Trying too hard to market to millennial males can backfire

This post could be considered a follow-up to my last post regarding the relationship between apologetics and worship. I suggested in the article associated with the last post that one must be careful when using a Fideist approach. Truthfully, I am still wrestling with the use of such an approach for evangelistic purposes in a corporate worship setting. I certainly know of churches that appear to be winning lost souls using such an approach. However, we must be careful in how we market our selves, not that anyone is super excited about the word marketing being associated with evangelism anyway.

 Consider the following example from the business world. Burger King has realized after a few years of heavily marketing to millennial males that their narrow and short-sighted plan has backfired. It appears the cool King scares kids and is probably not a favorite of moms. I’m not suggesting that any churches I know of use sexually explicit marketing to draw people to an altar call, but do we sometimes use crude communication to be cool and thus attractive to the 20-something or 30-something male demographic. I will be the first to admit as a man that we men generally struggle with the edge of where communication is interesting and entertaining and where it begins to become crude. Most men I know are guilty of crossing the line at times. I think most ministers will admit that crude communication even happens sometimes in a staff meeting. But, should we not seek to be super careful to make sure we keep our communication holy in the context of public worship. And yes I realize God cares just as much about my crude thoughts and language that might be shared with 1 or 2 as he does with language that is shared with a group. However, it seems to me that we should collectively seek after the ideal in corporate worship settings. Let me also clarify that I am not trying to single out a single personality in the evangelical church that might be guilty of such behavior. Rather, I am seeking to encourage thoughtful self-reflection that will help us to carefully consider our methods.

34 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Beth Tucker on August 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I think first we need to look at exactly what are we marketing. Are we marketing who we are or who we worship? When I went to the churches I evaluated I noticed how visitors were greeted. At one church I was not greeted by anyone. Our culture today is so diverse on every level. Some people want to be able to just go in, sit and leave without having a connection with anyone but the Lord. When I was greeted I knew people were at the church to worship the Lord. By their greeting I knew they had sincere hearts. I would have never known that without walking in the door. Many times I have driven by two of the churches I visited. Their signs outside of their church sometimes didn’t say the nicest things for those who aren’t followers of Christ. From an evangelical point of view if I were a new believer or not a follower of Christ but curious, I would not have gone through the doors. They weren’t marketing the love of Christ. The Burger King people are right. It boils down to the mothers. Mom’s make many of the decisions when it comes to eating. Today I would venture to say that would be true about church. But what exactly are mothers looking for when they visit a church? Are they looking to see if Christ is the focal point? Are they looking to see what is being “marketed”? Are they interested in how the preacher preaches? Moms are looking at how their children are cared for. We have currently been struggling with the Preschool ministry at my church. Since this is my job, I have been in countless discussions on how moms always judge a church on how their children are cared for. I am not a mom. How kids are cared for are my top priority but not being a mother has been a challenge. Because I am not a mom I don’t think about every detail a mother does. WIth the help from some mothers of Parkway we have made tremendous changes to make our Preschool Ministry top notch so parents can evaluate the church on more than just their children’s needs. If parents feel their children are being taken care of, they can then focus on why they are at church.


    • As a church planter I am concerned in how we are attracted the men. I believe that you are right, in that, the moms/women make a majority of the major decisions. Most of the church is made up of women and kids, but I would like that to change. I want to reach the men, because I believe that if I do, I can effectively reach the family. So I want to “market” towards the men.


      • Posted by Richard Beatty on September 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

        I have been told by a previous professor that the number one struggle among men today in America is not what you might think, .i.e. various sexual issues, but in actuality it is anger! Men in America today are by and large an angry lot. I believe this is largely the fault of pop culture. The role of men in American pop culture has been minimized to the point that we have been effectively neutered, at least in a psychological way. Watch any TV sitcom and see how the man of the family is portrayed, usually a self centered, absent minded fool. The same is true of commercials. Men are made out to be bumbling buffoons who need a map to button up their shirt. Then observe how Jesus has been portrayed in the movies over the last 50 or so years and you will see a wuss that no man in his right mind desires to emulate! Men are angry because we to thrive on respect and honor, two attributes missing in pop culture media. This has a real world chilling effect on real family life, thus the high divorce rate…? If you want to “market” a ministry towards men utilize honor and respect as the hallmarks of that ministry and see what kind of fish you catch as you go about being fishers of men!!

