A commonly quoted stat in church world is that Mother's day is one of the most attended Sundays of the year while Father's Day is the one of the least attended. I'm not sure if this is true for every church, but it seems to be the case in my experience of working in and attending lots of different churches throughout my life. There are all sorts of reasons why this is true. If you think about it, Mother's Day is in the middle of May when most church-going families are in the routine of school, work, and church on the weekends. Father's Day is in the middle of June when routine is out the window, kids are out of school, families are taking vacations, and church attendance drops overall. Father's Day also tends to cater to more outdoor activities (going to the lake, going golfing, having a cook-out, etc.), and those activities can often compete with church attendance. Beyond that, I do believe there are some specific reasons why men dislike going to church on Father's Day. I've listed them below, and I've also listed a few ideas about what we as pastors and church leaders can do to address these issues.
1. Men get yelled at on Father's Day in church.
This is something I simply cannot stand. I've seen this in so many churches throughout my life. Fortunately, I've never worked in a church where this is the case. Not every church or pastor does this. But still to this day, so many churches and pastors take Father's Day as an opportunity to beat up on the men in their church. It's the complete opposite of Mother's Day. On Mother's Day you will often see churches go above and beyond to honor moms. They celebrate them. They thank them. They give them gifts. They theme the entire weekend around moms. It's truly a beautiful experience. I'm not speaking against our Mother's Day celebrations in any way. We need to keep doing this and keep getting better at it! But then when Father's day rolls around, the message is often a "butt-kicking" message about how dads need to step up and how men need to step up in general. Sure there is usually a disclaimer that not all dads are bad, but the bulk of the sermon/message/teaching is focused on telling dads how they can do better. I never really paid too much attention to this until I became a dad. But now as a father, I notice it every year. I listen to a lot of messages from pastors all over the country on podcasts each week and without fail, the majority of them are delivered with a negative tone each year.
2. Father's Day is typically an afterthought for most churches.
If we go back to the stat I threw out at the beginning of this blog, it makes sense that churches put so much effort in to Mother's Day. After Christmas and Easter, it's typically the highest attended day of the year. So it's no wonder churches are pulling out all the stops to make it fantastic. On the other hand, it feels like most churches have just given in to the idea that Father's Day will be poorly attended, so why should they go above and beyond to make it awesome? Also, because of the timing of Father's Day, it's pretty common for many churches to be understaffed due to vacation schedules (isn't that kind of ironic?), so pulling off anything extra creative or special can be an additional challenge on Father's Day. Once again, as a dad, I am typically underwhelmed by what most churches do to celebrate fathers. The "afterthought" is felt pretty well by most dads in the congregation.
3. Attending church is often in conflict with what a lot of men want to do on Father's Day.
As I mentioned above, the stereotype of Father's Day is that it's a day to get outside, to go to the lake, to go golfing or fishing, or to have a cookout. When most people think of Father's Day, their first instinct isn't to think "church." I'll let you in on a little secret: a lot of pastors feel the same way. Most pastors don't love Father's Day at church. When they reflect back at the end of the year on the best weekends of church, Father's day is probably not hitting the top 10 list. If they could, I bet you a lot of pastors would rather be at the lake or golfing or cooking out too. I'm not arguing that any of these things are more important than church. I'm simply saying that Father's Day is traditionally a day that finds itself in conflict with church attendance. It is a reality of our culture, and it's something that a lot of pastors use as fuel for their message when they yell at the men who are there. Sometimes I wonder if they are really just yelling at dads because they are angry that they have to be in church too. (Uh-oh. This blog just got a little bit real. I bet somebody's not going to like me after this one's over.)
Alright, enough of my ranting. I think I got it out of my system. Now let me try to offer a few ideas that might help address these issues so that men will go from hating church on Father's day to loving it.
1. Don't yell at men on Father's Day in church.
Stop it. If you are a pastor and your sermon is already written for tomorrow and it's full of negative, critical comments about dads, then throw it away and get a new sermon prepared for tomorrow. I never understand why we yell at the men who are in church on Father's Day about how most men don't go to church on Father's Day. That makes no sense! I've heard so many pastors give the excuse of how most men, even a lot of church-going men still aren't living up to where they need to be as husbands and fathers. Therefore, they feel like this is the day to address it. That's crazy and stupid. Father's Day is a day to honor dads. So honor them. Go find some awesome dads in your church and tell their stories. Don't focus on the bad fathers. Celebrate the good ones. Give the men in your church positive examples to look up to rather than pointing out where dads are failing. If you need to address areas where men need to step up, pick any other weekend out of the year to do it. But not on Father's Day. That's just dumb. Whatever you do, stop yelling at dads on Father's Day.
2. Make Father's Day as much of a priority as Mother's Day for your church.
You may say that I'm crazy, and you may be right. But I think that Father's Day should get the same amount of effort and attention in your church as Mother's Day. As I mentioned before, one of the reasons men aren't showing up is because they know we (church leaders) don't really care all that much about it. It's like we both have some sort of mutual agreement that we aren't going to try very hard to make Father's Day special and we won't expect very many of you fathers to show up. Imagine what would happen if you pulled out all the stops for Father's Day. I know of a church in the Cincinnati area called Crossroads that does this same sort of thing on Super Bowl Sunday. Seriously, they took the weekend that nobody wants to go to church and turned it into their highest attended weekend of the year. They have over 50,000 people show up for it every year. All because they decided to put in some extra effort on a weekend when no one else thought they should. What if churches did the same thing for Father's Day? Think about what kind of impact we could have.
3. Instead of competing with Father's Day, leverage Father's Day to your advantage.
What if your church cancelled all of your normal services and did a huge cook-out on Father's Day instead? You could serve breakfast with bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausage, waffles, bacon, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and bacon. I bet you want to go to church now don't you? Or what if you brought in some classic cars and did a car show? Or what if you had a hole-in-one chipping challenge with a good prize for anyone who won? What if you replaced a bunch chairs with inflatable baby pools and told your dads to wear swimming trunks to church on Father's Day? Maybe I'm getting a little ridiculous here, but I'm trying to prove a point. If men love doing things on Father's Day that conflict with a typical church service, then find ways to incorporate some of those things into your church experience. Who knows, you might just take Father's Day from the most hated Sunday to the most loved Sunday by the men in your church and your community.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. You may disagree with me, and that's o.k. Feel free to comment below and give me your feedback.
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