Sunday, June 04, 2006

Church Is For Old Women – Unwritten Curriculum Lesson 1

The most powerful lessons that children learn are not in our formal teaching plan. Despite our good intentions, children learn more from our attitudes than our Sunday school hour. This can be a powerful tool for the good – or it can erode the foundations of their faith.

Consider a child’s typical church experience. They begin in the nursery. Where almost exclusively female volunteers care for them. Then they are promoted to a Toddlers class. Again, it is mostly women who provide instruction and care. Soon they begin Sunday school proper. There is an occasional male serving, but they are often teamed with their wives to become the “crowd control.” Many churches have a children’s church. The normal organizers of this ministry are also women. This scenario has one theme repeated weekly – church really isn’t for guys.

God uses women for his glory. Certainly, this is true. He has blessed the church with these faithful servants who are training up the church of tomorrow. I see no problem with women serving, teaching, and leading in all these ways. They have been faithful when men have failed. has also writen about this problem. "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." has an article titled, "Why men hate going to church," by David Murrow. He writes:

Then there's our reputation as a place for little old ladies of both sexes. Many guys feel church is a "women's thing." Most men are introduced to Christianity by women – nuns, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, and mom. Boys meet a feminized Jesus – a tender, sweet man in a shining white dress. Most volunteer opportunities in church involve traditionally female roles: singing, sewing, cooking, caring for children, teaching, planning social gatherings, etc. There's nothing for a guy to do – unless he has a passion for attending meetings or passing out bulletins.
But what does the absence of the men communicate to children? For the first ten years of their church experience men are missing. Is church really just for women? These messages can be amplified when we structure programs that are not sensitive to the unique behaviors and interests of growing boys. Too often teachers lament “all those rowdy boys” – but the Sunday school must accommodate the energy that boys bring to the learning environment. Others have written about the feminization of the church in general. I suspect that a lack of male involvement in the children’s department is certainly a contributing factor.

Men often feel uncomfortable working with children. But this should not be so. Dads and grandpas have a natural connection to children. Their deep voices command respect. Kids are often drawn to men. What about the scripture passages that instruct men to take the lead in the faith training of their children?
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, "Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. (Proverbs 4:1-4 ESV)

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV)
We must challenge the godly men of our churches to get involved in children’s ministry. We should openly call on elders and deacons to accept their role in the faith training of the next generation. As long as the men stay away we are only reinforcing the unwritten curriculum.


R. Mansfield said...

Yes, we can talk about gender roles all we want and the authority of the husband over the wife, but when it comes down to who we entrust children to in the most formative years of their development, it's to women. I think, for one thing, women with God-given instincts to nurture naturally are attracted to this kind of roles. However, the presence of even one man can mean so much to young children. Good and timely post, Tony.

Tony K. said...

Thanks - God's design in gender certainly are complimentary.

G. F. McDowell said...

The church where I've been a member for the last five years is very careful to
1. put men in the teaching roles in sunday school at every level, and
2. spread out responsibilities for nursery, church cleaning, sound board, sunday school, greeting, etc. as broadly across the membership as possible.

The Associate Minister writes the sunday school curriculum and mails it out to the folks teaching the classes that particular week. Every quarter, the executive minister publishes the master list of tasks and who is assigned to do them, and they are distributed to everyone in the church directory. Usually, as a rank-and-file member, you'll only have to do anything once or twice a quarter, so it's not onerous, however it is very explicitly understood in our church that serving in these functions is expected of members.

The paradigm in most churches I've visited has been that the same "volunteers" do the same tasks week after week, resulting in a morbid 80-20 rule where it is mostly women taking on the bulk of the work.

In our church, areas where lay men serve weekly include: Greeter (we have at least a dozen who rotate), sound board (4-5), projection (4), leading worship (7-8), cleaning the church saturday night, teaching sunday school, assisting in nursery, taking care of the coffee, preparing the Lord's Supper, and I'm sure I'm missing some. All these jobs, except for working the sound board, projector, and leading worship, can be and are done by any of the men in the church, and all of them are on a rotation so that serving in them is a minimal burden.

R. Mansfield said...

Guillaume, just curious--why does your associate minister write curriculum every week? That would seem like a huge task--especially with all the good curriculum out there.

Tony K. said...

I think we have to be intentional with getting men involved in the children/nursery ministry. If men never serve among the children it sends the wrong message. Thus my post.

Guillaume - it looks like you guys have a definate plan. I agree about the volunteer method resulting in problems. Having the elders/church leaders draft people according to their ministry gifts could have a lot of potential. Thanks for the comments.

G. F. McDowell said...

Rick, I guess that's a good question. The short version is that the sunday school curriculum follows the preaching schedule. When the kids are in sunday school, they're hearing the same passage of scripture that is being exposited to their parents upstairs in the sermon hour. Sunday School is really only for grades 1-6 in this paradigm, starting from jr. high school age, kids hear the sermons with the adults. I've been told that in the South, sunday school is for all ages and sermons tend to run a half hour or less. I suppose if there were that many sunday school classes in our church, we'd resort to one of the published series.

G. F. McDowell said...

On another note, I think I've verged into cheerleading my church again. It's the best church I've ever joined, (it's also the only church I've ever been a member of) and I tend to think our way of doing things is the only right way. I don't mean to come across that way. I will be tearful my last sunday before I move south to Southern, and it will be a bittersweet goodbye. This is the church where I came to repentance and faith in Christ and been tremendously sanctified by the saints. My parents' pastor helped me enormously by saying that while no church can replace the one I'm at in my heart, I shouldn't be looking for something to replace it, but something in addition to it, if that makes any sense. When I come to the south, there will be things about the church I will wind up joining that will chagrin me, there will be others that will bless me, and there will be still others that will transition from chagrining me to blessing me. I look forward to learning a lot while in Louisville.

R. Mansfield said...

Interesting, Guillaume. Thanks for the explanation. I hope you enjoy your ADULT Sunday School class when you get to Louisville. Or better yet, find a church where they are short of good teachers and teach a class.

G. F. McDowell said...

To be honest, that might be an area I'll have to grow into. Will there be flannelgrams? ;)