Beyond the Pink and Blue

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The Pink

Sugar and spice, and all that’s nice; And that’s what little
girls are made of.

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Today’s girls will argue that they are more than sugar and spice
– much more. More girls today are treading new territories that
were once thought to be extreme for girls, such as playing
organized athletics or becoming astronauts. Today’s girls are more
confident and outgoing than in previous generations.

The pressures have escalated for today’s young female
population. Girls are bombarded with sexual images in the world of
entertainment. And with girls maturing physically at an earlier
age, sometimes as young as 7, these sexual messages are confusing.
Girls are looking for a place to belong where they can feel special
without the pressure of outward appearances or popularity. Girls
need to know that Jesus loves them unconditionally.

What Girls Want

Girls want beauty and glamour. Some girls may
try out the entire makeup case, while others are content with just
the lip gloss. Girls want to be noticed, and thankfully, today’s
glamour can be found in non-traditional venues like the women’s
World Cup soccer team.

Unfortunately, secular society has taken advantage of this area,
and girls are often drawn to wear clothes like their favorite pop
music stars — clothing that’s often too mature. They’re under
great pressure to act and look older than they are. They watch
television and movies where sexual content is the status quo, and
they’re at risk of growing into their teen years thinking this kind
of behavior is to be expected rather than rejected.

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Accessorize inner beauty. Teach girls that true
beauty comes from within. Conduct a class for preteen girls on
inner beauty qualities and how to take care of their changing
bodies. Teach them that God loves them for who they are and that he
looks at their hearts for their inner beauty.

Point out good role models who exemplify this kind of beauty,
such as American Idol winner Jordin Sparks or Olympic track star
Sanya Richards. Compliment and assure girls when they display their
inward beauty.

Welcome girls when they come to church because of who they are
– not how they look. Avoid always choosing the outwardly lovely
children for parts in a musical or to answer questions.

Girls want to shine. Like boys, girls also want
to succeed and be the best at something. Girls are succeeding in
areas that’ve traditionally been set aside for boys to excel in,
such as math, science, and sports.

There’s more pressure for girls to be successful. The pressure
to succeed can develop a perfectionist attitude that can make girls
susceptible to dangerous practices such as eating disorders or
promiscuous behavior. Our culture tells girls that they can do
anything, but sometimes this translates into the notion that they
can do it all. Girls often feel pressure to be the best in many
areas at the expense of precious downtime.

Help girls focus. Assure girls that they can
excel, but caution them that they don’t need to do it all. Provide
opportunities for girls to be successful through games that help
them master tasks. Lead girls in serving the community where
success is measured by someone else’s gain. Provide girls-only
outings where girls can have fun and develop relationships. Provide
mentors who can discuss girls’ personal pressures and can steer
them toward making positive decisions.

Girls want to nurture. This is how girls are
biologically wired; the nature to nurture kicks in. Whether it’s
caring for a doll in the housekeeping center or doting on a friend
who’s crying over the latest crisis, girls want to care for and fix
what’s broken. Even at a young age, girls instinctively know the
significance of what it means to bond with something or someone
they care about.

Nurture their nature. Give girls opportunities
to care for others by having them feed a classroom fish or go on a
monthly outing to a local nursing home. Teach girls about the art
of caring for others, and commend them in their efforts to help fix
problems.

Some girls have absent mothers, either physically or
emotionally, and these girls need not only to mother but also to be
mothered. Provide female mentors whom girls can learn from and talk
to. Teach about mothers in the Bible and the roles they played in
history. Make your church a place where girls are cared for and
have their needs met.

Girls want intimacy. Michael Gurian in his book
The Wonder of Girls says, “The hidden yearning in every girl’s and
woman’s life [is]to live in a safe web of intimate relationships.”
Girls need to feel close to friends, family, teachers, or mentors.
Some desire physical intimacy by craving hugs, while others long
for deep, meaningful conversation. Girls thrive in a community, a
group of girls with common interests and goals.

Danger looms for girls when they don’t receive the intimacy they
need, because they begin to look for it in inappropriate peer
groups or relationships. And broken friendships can leave lasting
scars of rejection and mistrust when girls cast individuals out of
friend groups.

Help girls connect. Help girls form friendships
at church. Make your ministry a safe environment where girls can
talk without being judged. Help kids appreciate one another’s
differences. Provide girls-only small groups, and invite high
school girls to share with girls about friends and relationships.
Teach girls about experiencing an intimate relationship with God
through prayer, worship, and Bible study.

Girls want to be loved. Just as girls want
intimacy, girls also desire to love and be loved. Girls typically
express their love more freely than boys, either in words or
actions.

For a girl, a loving relationship with her father or significant
male adult is crucial as she grows up. Girls will base future
relationships with the opposite sex on the relationships they
experience with their dads. Girls are very observant and need
guidance from positive role models to show them the true meaning
and expression of love.

Make matches for girls. Provide positive male
role models whom girls can trust and relate to. Model how to give
and receive love as you love girls unconditionally. Teach girls
that true love isn’t what’s often portrayed on television and in
today’s music. Dr. David Wall, director of psychological services
for Remuda Ranch Programs for Anorexia and Bulimia in Wickenburg,
Arizona, says, “Loving them with a passion is not an iron clad
guarantee…But a loved daughter — one who sees the love, feels
the love, hears the love, and experiences the love — will not
quickly succumb to the illusions of the world.”

Tell girls the amazing love stories of the Bible and about the
love relationship that God intended between a man and woman. Help
girls strengthen their relationships with their dads by hosting a
dad and daughter dinner or a night out bowling. Most importantly,
help girls know that the most intimate and loving relationship
they’ll ever experience is the one they can have with God.

