by Karl Fleig/ November 8, 2016
Recently a 4-year-old boy proudly shared his newfound revelation on life: “Girls are differenter than boys!”
We all can smile at this often-played out scenario in children’s ministry. We can see the wheels turning as his young mind grapples with the revelation that the other gender not only looks and dresses differently but has different interests in toys, conversational topics, and play modes. Those differences, while influenced somewhat by society and culture, are innate in every gender from birth.
Many children’s ministries leaders know that incorporating learning styles and age-appropriate activities allow them to better disciple children. Research now bears out that when the gender of the child and the unique needs of that gender are factored into the programming and discipleship approaches by those ministries, they can have an even higher level of effectiveness.
While the needs of both genders are many and equally necessary, let’s look at the top four needs of that 4-year-old boy and how focusing on those needs through the lens of his gender can greatly increase the effectiveness of our discipleship to him.
1. Boys today have fewer role models to help them understand what a godly man is. Over 40 percent of homes are single parent without the influence of a man. In the homes where dad is present, the average time he spends with his children is 10 minutes a day. In our educational system, there are even fewer males—91 percent of all teachers are female. Television and movies are devoid of accurate pictures of what it means to be a man. Manhood can only be learned by a boy in the company of men; therefore, it’s crucial that the church be intentional in providing opportunity for godly men to live out the biblical model of mentoring—which is the older men teaching the younger.
2. Boys today face greater challenges in navigating life issues. Suicide rates are 3.5 times higher for boys than girls. Adolescent boys are more likely to be involved in serious crimes, with over 95 percent of inmates being male. School grades and graduation rates are dropping in alarming numbers for boys. Currently 21 percent of boys in grades first through fifth are identified as having a learning disability. Churches that facilitate the presence of a mature male’s influence in a boy’s life help that child navigate the challenges of growing into a man and drastically reducing these percentages.
3. The learning styles of boys and girls are quite different. Boys need more space to spread out. Movement is very necessary as it helps a boy’s brain stay active. Boys lose interest more quickly than girls and thereby get bored more easily. This is, in part, the reason why boys are diagnosed with ADHD seven times more frequently than girls. Boys will engage in conversation more easily if they are involved in an activity versus the typical classroom structure of sitting, listening, and talking. Creating an environment that takes into account the needs of a boy and is designed to address these needs will greatly facilitate the learning and retention of godly lessons.
4. In addition to learning styles, there are unique topics that relate to each gender. Subjects that relate primarily to a single gender, whether boy or girl, are generally ignored in coed settings. Subjects like social maturity, rites of passage to manhood, earning and showing respect for authority, or conflict resolution, to name a few, need a biblical perspective. In gender-specific programs, men have spent time and attention on boys. This, in turn, earns them the relational permission to speak into the lives of the boys regarding crucial topics for which many boys don’t otherwise have mature coaching.
Our boys, just as our girls, will face many challenges and temptations in their journey to adulthood. Let’s be prepared to provide them the greatest spiritual upbringing possible. Becoming aware of the needs of each gender, and intentionally programing to minister to each gender as they were created, raises our effectiveness to discipling them into godly men and women.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you would like to train your team on these concepts, download the DIY Training entitled “Capturing the Hearts of Boys and Girls.” CLICK HERE for the link to this page. CLICK BELOW for direct downloads:Spanish