Use these 6 ways to get more men serving in children’s ministry.
Real Men Do Teach!
But historically, children’s ministry has been predominantly staffed by women. According to George Barna, “Women are almost twice as likely as men” to teach Sunday school. But in our church, we’re evening the odds. Currently, 45 percent of our children’s Sunday school staff is male. Here are 6 things we’ve done to improve our ratio.
6 Ways to Get More Men Serving in Children’s Ministry
1. We help men view children’s programs as a significant ministry.
Men want to involve themselves in valuable endeavors. Men are conquerors. Give them a challenge, and they’ll rise to the occasion. Few men are motivated by a sense of guilt or a desire to rescue a desperate situation. So the all-too-common methods of recruitment just don’t work on men. They’re savvy enough to know that if the children’s pastor is begging for volunteers, something must be wrong with the program. So we’ve changed our recruiting strategy. Before each recruiting appeal, we create several photo ops so people can see the exciting work accomplished in young lives. We have monthly nonrecruiting events like open houses in the classrooms, children singing in services, testimonies from staff or children, or student projects and/or pictures posted in view of the Sunday morning foot traffic. We want men to catch the vision and excitement of children’s ministry before we ever ask them to help out.
2. We abandon the stereotype that children are “women’s work.”
Men need to know that children’s ministry involves other men from the church. So we get men to recruit men. And it works. Unlike the traditional Sunday school room, our fifth- and sixth-graders are taught by seven male teachers and only one woman. Talk about change! At the beginning of this term, we had to actively recruit a woman teacher for our toddler program, since we’re convinced men and women are important at each age level…and we already had three male teachers! Take a look at your ministry to see if it has a predominantly male or female flavor. Little things make an impact on how a ministry is viewed. We’ve reprinted the children’s ministries letterhead-forever rejecting the previously pink stationery! When referring to children’s teachers in print or from the pulpit, we deliberately choose masculine pronouns. Most importantly, we highlight male workers through testimonies and newsletter articles whenever possible.
3. We show men their unique role in the classroom.
Children need to see men in the classroom. Too many of our children have no male role model at home. In one church we served in, as many as 80 percent of the children came from single-parent homes-most had absent fathers. Even for students who live with both parents, male role models add something special to the classroom. Discipline problems are reduced when a man is present in class. A male teacher provides a healthy balance to his nurturing female counterpart when he helps the child take risks.
The absence of men in most children’s ministries communicates a message we don’t want to pass on. It’s a hidden curriculum that subtly teaches children that Christianity is a women’s business. Little girls are subconsciously programmed to believe that few men are truly capable of being spiritual leaders. And little boys leave Sunday school subtly convinced that real men rarely get involved in church and are almost never excited about God.
4. We encourage men.
Unknowingly, competent women leaders can frighten off male volunteers. Many men are insecure about working with children. And some men are intimidated by naturally nurturing women who work alongside them in the classroom. Men are competitors who all too often avoid situations where they feel inadequate or inferior. So we encourage an atmosphere that isn’t demeaning.
Shortly after our daughter was born, Gordon fed her a bottle in the church nursery. One of the nursery workers joked about his awkwardness in burping the baby. It took a few weeks before he was willing to feed her in the nursery again! If one careless remark can intimidate the children’s pastor, think of the damage insensitivity can do to well-meaning novices. Male volunteers need extra doses of affirmation because they’re treading in unknown waters. Men need to know they’re accepted and valued-especially by other men in the ministry. Recently, when asked why he continued to be active in children’s ministries, one veteran leader in our program responded, “Because the children’s pastor told me I’m good.”
5. We provide men with strong leadership.
A capable leader-whether male or female-is very likely to have male volunteers who want to follow. But a poor leader scares men away. Women who serve under weak leaders will often step forward and help the leader be successful. But when a man serves under a poor leader, he often chooses to avoid inevitable conflict by leaving the ministry. To attract and keep men, we must guarantee them an efficient ministry experience.
6. We give men ownership.
Once we get a man involved in ministry, we must keep him involved. For a man to remain, the ministry must become his. To do this, we show trust and respect by including him in the goal-setting process and ministry evaluation.
Gender Bias Quiz
Take this quiz to see if your recruiting invites or repels men.
- Do you ask men to perform roles traditionally filled by women?
- Do you appeal to the conqueror in men by communicating that children’s ministry is a mission worthy of their time and efforts?
- Does your printed correspondence have bright colors and bold images rather than pastels and feminine images?
- Do men recruit other men to join your children’s ministry?
- From the pulpit, do you refer to teachers as “he” as often as you refer to them as “she”?
- Do you encourage couples to minister together?
- Do you provide female teachers in classrooms with all male teachers?
- Is your ministry well-organized to impress and captivate busy men?
- In your training, do you carefully weed out demeaning jokes or references to men’s weaknesses?
- Do you give men decision-making power in the ministries they’re serving in?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you’re on your way to a more balanced volunteer staff. If not, remedy areas where you answered no to encourage more men to join your team.
Gordon and Becki West are co-founders of KidZ KaN Make a Difference and KidZ at Heart International (kidzatheart.org)
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