      • Adam, I agree. I think as new churches are planted they need to evaluate how to effectively reach men in their city. I think mom’s will appreciate a church that seeks to turn her husband into a godly man.

    • Posted by Mike Cobb on September 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      Dear Beth,

      I would have to agree with you: mothers do make the decisions [for the most part] concerning worship for the family. Recalling my own experience of attending worship, my father would sit in the parking lot reading the paper while my mother brother, sister, and I attended the service. My father was raised in a strict Baptist church, but I attented the Catholic church. Certainly, we know that the father should be the spiritual leader in the home. Men have abdicated their responsibility, and the result is that mothers make the majority of the decisions regarding worship.


      • Posted by Beth Tucker on September 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

        NEAT STORY:

        This past month we baptized a 6th grader who made a decision to follow Christ at camp. Her brother is in 4th grade and is also asking great questions. Jakob, her brother, has been BEGGING his dad to come to church. He talked with me about it many times. When his sister was baptized their dad came to church. Jakob told me it was because he has begged him so many times his dad was tired of his asking, so he came. Jakob was so excited. Ever since that Sunday his dad has been there with Jakob. Dad’s can be reached…

    • Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 17, 2011 at 10:41 pm

      I too believe that men have abdicated the role of leader in favor of a selfish pursuit of personal pleasure. Even married men have been relegated to a position of follower rather than leader. Maybe that is because they have been forced to subordinate their intentions and actions to the whims, and forceful leadership, of their wives. Maybe they have just become lazy. But the fact that women have taken over as the leader when men have withdrawn from their responsibilities cannot be denied. From the pulpit we hear strong teaching regarding the roles of men and women, but it seems the men cower away while the women are forced to take over. I wonder why this happens, but the answer seems to be non-submission on the part of men and a willingness on the part of women to refuse to hold the men accountable for refusing to submit and lead.


    • Posted by Jeremy Willis on September 19, 2011 at 2:44 am


      Thank you for your insights on marketing and how a church is often evaluated. It is important to keep in mind that all things are looked after in the worship setting. I am thankful for the thankfulness of the many women who take up the role of a spiritual leader. I know that men can and are reached for Christ. It is my prayer that more men become spiritual leaders in the home.


    • While mom’s may be making the decision many times on where to attend church this doesn’t change the fact that if we want to see generations of families changed we need to reach more dad’s. Men need to be engaged and challenged. The best way for this to happen is for Christian men to stand up and reach their peers. We need more Christian men with a burden for lost dads in their city.


      • Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 24, 2011 at 2:43 am

        Truer words have never been spoken. The men of our churches today have abandoned their roles of leadership. But, part of the fault lies in the lack of leadership teaching and preaching. We have fallen to the worldly lie that it is femenine or sissy to be a manly leader. Personally, I believer that good discipleship training is the key. I am so sick of “Sunday School” where lessons are canned from some quarterly that is written on a 5th grade level. I know there is a need for literature in most instances, but the teaching in most churches today is so filtered down that there is very little challenge to anybody. Men need to be challenged to be real men in Christ, and to know how to stand strong in that faith.

  2. Posted by Donnie Jones on September 12, 2011 at 3:20 am

    I agree Adam. We have got to reach our Men, so that they can reach the family. The statistics show that if we can reach the men, that they are most likely to reach the family. I agree that our childrens progroms have to be excellent, and we should do all we can to reach children by making things attractive, be we must not “Put all our eggs in one basket” and try to reach children by makrketing toward them and their moms.

    Basically, it’s about making sure that all aspects of ministry are done well and do all we can to reach our fathers. If we can reach our fathers, the mothers, as well as the children will come even if we sit on the floor, played with dried up play-dough, ate stale cookies, and drank watered-down cool-aid! Reachig “Dad” is key! When this takes places, the doors begin to open for ministry and amazing things only God could pull off!


