I know how you feel. There are certain things your husband hates about church and you aren’t sure what to do about it. I know how you feel because my husband really didn’t like church for a while, either. And I’m married to a pastor!
Twice over the past 25 years, my husband, Hugh, stepped out of his role as a senior pastor to recoup from burnout and re-evaluate his heart for ministry. During that time, he not only examined why he does the things pastors do, but having had time on the other side of the platform, he saw the stage from where your husband sees it, and experienced some of the same things as your man.
In addition to being a “guy in the congregation,” Hugh has also led several in-depth small groups for men in which they got real about what really bugged them about church. I asked Hugh to lend some insight into “10 Things Your Husband Hates about Church.” Coupled with my 30 years of experience discipling women who have told me what their husbands think about church, too, we came up with this list of “the terrible 10” – at least through the eyes of a man.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/PhotobyKarlFredrickson
1. Predictable Services
Many men thrive on spontaneity – or at least changing it up from time to time. So, a routine your husband can predict with his eyes closed doesn’t help when it comes to sitting for an hour or more in church.
Said one man who was fairly new to church, “Three songs, announcements, offering, sermon, closing song. C'mon - add some variety to raise the expectation and anticipation level. I really don't mean to nod off during the riveting message, but there are some things that can be done to keep me better engaged. Surprise me (and please don't think I mean ‘Entertain me’).”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Rawpixel
2. "Meet and Greet" Time
The typical church asks its congregation, men included, to “meet and greet” each other during the service. In every service. But this can feel awkward for men, whether they’re first-timers or have been there for years.
The husband of a good friend told me: “After I've already been greeted by the wonderful person at the door who hands out the bulletins, please don’t have a special time in the service to make me turn around and greet someone else. Let me be honest - I have friends. I know how to make friends. How about simply offering coffee and donuts before and after the service, sprinkle some of your smiling staff around, and let the meet and greet time happen more naturally?”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/kk5hy
3. Lovey-Dovey Jesus Songs
Singing to Jesus as the Lover of my soul and asking Him to hold me in His arms and "draw me close" makes me feel next to heaven. For my husband– and probably yours, too – it feels a bit odd.
Instead of singing "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" and rocking back and forth with arms raised high, my husband would be much more content singing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and other battle cries.
Hugh put it this way: “Yes, I know Jesus loves me and I love Him back. But a lot of guys say that and express that differently than the ladies. Please don’t expect us to sing ‘Jesus, hold me close,’ ‘Lord, You’re Beautiful,’ and ‘Savior, Wrap Me in Your Arms’ out loud and in front of strangers. Help us out by mixing in some manly songs like ‘The Battle Belongs to the Lord’ and ‘Rise up, O Men of God’ – and hint – not just on Father’s Day.”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/DesignPics
4. Dumbing Down Religious Language
My husband has a degree in theology and often, as he would sit in church, he’d hear the senior pastor explain simple terms, not just when it came to theology, but in practical life as well. In many churches there are CEOs of companies, attorneys, doctors, and other highly-educated, intelligent men who can grasp what a teaching pastor might think is too heady.
As one husband and professional educator said: “Some pastors get the idea that we don’t know their theological terms and can’t handle the heady stuff. Look, I’m educated and I'm a professional in my field, which means in the workplace I'm expected to know and understand some complicated terms. I'm pretty sure that in church, if the pastor explained it clearly enough, I can grasp the meanings of "sanctification,” "justification,” and “eschatology.”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Gutzemberg
5. Trying to "Connect" Him with Others
While you and I, as wives, love to open up with one another and share our feelings in small groups, our husbands often need more of a trust factor to feel comfortable with that.
“Don’t assume we build friendships the same way women do,” Hugh said. “We don't."
“Sitting in a circle of 8-12 people who I barely know, and being expected to open up and ‘share’ my deepest fears and innermost struggles? Wow, you're asking a lot. Our gatherings look more like a rugby scrum. Men forge friendships by overcoming obstacles together; taking on a demanding task and getting it done as a team; facing a challenge with a buddy and gaining the victory be it by blood, be it by sweat, or be it by tears - hopefully by all three.
"Phrases like ‘Can I trust you?’ ‘I’ve got your back’ and ‘We’re doing this thing to the end - you and me’ – those are the bonds and contracts of male friendship.”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/JHershPhotography
6. Roping Him into Service Too Quickly
For some men, it’s progress that they got up early on their one day off a week and came to church. But what is often expected of them once they walk through the doors? To come back repeatedly, get involved, and start heading up a ministry!
A man needs space and time to see what opportunities there are to get involved in a church. Once he has that space and time, he can take it from there. Remember the coffee and donuts idea one man suggested before or after the service? The pastor or church leaders need to strike up a conversation with him there and get to know him first. If they keep it light and sincere, he'll probably be the one to ask them about ways he can get involved.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Ingram Publishing
7. Failing to Challenge Him
A man needs to make sense of his work, his calling, and even his volunteer work in his kids’ classrooms. So if a church is going to ask him to sacrifice his time and money, it must give him a compelling enough reason to do so – one that’s so audacious, life-altering, and straight to the point that it makes him sit up and take serious notice. What a minute? Isn't that the gospel of Jesus?
If your husband is getting a nice little sermonette to make him feel good about coming and it’s not really resonating, it’s possible he’s waiting to be challenged by the hard sayings of Jesus like “whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Now you've got his attention.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/cudger
8. Overcommitting His Family
Chances are you are another family that is over-scheduled. Sadly, more families are finding it difficult to prioritize even weekly Sunday attendance. But if the church starts adding to your already over-scheduled lives, your husband is most likely going to resent it.
Todd said it best: “I'm glad my wife and kids like going to your church. I think it's important for them to find ways to serve and to help others. But my kids also have homework and sports games and chores. And my wife helps my kids with homework and sports games and chores. So the next time the call goes out for more volunteers for Vacation Bible School or the next kids’ activity, please be considerate of those people who are already doing plenty for the kingdom cause.”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/neirfy
Whether it's the reason the youth pastor was dismissed, or why the congregation’s math on the annual budget seems to be better than that of the executive board, your husband is a smart guy and he wants the truth. No excuses, and no wishy-washy rationalizations. And he can tell when someone is sugar-coating something or constantly changing the story.
As one man said: “We’re all adults here and we can sniff out a smoke screen a pew away. We most likely have already heard a sermon or two about telling the truth over the past year, so here's a golden opportunity to put that into practice. Tell us straight-out what the issues are and leave the politics to the politicians.”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/RynioProductions
10. Too Many Songs and Only Half a Sermon
I bet you thought your husband preferred a quick sermon and then an exit for lunch. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard men complain about lengthy singing and limited sermons. One man told me, “If they could do four less songs and give the pastor that extra time to teach, I’d be good.”
We all have different tastes, and yes, worship is important. But worship is not limited to music and song. The teaching of the Word is as much a part of worship as the songs, special music, and offering. If your church has a pastor who is a great expositor of the Word, your husband wants to hear him teach, not just taste hors d’oeuvres, but never get to the main meal. Encourage your husband to write it on his “attendance card” that he’d like to hear more of the Word and it may not only get him closer to liking church a little more, but it will be music to his pastor’s ears.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and award-winning writer who helps women and couples find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books including When Women Walk Alone, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband and When Couples Walk Together, which she co-wrote with her pastor/husband, Hugh. For more information and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Highwaystarz-Photography
Originally published Tuesday, 01 August 2023.