The next two blogs will look at the gifts, challenges, and ministry opportunities that are presented when working with both genders.

A few weekends ago, we had our Annual Middle School Youth Gathering. This year, we asked a team of high school students to help lead and plan the event. On our team we had three high school age boys. These three boys are mature, responsible leaders who were enthusiastic and passionate about sharing their faith.

However, they were the minority, on our planning team (3 out of 13), in their schools, and I think in our churches. What has happened to our boys?

For a long time here at Messiah, our activities were female-heavy. Sometimes, only the core group of five girls would attend events, unless it was one of the bigger events like our District Youth Gathering. It was a frustrating period in ministry as nothing really seemed to “catch” the attention of the boys. Occasionally, a boy or two would show up to Sunday school, or an outside event, but then, being the only boy, wouldn’t come back.

When I was expressing my frustrations with another female DCE, she asked, “Well, what are you doing that shows the boys that you care about them?” After my initial defensive reaction, I realized that the things that we did were all pretty “feminine.” I had great relationships with the girls because I spent lots of time with them and we did events that played to their strengths. I also realized that because of my own insecurities and uncertainties on how to build successful relationships that didn’t cross any boundaries with the boys, I had ignored their needs.

Some change was needed.

First, I realized that I couldn’t be “all things to all people,” and that ministry at Messiah would not be successful if I tried to do everything myself. During that time, God provided several great male leaders who offered to teach Middle School Sunday School and Wednesday Night Bible Study, and another to chaperone events. When we started small groups, I enlisted help from dads who had great relationships with the kids and would be comfortable leading Bible studies as well as a young adult who knew a lot of the kids from other events. I began to see God beginning to work in those relationships, and guys began to get connected to the ministry, to the church, through these relationships.

I also learned my “audience.” This may come as a big shock to you all, but I’m not what you would call a “tomboy” or “athletic.”I prefer nice quiet, mostly indoor types of events. I’m competitive, but mostly at things like Rock Band and board games, not necessarily basketball or football. Most of the boys that attend church here are athletic and have a diehard commitment to either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State Football. Before moving here, I knew little to nothing about BCS standings, the Sooners, the Cowboys, or the Red River Rivalry. But I learned. I watched football games and started asking the boys questions about things they were interested in. Having a little knowledge helped boost my credibility. I attended their athletic events. I didn’t plan events during times when I knew they wouldn’t come (the OU/TX  game, for example).

During this “rebuilding” time, I started working more directly with the middle school groups as well to help build up the future groups. I started teaching confirmation and learned how to teach in a way that would encourage the boys to connect with each other, but still be excited to learn.  During the first 30 minutes of confirmation, I tried to pick games that were more interactive and physical that the boys enjoyed as well as games that were a little more discussion based so that both girls and guys were using their natural strengths and abilities.

Slowly but surely, by the grace of God, more boys got involved and stayed involved. Strong high school male leaders have been developing and have been role models for younger students. It’s been a learning experience for me as well as an enjoyable time getting to know these boys and how they have been created differently and uniquely by God.

What about in your ministries? Male youth leaders? How do you connect to your male students? How about you ladies? How have you found ways to connect with the boys? What suggestions can you share?
Published November 2009