    • Yes, the church needs to be reaching out to every age group and generation. A church is a family and a group of just women is not a church, a group of just men is not a church. Worship and fellowship can happen in those situations but we need to do a better job trying to reach everyone and not just a certain demographic segment.


      • Posted by Brad Gaunt on September 23, 2011 at 1:31 am

        I most definitely agree. The church must reach each generation. Often, this is broken down into children’s ministry, youth ministry, and adult ministry. But the church body is much more diverse than that. I teach the RA’s at church and even within that group there are different needs for the younger ones than the older ones. Reaching men and especially fathers cannot simply fall into the “adult ministry” section. It needs to be intentional. Once the father of a family is reached, this affects the rest of the family. Personally, I think that much of the problem with reaching men is the stigma that women are the spiritual side of the relationship and the men are the “reality” side. I quickly hear women talking about what God has done in their lives while men might talk about sports. For men to see godly men within the church who are not afraid to be upfont about their faith would likely stir a change in many men. When you visit a church, who greets you? An older lady. What about when a man greets another man and tells him about his faith? That would change the opinions of many skeptical men.

    • Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 24, 2011 at 2:48 am

      Well spoken. Churches have lost signt of reaching men and have concentrated on children. Of course, we need to try to reach children, but we like to use the children as a means to reach the family. We should be trying to reach the parents (or parent) first, then let that work fall onto the family. I do not think there is any easy answer to this, especially when there are so many families with just one parent. In the end, we just need to witness and let God do the work.


  3. Posted by Ben Purvis on September 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    All of you guys make great points regarding worship. First, moms typically do make the majority of decisions based on the perceived needs of the children and thus act accordingly. I also firmly believe that statistics are correct in that the man of the home will bring his family to church and disciple his children if he is committed to following the Lord. However, the crux of the original blog was centered on targeting the millennial males. If the church seeks to cater to this demographic, there is real danger for the church to falter that goes much further than “we need to win the men to Christ”. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the millennials:

    1. Often referred to as the “Peter Pan” generation because of immaturity and seeking to delay the onset of adulthood.

    2. Instant communications such as email, IM, text message, etc. have changed the way relationships interact, develop and maintained.

    3. Most likely to be socially liberal.

    Some churches have taken these into account and have run full speed at targeting this demographic. Hence, the rise of pop culture in the church to be socially relevant is one example to show this idea. We’ve seen pastors become much cruder in their language from the pulpit and the line has been blurred between relevant and reverence. I think the blog ultimately was that we need to be very careful when targeting this group so that the church is not compromised. After all, the last thing we want the church to become is like that creepy Burger King or that 30 something guy that still comes to high school parties because he was “cool” back in his teens.


    • Posted by Jeremy Willis on September 19, 2011 at 2:50 am


      I agree with the point you made about needing to maintain reverence while seeking relevance. It is to easy to fall into a trap of overly pursuing that what is cool today without thinking about how it will play out in the future.


    • Haha, great points Ben. I would say that the church needs to reach these men so they can be discipled to follow Jesus, get of their mom’s couch, get a job, and be a man. I think we can reach out to these men but we need not try and attract them with their sin. We need to challenge them to grow up.


  4. Posted by Mauricka McKenzie, Sr. on September 13, 2011 at 5:12 am

    I agree we should be very careful to make sure we keep our communication holy in the context of public worship if we want to reach and keep the millenials engaged and active in public worship continuously.


