being loved on) and showing them what it means to be a Christian.

Most people desire authenticity, being real and not being fake wherever they are. The problem with authenticity in church is that some people, especially men, are active beings and cannot be all that authentic sitting in a pew. He must be active. He must participate in the conversation rather than listen to a monologue. And many people, again typically men, just do not like to sing songs, yet he is expected to do this in church. Authenticity is not usually celebrated in church - silence and conformity is. Try to be authentic and you might just be kicked out.

It has been expressed to me that "this willingness to just abandon those who are more comfortable with old thinking so you can do it your own way comes across as incredibly arrogant."

I actually view house church as the opposite of arrogant. Arrogant to me would be believing I am right and trying to lead, manipulate, or force people to be church in a way they don't need to. I don't view house church so much as I am "right" but as a valid expression of Christ's body here and now. I do apologize that I might come across as arrogant in defense of it being a legitimate example of Christ's body, a defense I wish I never had to make. Likewise, the view that house churches are viewed as illegitimate comes across as arrogant to me. There should be enough room in the kingdom for "house" and "sanctuary" churches.

A good leader would make the congregation want a proposed change by showing or creating a vision of what that change would create. I find that I am somewhat lazy and would rather start a church rather than try to change a church because I enjoy being in a group of like-minded people serving together without the struggle (although planting a church is a struggle of a different sort) of getting there. To me, changing a church is so much more difficult than planting a church. To others, I have heard the opposite. I would not confuse these character flaws of laziness and selfishness as arrogance.

Planting a church that does things differently to reach those, whether men or women, that are turned off by the current system while allowing those who participate in the current system to continue to do so seems very loving to me. There is enough room for everyone to worship and be the church the way they feel led to. My personal experience has shown that house church is an answer to asking how men can find a love for being the church. When someone asks how the collective whole can reach more men, I consider house churches part of that collective whole and a good answer to that question. If house churches reach more men, the Church as a collective whole has reached more men. I don't see that divide between "house" church and "sanctuary" church; both are part of the Church, just different expressions of Christ's body.

There might be other ways to reach more men. I just propose the one I know but that does not mean it is the only one; it is just the only one I know because I have had the experience of more women and less men in all of the "sanctuary" churches I have been part of. House churches should not need to be defended as being a legitimate way of being a church or as part of the collective community of Christ.

Figuring out how to reach more men is a tough and important question for all churches. I am struggling with transforming a church right now. I am not really focused on reaching men but on how we can reach anyone. My not-so-novel conclusion is that it all has to start with prayer, but some times the cliches are right. There is no answer of practice that would be universal; there is no universal "men's ministry" that can be plugged into every church that would work. What might work in one church would probably not work in another. So if you are struggling with how the local church you are part of can reach more men, I would suggest starting a prayer group for discovering that ministry.

I hate the phrase "house church" because I do not typically refer to the other church as "sanctuary church." Both are just church, but for clarity's sake, I used the phrases throughout this post. I am also not currently part of a house church but think they are very effective at being the body of Christ.