Every children’s ministry needs more than a few good men! Here are the top-five reasons to recruit male volunteers.
1. Guys provide a different kind of fun to a children’s program.
2. Guys provide positive male role models for kids.
3. Guys provide a different perspective.
4. Guys can help move your ministry forward.
5. Guys bring in more guys.
So how do you get guys on your team? Check out these practical, innovative ways to recruit more men to join your kidmin team.
From the earliest days of his ministry, Jesus recognized the importance of enlisting the assistance of men and women who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and who had the resolve to stand strong even when facing uncomfortable situations and overwhelming opposition. He made a point of calling people into service who wouldn’t let the little things like mobs of lepers or threats of prison distract them from their mission — people who understood the need to disciple the next generation of followers.
Jesus enlisted men and women who wouldn’t shrink at anything — not even service in the nursery. Not even coping with a frustrated preschooler. Not even facing a firing squad of preteen questions. And yet more than 2,000 years after Jesus called those first 12 men to follow him, it’s tough for children’s ministers to convince a sufficient number of men to follow Jesus into children’s ministry.
How did a faith and a church built upon the foundations of Jesus’ strong leadership, bold actions, and acute interest in children come to have an apparent shortage of men willing to step up and volunteer to serve in children’s ministry?
MISSING IN ACTION
When we consider the latest statistics, we begin to see why getting guys to take an active role in children’s ministry can be challenging, and at times, downright difficult. According to the Barna Research Group, on any given Sunday:
• There are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
• Almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
• Only a third of the 90 percent of American men who believe in God will attend church.
• Nationwide, the majority of church volunteers serving are females.
As Leon Podles succinctly put it in his book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, “Women go to church, men go to football games.”
So how do we overcome the weak presence of men in today’s church and encourage the men in our congregations to roll up their sleeves and get involved in children’s ministry?
The fact is, it may be easier than we think.
A MAN’S GOTTA DO…
At its very core, the call to involve more men in children’s ministry needs to include an approach that truly focuses on creating a culture of serving, stresses Dale Hudson, director of children’s ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. In his book Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children’s Ministry, Hudson explores practical steps that churches, both large and small, can take to actively encourage more men to partner with, and take an active role in, their children’s ministries.
“When a church’s leadership is committed to serving and communicates its commitment to serve, this creates a synergy that helps the men of the church take a greater interest in serving as positive male role models,” says Hudson. “It’s such an important role, especially at a time when so many young children lack positive male role models in their lives.”
Here are key strategies Hudson recommends to increase the male presence on your children’s ministry team.
Intentionally enlist men to serve. Never assume that the men in your church are simply afraid to commit. As with any relationship, it takes time and effort to develop communication and a sense of trust with potential male volunteers in your church. So before you post an announcement in your church bulletin seeking men who like kids and are willing to commit, get to know the guys in your church. Go to where they are in your church — including sports fellowships, small groups, and even groups for retired church members. Remember, when Jesus built his team of disciples, one of the first places he looked was at the marina where the local fishermen stopped to swap fish stories.
After you’ve taken time to become familiar with potential volunteers, share your vision and introduce them to service opportunities.
When approaching possible male volunteers, it’s important to remember that men and women are wired differently. Don’t spend a lot of time highlighting the plight of “hurting” kids or sharing a sad story that’s meant to tug at their heartstrings. Men are much more responsive when presented with details regarding potential results, adventure, and excitement. Stick to the metaphor used by Podles and remember that men want to score touchdowns…not punt.
Ask men to lead your boys’ groups and classes. Today, more than at any point in the past, there’s an incredible need for men to come alongside the boys in your church and provide them with mentors and positive male role models.
An unprecedented number of boys come from fatherless homes and desperately need to be in the presence of positive male role models–even among Christian homes. While many incredible female volunteers have traditionally filled the role of Sunday school teachers — accounting for nearly 80 percent of midweek program participants and comprising the majority of church employees (except for ordained clergy) — only men can be male role models.
While men who’ve reached retirement age may provide a great resource for your ministry, don’t overlook the positive impact high school guys can have in the lives of younger boys. Give every age segment of men equal consideration and effort as you work to increase the male presence on your team.
Have men coach and shepherd men. Let men train and mentor other men in your ministry. Build a community of men who serve together and challenge each other to grow. Remember, men will attract other men to your program.
You’ll also find that many guys will shy away from serving in more traditional roles, such as song leaders or in the nursery. However, men often find it less intimidating to serve when given an opportunity to work closely with other guys leading games, teaching, or providing crowd control at a large event.
Grow your ministry’s masculine side. Traditionally, many children’s curricula, activities, and programs were designed to appeal to, and be presented by, women. This often left men feeling uncomfortable, out of place, and out of touch with their church’s children’s program.
To increase your chances of getting more men to commit to volunteering, beef up the masculine side of your ministry by adding masculine pronouns when mentioning children’s volunteers and programs in church publications. When you have a volunteer appreciation event, avoid the flowers and tea cups. Instead, use a sports theme or serve guy food such as burgers instead of finger foods.
A great way to determine whether your children’s ministry is inviting to male volunteers is to ask men from your church who aren’t currently active in your ministry to come in and evaluate your program. The suggestions and ideas they help generate may be invaluable as you reach out to other men in your church.
Create volunteer positions that men naturally want to be part of. As a rule, men generally despise passive roles. If you create positions where guys can get plugged in and feel they’re having a tangible, positive impact, you’re creating opportunities for greater male involvement.
A great way to do this is to assign new volunteers to positions where they have “to-do” roles, such as on security teams that monitor for disciplinary or safety issues or on your check-in team. Positions such as these can give new recruits a chance to get a feel for your ministry without throwing them into the spotlight or asking them to be directly responsible for groups of kids.
It’s important, especially with new volunteers, to provide opportunities that are closely aligned with the volunteers’ interests and skills so they don’t become quickly overwhelmed or frustrated. When guys have a winning experience, they’ll want to stay plugged in.
Provide flexible scheduling opportunities. Men will often avoid committing to serve in children’s ministry because they feel their schedules are already too full. Help your prospective volunteers understand that you’re not asking for a lifelong agreement signed in blood. Clarify the start and stop dates for any service you ask guys (or anyone) to do. And keep in mind that as companies hit by the harsh economy have reduced their staffing levels, employees are often called upon to complete an increasingly greater number of duties on a regular basis. And as men spend more time at work, they’re less likely to volunteer their time at church. To combat this, provide midweek or other flexible volunteer options.
• • •
According to Stephanie Blackman, a National Service Fellow at the Corporation for National Service who conducted extensive research on recruiting male volunteers, the most important thing to remember is that once you get the ball rolling, it’ll pick up momentum.
“Consequently, one volunteer can create a ripple effect that may influence other volunteers,” says Blackman. “Through this process, of course, a volunteer is often changed as well.”
Matt Gergeni has over 15 years experience as a children’s ministry volunteer and is blessed with three wonderful daughters and an amazing wife.