More Than a Few Good Men

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Simple strategies to get men more
involved in your ministry.

The Bible says fathers should teach children the truths of God, so
why are so few men working in Sunday school? Could it be that we’re
turning them off before they get a chance to serve? Are we
unintentionally frightening them away once they volunteer? After
years of service, observing the church at large, and talking with
children’s ministers across the country, we’ve come to think
so…but we also believe change is possible.

We Need Good Men

Throughout the history of the American church, women have done
most of the work of teaching children in Sunday school. Women teach
kids using techniques that are better suited for girls; and the
boys, feeling like failures and finding no male role models, drop
out of church as soon as possible. When they become dads, many stay
home and send the kids to church with mom. This is a cycle that
must be broken by getting more Christian men involved in
relationships with boys and girls at home and at
church. 

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The truth is that children’s ministries unintentionally do a lot
of things that act as a natural repellent for men. Here’s the
unvarnished truth about what you need to do to get men more
involved.

Truth About Men #1: Men still prefer traditional
roles.

Before you ask one more man to get involved with kids at your
church, stop and evaluate the messages you’re presenting from a
man’s viewpoint. What elements are uncomfortable or distasteful for
the men in your congregation?

  • Stop making children’s ministry “look”
    feminine.
    Weed out subtle statements and actions that
    create an anti-masculine atmosphere. Throw away the stationery
    printed on pink paper and evaluate your thank you notes-they’re
    probably designed to appeal to women. Most men won’t join the
    nursery staff if you require them to wear aprons. And staff
    meetings that involve tea and small sandwiches or that are held
    during workdays tell men (and working women) that they’re not
    invited to serve.
  • Give children’s ministry a male
    makeover.
    Use strong colors and exciting activities
    that appeal to men (and boys). Consistently communicate male
    involvement in children’s ministry. Use male teachers to give
    testimonies in church, and use masculine pronouns (he and him) when
    referring to children’s volunteers from the pulpit and in your
    church bulletins or newsletters. Be efficient with time; keep
    meetings succinct and save social conversations for after the
    meeting.
  • Ask three or four men who aren’t involved to
    evaluate your ministry.
    You’ll be surprised at what
    you hear. Ask questions such as, “Do you feel welcome here? Are our
    classrooms inviting to you? What changes would we have to make for
    you to want to be involved?” Listen closely to their answers.

Truth About Men #2: Men want to be around
other men.

Once you’ve removed the barriers, it’s time to recruit men in ways
that connect with the male psyche.

  • Men recruit men. A man is much more
    likely to be recruited when he’s approached by another man,
    especially when the position is one that might’ve previously been
    seen as “for women only.” If you’re a female leader, pray for and
    then pursue one significant male leader who’ll walk alongside you
    for this specific purpose. Explain to this man his unique ability
    to help you influence the ministry, and then have him talk with
    other men to explain the importance of the “guys” getting
    involved.
  • Those men recruit more men. Some men
    simply don’t like going where no man’s gone before. Men prefer to
    serve where other men are already serving. As you recruit, try
    teaming two or more men to work in the same room or program. Pair a
    new male volunteer with a male mentor. As you find one willing
    volunteer, ask him to recommend a buddy with whom he’d like to
    work, and then mention his recommendation when you call his
    friend.

Truth About Men #3: Men want to know what
they’re doing matters.

Men must believe they’re having purpose and impact. Our temptation
is to reduce the commitment to get men in the door. But the
opposite approach is more effective.

  • Help men see children’s ministry as a way to impact
    the world.
    Most men aren’t motivated by desperate
    pleas for help from the pulpit. Instead, use recruiting tools that
    involve humor and feature men making a difference. Communicate that
    team members play a critical role in evangelizing and molding the
    future leaders of the church.
  • Provide leadership and structure.
    Many women will step forward to “rescue” weak leaders, but most men
    will refuse to board a sinking ship. Leaders who can’t get and keep
    male volunteers need to evaluate how well they’re leading those
    volunteers and focus on being effective.
  • Involve men in meaningful ways. Don’t
    ask dads to come in and hang out. Allow a man to take ownership of
    the ministry and make it his. Male volunteers have their own style
    of running a classroom or teaching a lesson. Trust and respect them
    enough to allow this freedom, and the men in your ministry will
    flourish.

Truth About Men #4:
Men want to succeed.

Men won’t engage in activities where they fear looking or feeling
incompetent, inadequate, or inferior. Unfortunately, highly
competent female leaders can unknowingly frighten off male
volunteers. (Most women are naturals with kids; most men
aren’t.)

Offer men training in ways that aren’t demeaning. Never humiliate,
put down, or demean a male volunteer, even jokingly. When possible,
have a trained man share his experiences with the new guys; he’ll
be able to relate to the issues on their minds.

Truth About Men #5: Men-like women-want to be
appreciated.

We all want to know we’re appreciated and seen as significant, and
your male volunteers require at least as much appreciation
as female ones. Men also like to be appreciated by other men.
Recently we asked one of our teachers why he’d re-enlisted for
another year. His response: “Because the children’s pastor told me
I was doing a good job.”

If men are motivated to volunteer because they see a way to make a
difference, acknowledging the difference they’re making is a
primary way to encourage and retain them. Point out the unique
contributions they make.

  • Only men can be male role
    models.
    If a man does nothing more than show up, he’s
    still made a contribution a woman can’t make. We frequently tell
    men: “Thank you for being here today. As a man, you’re making a
    powerful impact on these boys and girls. They need to see a
    Christian male role model.”
  • Men reduce discipline problems. Any
    female teacher will tell you that having a man in the classroom,
    from toddlers’ to preteens’, almost always reduces discipline
    problems and calms the classroom.
  • Male leaders spice up classrooms.
    Mom’s God-given role in the family (and classroom) is to nurture
    and protect children. Dad’s is to challenge and launch children.
    Men are risk-takers and add an element of excitement to any
    classroom. Children thrive when they receive a healthy balance of
    protection and challenge.

Only by changing our actions will we change our results, and
this is especially true when it comes to involving more men in
children’s ministry. It’s time to stop doing things the way we’ve
always done them. Let’s keep our boys in church by giving them men
to follow.

Gordon and Becki West are founders of KidZ KaN Make a
Difference and KidZ At Heart International (kidsatheart.org).

This article is excerpted from Children’s Ministry Magazine. Don’t
miss another issue, subscribe today.

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