In so many ministries across the country, the number of girls attending is far greater than the number of boys, especially in the upper elementary and middle school years. This is a disturbing trend. Future Christian families need godly dads, and godly dads start their spiritual training when they are young. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some of my thoughts, followed by a simple large group lesson for boys and girls on Jeremiah 17:9.
1. We are losing boys because we don’t really have boys ministries. We have designed girls ministries and invited boys to attend.
2. We miss a fundamental difference in boys and girls: girls talk, boys “do”.
3. We have allowed fear to tame our boys ministries to the point of being docile.
Boys and girls start together in the nursery with essentially the same needs: dry diaper, warm bottle, and mommy or daddy to pick them up on time. At some point, boys and girls begin to interact with the world in very different ways. Boys don’t scream when a spider is sneaked onto their dinner plate. They say “cool, a spider.” Girls can’t make machine gun noises, or the sound of a sports car shifting gears. OK, I know some of you doubt this, so right now, go ask your wife to sound like Al Capone using a Tommy Gun. We’ll wait……. See, I told you!
As boys and girls begin to change, our approach to ministry should change as well. Usually it doesn’t. Most elementary school ministries are geared toward girls, not on purpose, it just happens. We all sit in neat rows, very still, and listen to our teacher, usually a woman, share a story. Nothing usually gets broken or blown up, at least not on purpose. There is nothing wrong with this approach, it is just geared for girls, not boys.
Girls talk, boys do. If you doubt this, go to Starbucks. Try not to be obvious, but watch the people around you. Most of the folks at Starbucks will be women, usually in groups of two. They aren’t there for the coffee. Watch them sit at one of the too-small-for-human-use tables, lean in, make eye contact, and begin to “share” with one another. It is as if a “tractor beam” comes out of their eyes and lock on to each other as they talk about their families, their relationships, and their feelings.
Two men, on the other hand, go to Starbucks for the coffee. They sit down, turn sideways, occasionally make eye contact, and talk about sports, the weather, or hunting. Men do not indiscriminately “share”. Only with a select few friends does a man talk about all those things women do. There is nothing wrong with this. Its just the way men and boys are made.
Men connect over shared activity. Men “do”. As they do things, communication happens. I have a friend who shares my interest in classic cars. We have enjoyed great conversations about family, ministry, and just life leaning over the fender of his Camero or my Mustang.
Unfortunately, in our litigious society, we have allowed fear of lawsuits to cancel any activity with risk. I will be at the front of the line promoting child protection in every sense of the word. No child should ever be harmed in the ministries of our churches. However, risk can never be completely eliminated, no matter how much hand sanitizer or sani-wipes you use. Activities that boys will remember are sometimes loud, gross, or dirty.
Girls in your ministries learn from shared conversation. Boys in your ministries learn from shared experiences.
Try this with Jeremiah 17:9. This verse teaches that the human mind, or the heart (depending upon the version your church uses) is wicked and beyond cure. It is teaching us about our natural spiritual condition without Christ.
For the girls: Talk about the sin that we all harbor in our hearts naturally; envy, gossip, anger, covetousness. Everyone will admit they have at least one of these. Then introduce the atonement of Christ to pay for our sin.
For the boys: Buy a beef heart at the local butcher. Pass it around in a bucket for them to touch and feel. Once everyone has had time with the heart (a shared experience), ask if they think the verse is talking about the organ that beats inside our chest. Explain that the verse is talking about the core of who we really are and it is sinfull. Then introduce the atonement of Christ to pay for our sin. (Be sure they wash their hands with soap after handling the heart.)
Treat your girls like girls, and your boys like boys. Don’t be afraid.
Have a great day serving Him.