  5. Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    The problem is that we seem to have the mindset that we are to “market” the Word or the Gospel message. I would challenge anyone to demonstrate such a mandate from the Bible. Jesus said “if I be lifted up, I will bring all men to me.” The modern church has tried to turn itself into a magnet that draws people. The magnet is every conceivable plan, program or process imaginable……except the simple truth that soul winning is God’s way. I do no think that the church should “advertise” the Gospel, it should personally spread the Gospel. This applies to men and women in all aspects of life. Targeting a specific group or sex is to negate the overall ministry of the Holy Spirit as we let him lead us to those to whom God would give a witness. We should make Jesus the focal point of our witness. Jesus as a man attracts manly attributes. Reaching out to males in a definite is not what I would consider “marketing.” There are many ways to give opportunities for lost men to participate in church functions, and those should be used. But the message of the Gospel is generic, it knows no prejudice, is color blind, and focuses neither on men or women. After salvation, those roles are definitive, but that has nothing to do with salvation. Jesus used harsh words sometimes as he witnessed or confronted others, but his language was never crass or crude. He spoke the truth, as we should do. Often, to speak the truth means to confront the “manly” attributes that lost men so often rely upon to show their manhood. The grace of God cuts through the facade of hidden sins and rebellion to the call of salvation.


    • Posted by Ben Purvis on September 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      Good thoughts Jerry. At times we can come off as gimmicky salesmen who are trying to market a product as if we are selling used cars. On the other hand, when Paul addressed the Aeropagus he definitively contextualized the message in a way that was more appealling than if he were speaking to a different culture. I think that ultimately there is room on both sides and we must be very conscious about making the truth of God relevant for TODAYs generation while at the same time being careful of being a gimmick.


      • Posted by Sarah Johnson on September 20, 2011 at 7:17 pm

        Ben- I agree with your desire to make the Gospel relevant in our time. While making the simple and pure message of the gospel into something that it is not should always be avoided, I do believe that people in today’s culture must understand why the message of God is any more important than the other hundreds of messages that we receive for the media in any given day. The Gospel has endured throughout generations unchanged, but it is our job to draw the attention of those who need to hear it back to this life changing message.

      • Posted by Ben Purvis on September 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm

        Thank you, Sarah.

        I guess I look at a lot of this discussion the same way I look at the various groups within the church. Let’s take VBS, for example. Without a doubt, children need to have the gospel presented to them so that the Holy Spirit can work within them and bring them to a point of conviction and acceptance of Christ as savior. However, do you present the gospel to them in the same manner you do a 28 year old male? Of course not. And why is this the case? Because children think, act, and process information differently. Chances are, your average VBS kid isnt going to understand the details of a substitutionary death atonement that provided the propitiation of sins. Nor do I think that all kids will truly grasp the magnitude of how sin completely separates them from their heavenly father. If we present the truth in a different light so that a different age group will grasp the concept, should we not also present the truth in a different light so that a different people group can grasp the concept?

      • Posted by Brad Gaunt on September 23, 2011 at 1:47 am

        Ben, I agree that contextualization is key with the gospel. It should not be a gimmick or “marketed” to others. It is not something that we sell and make a commission off of. The basics and truths of the gospel must not ever change no matter how we are telling someone about Jesus. Sin will always be sin. Grace will always be grace. But how we deliver the gospel and disciple people must change with the context. Telling someone about Jesus in the South will look different from sharing with someone in New York. You have to know the people that you are ministering to. The gospel must remain the same and not be tweaked to become more marketable, but the process of telling others about the gospel changes with context.

      • Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 24, 2011 at 2:55 am

        So true Ben, but the task of making things “relevant” is complicated by the fact that in most neighborhoods there are many cultures that generate various “relevant” implications. Just a trip to any neighborhood demonstrates the complexity. America is very unique in that it is not a race of people, it is a blend of many races. Most cultural issues are race related, and that causes some prejudice if we are not careful. For example, if a member of a church where are no blacks goes visiting and meets a black man, that natural prejudice will manifest itself if care is not taken. How can anybody invite that black man to a church where he might be the only black person there, much the only black man? It takes the grace of God to get beyond these barriers. The gospel message is the same to everyone, but sometimes our perceptions, and actions, are influenced by the attitudes and environment of our own church family.

    • Posted by Mike Cobb on September 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm


      I agree with you, particularly in the use of the Word of God. I listen to sermons at times that are so practical in application that the depth and mystery of the Word is lacking. I believe the Word of God can stand on its own merit. As far as marketing the gospel other than considering the local demographics of the congregation, we should always present the Person of Jesus Christ as not only the sole way to salvation, but also as the very model of manhood.