The Blue

Snaps and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails; And that’s what
little boys are made of.

The age-old cliché says that “boys will be boys,” but what
exactly does that mean in today’s society? What does it mean to be
a boy today? With a deluge of new books regarding raising boys, it
seems that many people are trying to find the answer to that
question.

The world has changed for boys. Our culture has gone from using
an iron hand to groom boys into responsible men to helping young
men find their sensitive sides. Our culture values boys and girls
as our hope for the future, but that value can stress out boys with
its seemingly unreachable expectations.

The saying “boys will be boys” is an important one for us as we
seek to effectively minister to boys. As we better understand what
boys need, we can introduce them to the aspects of the Christian
life that appeal to their boyishness. To ignore who they are,
though, sets us up for certain failure.

What Boys Want

Boys want to build and conquer. Watch boys as
they play video games. Their mission: To conquer and beat the level
they’re playing. They’re relentless as they play for hours on end,
and they search books and Web sites for strategies to help them
conquer the game. They’ll do anything to win.

Boys want to know they have what it takes to one day be men.
John Eldredge, in his book Wild at Heart, writes, “It’s not a
question — it’s the question, the one every boy and man is longing
to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows
he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at
the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is
not.”

Meet boys’ conquering need. Help boys build,
succeed, and master by offering opportunities to accomplish
important tasks. Have boys paint an elderly church member’s home.
Play games in your ministry that encourage teamwork or allow boys
to beat their own scores. Teach them about people in the Bible who
succeeded, such as Joshua or David. Talk about the successes of
Christian role models, such as the St. Louis Rams’ Aeneas Williams
or dc Talk’s Michael Tait. Celebrate boys’ successes, whether boys
make the school basketball team or bring a math grade from a C up
to a B.

Boys want to be brave. I recently observed a
group of preschool boys pretending to be firefighters. A cat sat at
the top of the slide, and they rushed up the ladder as the
imaginary flames were about to close in on the defenseless animal.
One little boy scooped the cat into his arms and slid down the
slide to safety — a self-proclaimed hero.

Bolster boys’ courage. Teach boys how to stand
strong in their faith. Provide boys with the tools they need, such
as putting on the armor of God or being part of an accountability
group, to live out their faith throughout the week. Discuss issues
of good versus evil and how boys can be on the good side. Give boys
opportunities to solve problems by using biblical truths to conquer
tough life situations.

In their attempts at bravery, though, boys feel a great deal of
responsibility and stress, even at a young age. Pressure to get
good grades, to excel in athletics or music, and to behave
appropriately are all part of life for boys. So provide
opportunities for boys to let off steam in a pressure-free
environment; this means providing an activity just for boys, such
as tackling a ropes course or playing a game of laser tag. Have
boys talk with male mentors and each other about the struggles they
face. Let them know that bravery includes putting their trust in
God.

Boys want the “gross-factor.” Face it –
nothing brings a bigger smile to a boy’s face than a supersonic
burp or the opportunity to play in the mud. Today’s media and toy
manufacturers have discovered that marketing gross products is a
quick way to the young male consumer’s pocketbook. Candy makers
serve up gummy snot and earwax candy to eager boys who have pockets
full of cash to spend on these yucky items.

Gross ‘em out. Teach Bible truths using slime,
messy science experiments, or stories like the bug problem during
the plagues. Let preschool boys play with shaving cream or finger
paint. Remember that everything we do at church doesn’t need to
have a deep spiritual meaning to it; sometimes just having fun,
laughing, and being silly can minister to the boy who needs a place
to belong.

Boys want adventure. And they want someone to
share the adventure with. Boys need to feel part of a clan, even if
the clan includes only one other boy. The adventure may be as
simple as a night in a tree fort or as complex as installing a new
engine in a go-cart. Boys appreciate knowing the rules of the
adventure they’re embarking on and want the opportunity to venture
as far as they can without violating the boundaries.

Through their adventures, boys need to have the opportunity to
lead and follow. They need assurance that when one adventure ends,
another one is just around the corner. Boys need to feel challenged
and know that they’re up to the task that awaits them.

Be their adventure guide. It’s important that
boys understand that the Christian life is the greatest adventure.
Instead of stifling the boisterous enthusiasm of a boy on an
adventure, give him the chance to talk about it. Boys need to share
their stories. Use scavenger hunts, dramas, or movie clips to
reveal adventures in the Bible. Let boys work together in groups,
but provide guidance so they know their boundaries. Boys enjoy
challenges, so stretch them with opportunities to be the classroom
greeter or help organize teams for a game. Take preteen boys
backpacking in the wilderness or to rock-climbing gyms.

Boys want to be loved. In his book Real Boys,
William Pollack, Ph.D., says, “The fact is that boys experience
deep subliminal yearnings for connection — a hidden yearning for
relationship — that makes them long to be close to parents,
teachers, coaches, friends, and family. Boys are full of love and
empathy for others and long to stay ‘attached’ to their parents and
closest mentors.”

Boys need people they can trust and depend on. Boys desire
relationships with adult role models who can show them the ropes
and who can speak openly with them about their triumphs and
concerns.

Connect with boys. Provide positive male role
models for boys through trusted adults who can give boys guidance
and validation. Invite dads to be part of ministry events so they
can share experiences with their sons. Express appropriate
affection to boys with high fives or pats on the back. Show you
care by remembering their birthdays or surprising them with
doughnuts on a Sunday morning. Most importantly, let boys know they
can experience a radical, unconditional love through Christ. Your
passion to follow Christ will speak volumes to the boys who you
want to grow in loving relationships with God.


Carmen Kamrath is the associate editor for Children’s
Ministry Magazine. Please keep in mind that phone numbers,
addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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