Home > Bible, Christianity, Church, community, Quakers, Spiritual formation > Where Are the Men Hiding?

Where Are the Men Hiding?

I want to start this post by stating something I want everyone to hear clearly – I am not writing this as a guilt trip. I am not trying to manipulate or coerce service out of anyone.

But I believe this message needs to be shared, needs to be heard, and ultimately, needs to be acted upon.

Two occurrences have happened over the past two weeks that have made me no longer able to keep silent:

1) During Vacation Bible School, in which 200 children were present every day from 9-11:30 engaging their minds, their hearts, and their bodies with the wonder of a life lived for Christ, there were hardly any men who volunteered to help out. Out of what was probably 50 volunteers (maybe more?) less than 10 were male.

2) When the summer list of volunteers came out for the children’s programming at my church, there were a total of 100 spots that needed filling. 60 of them were filled by women (women who also serve in classrooms throughout the school year), and 10 of them were filled by men (of which one man is filling 8 spots).

And the issue is this:

Men are, generally speaking, absent from our children’s classrooms in the church – and I don’t think this is just a problem at my church.

This is not ok.

I am not suggesting that our educational programs in the church are lacking due to the many women who work tirelessly to plan lessons, share Bible stories, listen to children talk about their week, and create a safe environment for kids to encounter Christ. In fact, in my church experience our children’s classrooms are places where all of these things happen extremely well.

I am not in any way advocating for men to take over the education of our children. That would be equally egregious to men staying out of the classrooms.

The spiritual education of our children is not just the work of women. It is too serious of an enterprise to just leave all of the work to one gender.

The women get this. Thank God for these women!! And here, just like when Jesus rose from the dead and Mary and Martha were given insight to be shared with the men who had scattered, our women are sending us a message we need to hear. The spiritual formation of our children is a vital enterprise in which men and women are needed. The women get it. The men, for the most part do not.

Let’s stop hiding, men! Let’s stop expecting the women to do all the work. Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s join together, men and women, to create space where our young people can see that Christ is present and moving in all of us.

They see it in the women who serve them every week. Many of our children do not get the chance to see it in men.

And so I am calling you – dad, single guy, grandpa, young, old – to be courageous and volunteer your time in a child’s class. You are capable of holding a baby, of rolling a ball across the floor, of reading a Bible story, of telling a child about how you saw God this past week.

The spiritual growth of our children is everyone’s business. Stop making excuses, either to yourself or to others, and give one hour a month, or perhaps even 1 hour a week, to investing in our children. Help them to see that many people care about who they are becoming, how they are experiencing Jesus – because the more people they have in their lives who express care for their growth, the more likely they are to remain committed to serving Jesus their entire life.

  1. Jenn
    June 26, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Preach it, Jamie!

  2. June 26, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Thank you Jamie! There are somethings that I think you can say, that I simply cannot…or at least when I do, it is not received in the same way. But you speak truth and I appreciate your noticing that we need EVERYONE – young, old, men, and women to serve. It’s time to put faith into action and honor what I believe is the most precious gift God gives us…children.

    • June 26, 2012 at 10:09 PM

      I totally agree with you, Michelle. I’ve felt convicted about it for a few weeks now, and I just can’t be silent about it. And, with the popularity of the post, it seems like it is touching a nerve for many people. Let’s hope some change comes from it!!

  3. June 27, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    Jamie, I hope you can stand a little “eldering” in terms of feedback. I do really appreciate your concern about men’s involvement in children’s ministry. But I don’t really see much depth in your considering why men stay away or how to involve men in a way that appeals to a male way of thinking. Seems to me that that would be a better question. Just bashing them and implying that they are lazy or uncommitted isn’t that helpful. In essense you are asking men to fit in a vision of Children’s education that may be hard for them to see. “Here, teach this on Sunday and then follow our education vision.” In many cases it is a uneasy mix.

    In a church here in Newberg, two very “manly” men agreed to take one of the age groups and plan it themselves. There are field trips to the local horse ranch or farm, nature walks, and a variety of things that gets the kids outside where they can learn from the creator by discovering the wonders of the world God created.

    My 5th grad SS teacher was a man and I still count that as the only year I looked forward to SS. We did leather work, climed up into the bell tower, talked about every thing from what farts were made of to to why God would kill his son. I am still his friend and hold him in the highest regard because he went to the effort to incorporate the questions he knew we needed to discuss, and did it in such a way that we trusted him with our questions and feelings. That was 55 years ago, and I still remember his teaching.

    I would encourage you to get the men together and listen to them and ask what kind of SS would have appealed them as children. Ask them what kind of program would attract their

    And also don’t just assume that anyone can teach a class, male or female. I was a Friends pastor for 33 years and never darkened the door of the classes for kids unless there was no one left to do so. I love children but am at a loss to find a way to interest them.

    I’m sorry if I have offended you. I often offend people by speaking my mind. But your concern is excellent, and you are right that it’s just not right to leave the whole load to the women. That is so disrespectful of their other gifts. They should be preaching and providing insight to the congregation.. But I think the problems lies waaaay before you start asking for volunteers,

    Enough said. May God bless your efforts and give you wisdom as you think about addressing thiis common problem of men avoiding working with Children. You have a prophetic voice, and people need to hear it. And best of all, I promise to stay out of your busy life and ministery. If you have read this far I am deeply honored by your generous gift of time.

