I used to joke about a “blood relative” rule when it came to taking an interest in the lives of children who weren’t mine, and although it was largely driven by fear of incompetence with respect to kid’s ministry, I now think the joke was unchristian and indeed unmanly. The last verses of the Old Testament look forward to a time when ‘Elijah’ would turn ‘the hearts of the fathers to their children’ Malachi 4:6. The God fearing father in Israel was concerned for more than himself and his time. He knew the importance of passing on the ‘decrees’ of God and the story of Israel, so that the nation might ‘always prosper and be kept alive’ Deuteronomy 6:24. Personally he looked forward to the blessing of seeing his children’s children Psalm 128. Israel, of course, were not particularly good at following decrees, including decrees to pass on decrees, and so we find the time of Malachi assuming an age in which fathers were indifferent or hostile towards their children, waiting for a future age when this would no longer be the case.
Jesus, then, brought in an age where we would once again be concerned for those who came after us, for our biological children, yes, but also for children generally – witness Jesus’ response to those who would seek to stop children getting to Jesus e.g. Luke 18. Sadly, it seems that this age has not arrived for some men. We remain, I think, frightened that children will get in the way of all the Things we would like to Do, and it has become passé for us to speak ill of them; I, for one, was never challenged about my “blood relative” rule.
Now if Malachi was referring only to the work of John the Baptist in those few short years before Jesus took over, then perhaps we don’t have anything to worry about. If, however he was also pointing to the pattern of life that would become evident as people started following Jesus – then it is a different matter see the rest of Malachi 4:6 to get what I’m talking about. If that is the case then reversing men’s attitude to children becomes one of those Things we ought to Get Done.
Children Desiring God Break-out Session 1Mobilizing Men for Ministry to Children David Michael
One of my passions is to see men involved in children’s ministry.
Bethlehem Baptist statistics: Our congregation is 30% male and 60% female. Our nursery has 18% male workers. Our kindergarten—2nd grade group has 34% male workers. By 5th grade, our classes are approximately 50/50. 43% of our teachers are male. 23% of our team leaders are male. This is more of an administrative role, and men seem to be less detail oriented. Of our male staff, 19% are single, 69% are married, and 57% have children of their own.
Why mobilize men? (1) Because men need to obey the Word as much as women do.
(2) Because our sons and daughters need the benefit of seeing biblical masculinity up close. “The most important institutions of moral instruction—the family, the church, and the school, are failing to turn out responsible young men”—Al Mohler Our boys are missing the incentives that they once had to rise up and be like men. Our boys are missing training. Our men do not fully understand what it means to be a biblical man and pass this on to their children. Our boys are missing a biblical vision of true masculinity. “As young men, sometimes all we need is a picture of what we could become”—Eric Ludy
Effective ministry to children and youth is effective ministry to men.
(3) Because our children need to understand that Christian affection is for men as well as women. This is why we encourage our men to bring their children into our adult services… so that they will see men embracing God with affection. Young boys need to see that they can do this. Young girls need to desire men who engage with God.
(4) Men are called to be spiritual leaders in the home and in the church. Boys and girls need to witness men leading in the home and in the church. Men who are effective in the home will be effective in our Sunday Schools. Men who learn to be effective in the Sunday Schools will be encouraged and equipped to lead in their homes.
Why are men reluctant?
(1) Stereotypes: Q: Currently the number of women involved in ministry to children out number men more than 2-1. In your opinion what is the reason for this? “Children’s ministry is perceived as more fitting for women than for men.” “Working with children does not seem like manly work.” “Working with children is not perceived as real ministry but as babysitting.”
Over time, the cultural assumption has been that men are not equipped for early childhood work and ministry.
(2) Lack of Confidence. Men feel spiritually incompetent to teach their children, much less lead others’ children. Men feel less confident in their faith, and they feel less able to teach the next generation.
(3) Dominant Female Presence in the Leadership of the Ministry "One important aspect of ministry is the fellowship we have serving with others. For me, this happens best when there are other men to relate to. When I volunteer for the nursery, I just don’t feel at home."
(4) Time “Men generally have more time commitments; committing to a weekly endeavor would push them over the edge.”
(5) Trust Administrators see a legal liability with men, and there is higher parental concern that their children will be abused. Men feel this to some degree.
(6) Low Status This doesn't seem like leadership.
How do we mobilize men? (1) Pray. Secure the aid of Omnipotence. “Your business is to train mortals for earth, and immortal beings for God, heaven and eternity… By believing prayer, secure the aid of Omnipotence”—John Angell James. Isaiah 31:1; Psalm 116:2
(2) Call men to pursue a great challenge. “Many men respond to big hairy audacious goals. I don’t know what that would be, but many men like a good challenge.”—Bethlehem Baptist volunteers
(3) Call men to pursue a great cause—Join us to raise a generation of boys that will act like men and not a generation that will be wimps and barbarians. Call them to be strong and courageous Ephesians 6 men. Men and boys will respond when we call them to take up their cross. “I can tell my 3rd grade guys to look up to me and I get to see their growth every Sunday. It’s a challenge for me and I’m learning what kind of father I might be if I have kids someday.” “I have been able to be a part of 3 young men coming to Christ. This has by far been the most satisfying aspect of the ministry.” “I am excited about Bethlehem’s vision for the next generation and I want to be a part of it.”—Bethlehem Baptist volunteers.
(4) Impress on men their unique qualifications. Men have something to give that women cannot, namely their manhood. See John Angel James’ Addresses to Young Men.
(5) Invite them.
(6) Invest in male leadership. Bethlehem invested in a pastoral position. “Men need other men to inspire them, motivate them, and hold them accountable. There are just some issues that only a group of good men can defeat. Just like there are some things you don’t do alone in life such as swim in the ocean or climb a mountain, men should not go through life alone either. Men need other men.”—Rich Johnson
(7) Feed them! Both physically (have donuts) and satisfy their hunger to learn and to benefit from ministry, that is, satisfy their Godly desires. “This might seem like a strange ‘encouragement’, but I would tell them that it is HARD. This takes time, effort, and energy. You WILL become a stronger believer through this. Your faith WILL grow.” “I love that I benefit as much as the kids. If you want to learn something, teach it.”—Bethlehem volunteers