This blog was written by Mercedes Hayes, member of the INCM Blog Team.
Like many children’s ministers, I joined the ranks by being an over-eager volunteer turned employee.
When I was in the basement volunteering, only 1% of our volunteers were men.
I didn’t have a male Sunday School teacher until I was 16 years old.
It seems an unspoken rule that children’s ministry leaders are female.
Years into ministry, as Children’s Ministry Director, our regular volunteers are 47% male. And they’re exceptional.
If you haven’t really thought about including men in your children’s ministry, now’s the time.
One of our leaders is a world traveler and physical education teacher who has swum with whale sharks, charmed a viper, and been to over 37 countries. He volunteers with 3rd-5th grade kids every Sunday he is in the country.
Another is a graphic designer for a multi-billion-dollar company. He somehow makes ancient material leap out of the Bible and come to life for children ages 4 years to 5th grade.
Still another gets so excited about his weekly memory verse games with his 1st and 2nd graders that he buys personal prizes for the kids.
These are just three of our incredible male volunteers who lead regularly at our church.
There are more.
The thought of not having our dedicated, reliable male volunteers, just saddens me.
And I’m sure in some of your contexts, there aren’t men playing on the floor with preschoolers, engaging grade school kids in small group conversations, or sharing the gospel in fun and exciting ways with the kids of your churches.
If you need to include men in your children’s ministry, here are four tips that have helped me recruit and create space for great male leaders.
They’ll help you, too.
1. Ask them.
In preparation for this article, I asked a few of my male volunteers what I did to make them sign up to teach children’s ministry.
Their answer? I asked.
Yes, it really is that simple.
I didn’t set out to completely change the gender ratio of volunteers in children’s ministry.
Honestly, I didn’t even notice it occurred until other ministers asked me how I did it and wanted to follow suit.
Before ministry, I came from the STEM world where I primarily worked with, instructed, managed, discussed with, disagreed with, and conferred with men.
In fact, for one of my degrees, I was the only female to graduate that year.
Accordingly, I had grown so accustomed to a predominantly male environment that when I became church staff, I began asking anyone and everyone who was capable of teaching to volunteer.
What men in your church can you ask today to join your children’s ministry?
2. Get to know the moms AND dads at your church.
If you don’t quite know any of the dads that drop off, get to know the dads in your ministry through existing events.
When you have a church picnic or gathering, talk with the moms and dads at the event together.
Ask them what they do for work. Ask them about their families. Ask them about their faith story. As an informal interview, you’ll get to know who is there and who might be a good fit for your ministry.
How can you connect with parents – moms and dads – at your church this week?
3. Challenge your own ideas about who can lead.
I was diligent about paradigm shifting. Children’s ministry isn’t “women’s work.”
It is kingdom work.
We’re reminded of this from God’s words to Moses in Deuteronomy 6. Everyone in the community was instructed to demonstrate the word of God to kids, when they were out in the marketplace, at home, in community, wherever they were and at all times.
Teaching children about the love of Jesus and God’s Word is critical to the health of Christ’s Church.
It isn’t meant to be kept in the basement to one singular gender. Even if that singular gender is entirely capable and anointed by God.
We need men to demonstrate to the young boys in our faith communities what it is to be a follower of Jesus.
It models to them what they could aspire to be and shows them that men care about their faith formation at an early age, too.
Have you not asked men because you aren’t sure you think they should?
Ask one male church member to serve this month. See if he gives it a shot.
4. Create policies where everyone can thrive.
When discussing ratios of male and female leaders in our ministry, the question of safety for children has come up.
In high school, I worked for a lawyer who volunteered as a public defender for sexual predators.
The wisdom I learned from that job experience was this: create the rules and regulations for your ministry in a way that even if you have someone who is a threat to children volunteering, the opportunity for the threat is greatly reduced.
This is something I implore people to do.
Areas with children attract people who are inappropriately attracted to children.
Predators can be chameleons of either gender.
There are countless stories of well-respected leaders convicted of crimes against children.
What rules you set apply to your board members, their spouses, staff, staff spouses, and constant volunteers.
It is for the adult’s safety as much as the children’s safety.
Letting your guard down because they are female with a clear background check does not make your ministry safer.
A rule that we have in our ministry is two leaders with children at all times. An adult should not be left alone with children regardless of background check status, gender, years of membership, or position in the church.
If you make a rule in your church like “men can’t change diapers,” that rule should be expanded to “volunteers can’t change diapers.” Don’t let gender biases make you vulnerable in your ministry.
Need help writing policies? Go to the “Free Download” section of the INCM Library and get the “Policy Review Framework” to assess your policies and get up to date for the safety and security of your kids and leaders.
I am so grateful our ministry at my church is blessed to be supported by both amazing women and men of God’s kingdom.
By including men in your children’s ministry, it gives kids a more full picture of what the kingdom of God looks like – men and women worshipping and honoring Jesus our King forever.
Mercedes Hayes is a fun, adventurous, and determined force in the children’s ministry world. As a well-seasoned children’s minister, she loves opportunities to help other leaders grow into their strengths to improve their ministry and ability to share The Good News. Equipping others to use their gifts is one of her absolute favorite things! She loves coffee, dill pickle chips, planning vacations, her five kids, and her ever so patient husband who is always willing to follow her on random adventures.