    Your brother in ministry, Stan Thornburg

    • June 27, 2012 at 6:34 AM

      Stan, thank you for your reply! Please don’t feel the need to apologize. I appreciate the eldering and the feedback. I do want to push back in a couple of ways:

      1) I apologize to you and to everyone else if this comes across as bashing. I tried hard to not do that, but instead to encourage men to consider stepping into something they are reluctant to engage. There were many times I deleted lines I felt were too aggressive, and I’m sorry that some still made it through. I do not mean to guilt people or bash them.

      2) I’m fairly certain that any church would approve of a Sunday school proposal from a group of men to teach children experientially, like you mention. Why aren’t they coming to the pastoral team at their church and asking if they can do that? I think we often use excuses that something just isn’t our style so we don’t have to engage it.

      3) I don’t expect everyone can teach a class. I do know that everyone can do one of the following: hold a baby; roll a ball; read a Bible story; share about how they saw Christ in the past week; lead an art project; ask a child some questions about their life. Maybe someone does not feel they can teach, but there are many other roles to fulfill in a child’s classroom.

      I’m pretty most churches are open to different ways the spiritual formation of their children can be accomplished. All I’m asking is that men, who are by and large absent from the classrooms, stop making excuses and look for ways to plug into one.

      Thanks, Stan! I appreciate you.

  4. June 27, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    How would you deal with the stereotype of men in regards to abuse of children? We have some situations at our church (mostly in our parachurch ministries) where the moms practically run the other way when they see a male teacher (in birth to preschool age). They don’t seem to mind when it’s a husband/wife team, but “just a guy” seems to bring out some pretty heavy emotions.

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:41 AM

      Thanks, newnormal, for your thoughts. This is perhaps one reason that men stay away, though I imagine many of them do not think, “I shouldn’t do children’s ministry because people might think I’m a pervert.” Yet, it does not change the reality of the world, which is so heartbreaking. I think the easiest way to do this is through team teaching, mixed gendered leading of the classrooms or even, especially in middle school and high school programs, a team of men teaching the junior high boys, etc.

      One of the many issued the church can be a light in darkness…

  5. Melanie
    June 27, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Good post, Jamie. A truly egalitarian church will be so in all ways. And good thoughts, Stan. I have loved the experiential learning my boys received in their SS class this year from Gary Fawver and Josh Reid. It has engaged them in ways traditional delivery methods do not. I hope our churches can continue to discuss what it means to be egalitarian in theory and (perhaps more importantly) in practice.

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:43 AM

      Thanks, Melanie. That is the trick – egalitarian in practice, during a time in culture where men are often described as apathetic, narcissistic, detached. I honestly believe that many men would have a blast helping out somehow on Sunday mornings – and if they were given freedom to sculpt it as they desired, even more so…it’s just a matter of getting them interested.

  6. Jason L.
    June 28, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    Interesting post, Jamie! A quick thought (and after just perusing the comments, forgive me if I’m restating a point already made): It seems to me that, at least in the case of the weekday VBS, a likely culprit of the lack of male involvement is the social reality that in the typical two-parent American home, the man is much more likely to be a sole paid worker than the woman. Simply put, if there is a parent who is unoccupied on a weekday morning, it is more often than not going to be the mother. Fathers tend to work during the day, while mothers are more likely to be at home. I’m not saying it’s right, and I’m not saying I like it, btu it is a reality nonetheless.

    • June 29, 2012 at 9:12 AM

      Jason, thanks for stopping by. This is, as you mention, one of the reasons. But I also don’t buy that it is a particularly good reason. Most VBS’ run for a couple of hours a day. Why not ask your boss to use your lunch hour plus one hour of vacation a day, or ask if the company provides community service hours for employees. One could make it work, pretty easily I believe, if there was a strong enough conviction to make it work. From my perspective, it’s more a matter of saying, “I don’t need to use all of my vacation hours to serve myself,” and then using a sliver of them to serve in VBS. And while many people work on weekends, this is probably even less of an excuse on Sunday mornings…

  7. July 7, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    I have thought a lot about this problem. It comes down to the “anti-feminism” movement. I had a male friend who wanted to open a daycare. He really felt the calling to nurture young children. Because he was a male he could not get ONE person to enroll their child in his daycare. A man nurturing children MUST be a pervert, right? We have gone back to the sexist roles that existed in the 50s. We are “feminizing” child care again. As a woman who fought for equality, I think this is very sad. Listen to the language around you. When a man cares and nurtures his children, he is “babysitting”. My husband would have been angered to be called a babysitter for his children. When a house is messy, “she” is a lousy housekeeper. We are reverting back to our societal sexist roles.

  8. July 7, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Having two adults present with children is best practice for EVERYONE’s protection. This means having both enough kids and enough adults engaged for a program with critical mass, but what is wrong with that as a goal?

  9. Ben
    July 8, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    Would your children,who have some concept of quakerism put up with men ?

    • July 9, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Thanks for the question, Ben. My children are equally comfortable with men and women, though my oldest, a boy, prefers athletic men to teach him…but that is mostly because he is very active.

  1. June 28, 2012 at 9:15 AM
  2. July 1, 2012 at 5:07 PM

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