Using cinema to open men’s hearts

Using cinema to open men’s hearts September 4, 2013

This is a guest post from David Dusek, founder of Rough Cut Men, a ministry that reaches men through the creative use of popular film clips.

I’ve spent a lot of time with churchgoing men over the past decade. I’ve been a part of some great “systems” for reaching and discipling men. I have seen some Hollywood-caliber promotional videos and intriguing bulletin inserts. I’ve received hundreds of invitations to men’s events all over the world.

But for some reason, in spite of the barrage of invites, men are still finding a reason not to come to our men’s events – or even to attend our worship services. The average church in North America draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female. The vast majority of men’s ministry programs die within 2 years of launch.

Why are men taking a pass? Don’t tell me they’re overcommitted. One thing I’ve learned is that men will crawl a mile across a desert to do something they perceive as valuable.

Here’s what I’ve observed: a lot of men avoid men’s ministry because they are feeling less than okay with their personal lives. Many are embarrassed by the secrets they keep. Perhaps they don’t feel worthy enough to hang out with a bunch of Christian guys. Many tell me, “I’ll come to church once I get my act together.” They feel that if their lives aren’t perfect they should avoid church. Maybe they just don’t know, like or even trust anyone after being burned along this road called life.

I’ve been there. I’m divorced, re-married, with five kids ranging from 15 to 21. I’m paying two college tuitions at the moment, and living in a house with an underwater mortgage. I have a full-time ministry (my job), bills I can’t pay, and, as I am writing this, a son who is causing me tremendous heartache. The pressure is crushing. There are days I want to quit my job, walk away from the church, fight with my wife and yell at my kids. Yes, I operate a Christian ministry, but deep inside I’m everyman – struggling with the same stuff all guys do.

So I feel alone. And sometimes, I deliberately isolate myself so I don’t have to deal with anybody. This is the natural defense mechanism men deploy when they’re overwhelmed by the demands of life. I become Iron Man – the suit of armor helps me survive, but no one can see the real me.

How do you break through the armor and reach the man trapped inside?

You have to show your men that it’s OK to be a train wreck. And you have to be willing to be honest about your own messy life. Simply put, transparency breeds transparency. Transparency builds trust. Trust builds relationship. And relationship opens the door to discipleship. True discipleship begins when the disciple sees into the transparent heart of his leader.

So how do we get men to open up? A great first step: show them a movie clip.

In times past, men shared stories, fables and songs around the campfire. Men sat in the dark and transmitted these powerful tales to their sons, teaching them the collective values of the tribe.

Today, men sit in the dark and watch movies, which teach them the collective values of our society. Film is the new campfire. It’s the shared culture of young men. And it’s still one of the most powerful pathways into a man’s heart. Men who may be afraid of the Bible are perfectly comfortable discovering truth from the movies they already know.

At Rough Cut Men, we’ve discovered that using a combination of movie clips, real world current events and Biblical truth, it’s pretty easy to get men to engage. Follow these with some intentional discussion about real life and suddenly men are speaking from the heart.

Here’s an example of how we do this:

  • Play the dogfight scene in the film, “Top Gun” that culminates with Maverick getting “killed” after leaving his battle buddy in the middle of the exercise. He’s ultimately reprimanded by Jester, one of the training officers, who tells him to “never leave his wingman.”
  • Follow that with a personal tale of how you’ve failed when you’ve tried to go it alone.
  • Add a relevant news story of a fallen public figure like Tiger Woods whose life ran off the rails due to a lack of accountability.
  • Turn to the story of King David in 2 Samuel 11, whose lusts led to an affair, a pregnancy, a murder and the ultimate loss of his kingdom.
  • Finally, throw out a few open questions: “What’s the worst decision you made or didn’t make? When have you failed by going it alone? Do you have a friend who knows the real you?

You’ll be amazed at the conversations that result. Once a man discovers that he can be honest about what he’s really feeling, his life begins to change. Once he learns he’s not the only guy under attack, he bonds with others.

If you’d like to learn more about Rough Cut Men and the power of cinema to open men’s hearts, click here.

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