What the Church Can Learn from Buffalo Wild Wings
In a past blog post entitled “Missing Men at Church: Why You Might Be Pushing Them Away,” I shared the unsettling fact that women’s church attendance across America on a typical Sunday outnumbers men 61% to 39%, and women’s ministries outpace men’s ministries roughly 8 to 1. This equates to approximately 13 million more women in church than men!
David Murrow, in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, partially explains why. Murrow lays the fundamental premise that the American church largely satisfies the more stereotypically “feminine” emotional profile—noting that a typical Sunday church experience highlights the aspects of faith focused on pursuing love, deepening relationships, and strengthening connections. Conversely, aspects of the Christian walk that require extreme risk, that highlight adventure, contemplate survival, engage passion, and invite danger, are secondary topics on a usual Sunday. The problem? The latter list is vitally important for the church to connect with the heart of the typical male.
Men begin to believe that “if the wife and kids are happy at this church, then I guess I’m happy too,” yet they are uninspired and unengaged. Not only are men believing this, we have too, and our church facilities and designs have catered to this thinking. All told, the statistics would suggest that we have allowed our churches to become “Titanic churches”—women and children first.
“Your building has a language of its own,” said Derek DeGroot at our 2014 Alignment Conference. What is it saying? Are men included, or is it women and children first?
Closing the Gender Gap
In a post on Church for Men, Murrow writes:
Research is clear: the bigger your man shortage, the more likely your church is in decline. The denominations with the largest gender gaps are also those that are losing the most members. Look at the evidence. Mainline churches suffer huge gender gaps, and they are losing tens of thousands of members each year. Meanwhile, non-denominational megachurches are growing fastest—and they are also the most likely to attract men.
The presence of enthusiastic male worshipers is statistically associated with the following outcomes:
• Congregational growth
• Congregational health
• Unity in the church
• Increased giving
• Retention of young men and women
According to a study from Hartford Seminary, gender-balanced congregations are three times as likely to be growing as female-dominated churches.
Our churches need to re-establish a focus on men, and our buildings need to be thoughtfully designed to let them know they are central to the mission of reaching our communities with the Gospel.
Space That Speaks a Man’s Language
Men crave “masculine” environments, and want their buildings to speak their language. Men are visual creatures, and sight is the first sense we engage to study our surroundings. Companies like Buffalo Wild Wings, Harley Davidson, and Cabela’s understand this masculine, visual language.
A recent article in Business Insider talked about a church starting services in Buffalo Wild Wings. Perhaps inspired by the example, pastors have asked us here at Aspen Group to design spaces that look like the franchise wing joint. Why? What can we learn? Here are a few things you should consider for creating a masculine environment:
Imagery and Technology
Take inventory of the messaging, graphics, and signage in your church lobby and hallways. What does it look like? Static, printed signs are unappealing; quality digital media is attention-grabbing. Happy moms and kids at VBS surrounded by soft colors turn men away, while the high-tech media presentation of the outdoor adventure at your last church men’s missions trip makes the pulse beat quicker. Go digital in as many areas as possible with quality graphics to communicate your message. Keep the images and media changing, and include overtly masculine elements. Paper won’t get it done any more.
Masculine Colors and Décor
Color is the single-most important aspect of addressing masculine design. Spend five minutes searching this topic on the Internet, and you’ll see what millions of marketing dollars already know: colors evoke emotion, and colors are gender specific. The infographic below by KISSmetrics breaks down color gender theory. Now go inventory the color palette men see at your church. You might be surprised to find what gender you are speaking to.
Murrow describes a room in a church that was dedicated to prayer ministry. Once that room was outfitted with elements of a prayer “warrior”—swords, a shield, armor, and masculine color—the participation in that ministry more than doubled, according to Murrow. Décor and furniture can make a space feel more masculine or feminine.
Brand and Font
A church’s brand follows a close second to color in speaking to men. Again, men are visual, and churches often underestimate what their brand, or lack thereof, is communicating. Here are some of my thoughts on the effect of brand on men:
1. No brand = unorganized and not intentional. What is this church about?
2. Multiple brands = unorganized. Who’s in charge here? Too much to figure out, so I give up.
3. Corporate brand = not personal. Church is about people, not a business plan.
4. Weak brand = bad color, wrong font, obscure message. It’s not speaking to me; I’m bored.
After searching the color and gender topic, search the font and gender topic. You’ll be surprised how much this is studied and has been reduced to a science by the marketing professionals. Contact our friends at Fishhook, and they can help you discover how important it is to make sure your brand conveys the right message to your visitors.
Now that you’ve read some of the theory behind masculine design, look at these three company logos. Can you see the gender-specific details that have been incorporated to appeal specifically to men?
The statistics are real; it’s time we think differently about our facilities and intentionally make space for men.