    • Posted by Sarah Johnson on September 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      As I read your post, I was reminded of a story that was told by the preacher in chapel today here at NOBTS. He said he remembers hearing this illustration in a sermon by Dr. Kelley when he was a professor. Dr. Kelley held up a vinyl record of Elvis’ music, then you showed a newer single track record that still contained Elvis’ music in a different format and required that people play it at a different speed. Then you held up an 8-track, a cassette tape, and finally a CD (which were new at the time) and pointed out that they each contained the music of Elvis. They were each must packaged and delivered in a different manner. I agree that we should not have to “market” the word of God, but we must deliver it to our people in a manner that they can recognize and deal with. As the preacher today pointed out, we can’t be 8-tracks in a CD world.


  6. Posted by Richard Beatty on September 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    I don’t know that I am necessarily a big fan of John Maxwell but his principle of the “law of the lid” would seem to apply here quite well. As spiritual leaders we cannot expect people to mature beyond our own spiritual high point so long as they view us as their spiritual leaders. Thus if we use crudeness in our talk we will never see our flock as-it-were mature spiritually. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:4 “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting…” As leaders we must be extremely vigilant about the words that come out of our mouth’s. The older I get the more I realize that “short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.” (Winston Churchill) In other words less is more when speaking!! God gave us two eyes, two ears, and one mouth. Thus the proportionality of one’s use of those senses ought to coincide accordingly! 🙂


    • Posted by Mike Cobb on September 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      Dear Richard,

      How often is such a simple point over-looked. Without Godly men and women as our leaders, how can the laity be expected to follow Eph.5:4. Certainly without the leaders of the Church expressing the nature of Christ, the blind are leading the blind.


      • We must be careful to not violate the command of Eph. 5:4 with a desire to be trendy, cool, or relevant. Nothing is more relevant than a life transformed by Jesus that loves God and people.

  7. Posted by Mike Cobb on September 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    This blog has nothing to do with the above subject.
    After reading and studying Dr. Woodward’s paper concerning incarnational worship, I was struck by the revelation that even if we aspire to pure worship a tendency to become puritantical in our worship is a danger [Hunt]. A disembodied extreme in worship conflicts with Jesus’ admonition to worship “in spirit and truth.” At times charismatic worship can be guilty of this no matter how sincere the worship is. On the other hand, culturally relevent worship can, at times, lose the theological reality that the Holy Spirit is the initiator of genuine worship.


    • Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 24, 2011 at 3:04 am

      Great observation, and I fear that the status of the church today is to try to walk a line that is pleasing to everybody and offends nobody. Sometimes, I think we lose our perspective of the purpose of community worship. Although the church can have an evangelistic message, the purpose of corporate worship is to edify the body..not win the lost. The message itself, the true gospel message, is extremely offensive, and it is intended to be. But, we do no have to BE offensive as we share. If we would learn to meet with God in a personal way during a corporate worship service, out attitude, and subsequent actions, would demonstrate the love of Christ in the midst of an offensive message.


  8. Posted by Christopher Fuselier on September 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Mike, your comments are so true. People need Godly leaders to guide them in the right direction. It is the way God has designed it. We see this taking place in the early church in Acts.


  9. I think the key here is that we can aim at reaching men without using crudeness as a tactic. Simply put we need to reach men. If we are going to reach families we need to reach men more effectively and we need more godly male leaders in many churches. I think this can be done without crudeness though. I think we need to thoughtfully think through how we do church as a whole to come to a good conclusion.


  10. This post gives good insight into the thoughtlessness behind much of church marketing. We must consider how our marketing will affect our targeted audience as well as those outside of our audience. I was at a church who put up three billboards that I openly spoke against in staff meetings. They included phrases such as “kids are have more fun at ________ church,” “students are stronger at _________church,” and “families are healthier at ___________church.” In each of these phrases, the name of our church was included instead of the blanks. I put the blanks so I would not condemn the actual church. I asked how this would make church members of other churches feel. I do not like the comparison game and I think it leads to enmity between sister churches. Also, I think that non-believers might see such a message and think the church is being very arrogant. We have to be careful and above approach in how we do marketing.


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