A few weeks ago I wrote about three little things that make men feel more welcome in church.
Little thing #3 drew the most “amens” on Facebook: Don’t allow the band to play after you dismiss.
You know what I’m talking about: the pastor dismisses the congregation, and within seconds the worship band cranks up and plays at full volume. People try to chat but it’s nearly impossible to be heard over the music. Group prayer is out of the question. Worshippers are essentially driven out of the sanctuary and into the lobby or parking lot. Thanks to the band’s need to jam one more time, brothers and sisters who barely see one another during the week must forfeit their best opportunity to “love one another.”
This has gotten me thinking about a larger issue: what do men need after the sermon? How could we conclude our weekly gatherings in such a way that men leave feeling empowered to follow Jesus? Here are five ideas (in alphabetical order):
1. Altar call. Many churches still end each service with an altar call (that is, an invitation to commit your life to Jesus). This is probably the best way to conclude a sermon that’s evangelistic in nature. But issuing an altar call every single week is counterproductive because it tends to breed complacency in men’s hearts. (Men think to themselves: If I don’t respond this week, I can always do it next week.)
2. Men’s Huddle. You can read about the Men’s Huddle by clicking here. This technique can work well with men – and is especially effective in smaller congregations.
3. Pastor’s Challenge. I’ve also recommended that pastors conclude the service by issuing a specific call-to-action based on the message just heard. For example, if the sermon was on giving, the pastor could challenge each member to give one percent of this week’s pay to a local charity – or to give that amount randomly to a person they find in need.
If only 2 percent of the congregation takes the challenge it’s still a success. And the simple fact that the pastor is calling for action will buoy men’s spirits. Remember, a man gives up his weekend to come to church – you’d better tell him why he was there and what he’s supposed to do.
4. Post-sermon discussion. Another great way to end the service is to roll right from the sermon to a quick benediction, inviting those who want to stay for a discussion to do so. Take 30 seconds to allow those who must leave to head for the exits, and then start your dialogue. I saw this technique at work at a church in Cardiff, Wales and it was very popular with young adults. More than 70 percent of the worshippers stayed for “Overtime.” The congregants were encouraged before the sermon to write down their questions, which they served up during the discussion time. This gave the pastor a great opportunity to reinforce his message and clear up any questions his flock may have had.
5. Post sermon music set? Nope. I don’t recommend it.
So what do you think guys? Do you like singing 2 or 3 songs after the sermon? I may be alone in this, but I often find myself irritated when the band returns to the stage after the sermon has concluded.
Once I’ve heard a good sermon the last thing I want to do is sing. I’d rather mull what I’ve heard – or discuss it with others. I’m often desperate to pray and think about how I’ll apply what I’ve heard.
Singing works against this. It forces me to move out of the cognitive side of my brain back into the emotional/artistic side. And that simple biological challenge makes it harder to remember what I’ve heard.
I know the theology behind after-the-sermon singing – it’s supposed to be a way for the congregation to respond to the Word. Personally speaking, post-sermon music sets rarely feel like a response to me – except when background music is used to support an altar call or some other specific call to discipleship.
Pastor, you work hard on your sermon. You want people to remember what you said and apply it to their lives, right? Consider carefully what comes after you preach. Help people remember – not forget.
So how about your church? How do you end your worship services? How might you do a better job empowering men? Comments are open. Or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
For more information about David Murrow and Church for Men, visit www.churchformen.com