I hate to say it, but many children’s ministries are best described by the first line in one of Bonnie Tyler’s songs, “where have all the good men gone”?
Volunteering and working with kids has long been a female dominated ministry. A shortage of men working with kids has been a cultural trend that dates back to the time of Jesus. Take a look at an exchange that occurred between Jesus and His disciples in regards to working with the youngest of children.
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16
While this trend has been happening for a very long time, your church can set out to change the cultural climate and recruit men to serve in children’s ministry. Here’s a proven strategy for attracting, engaging, and developing men to serve in the nursery, preschool, & elementary ministries at your church.
Many churches focus their recruiting efforts on simply filling a hole in the schedule. In other words, they try to attract people to serve by leading with a need. Not only is this unattractive, it makes you come across…well…as needy. And just like most men won’t ask a needy woman out on a date, they’re not going to join your ministry efforts either!
If you want men to serve the next generation you have to lead with a vision. Cast a compelling vision for what could happen if men invested their Kingdom effort in the lives of children…and you’ll attract men to your ministry. Recruiting people to a vision creates buy-in. Vision shows the value of volunteering with kids. It paints a picture of the importance of men influencing young children’s lives.
Another way to attract men to work with kids is by actively targeting them. Be intentional about recruiting and asking men to serve the young children in your church. Highlight men serving in your nursery ministry by posting pictures of them on your website and in your brochures. Share stories about men making a difference in the lives of preschoolers with your congregation during your announcements. Incorporate the impact men are having in elementary age children as part of a sermon illustration.
Finally, if you want to attract men to lead kids you have to infuse some masculinity into your children’s ministry. If your logo is pastel and your fonts are described as “cute”, then forget about it. You’ve just told men that serving with kids is not the place for them. Use masculine fonts in our promotional pieces and take home sheets. Make sure your worship music isn’t cheesy and dull, which typically means don’t use the songs that are included with your curriculum. When kids are the main vocals of a worship song it’s cute, but if every worship song is led by a child it makes it difficult for men to sing along because they can’t hit that high of a note. Even take a hard look at your games and crafts and give them more of a male bent.
Once we’ve attracted men to serve kids, then you have to engage them. Give clear direction. Let men know where you’re going as a ministry and how we are going to get there. Strong leadership engages the men that are on your team. If you place a high value on leadership, you’ll have some of the strongest male leaders in our church serving in your children’s ministry.
You can also engage men by helping them find their best fit on the team. It would much easier to have male (and female) volunteers serve in any of your open positions. However, if you want to engage and retain all your volunteers you have to match their gift mix with a position on the team.
Once men are attracted and engaged in your ministry, long term retention happens when you set out to develop the men that serve on your team. Focus on equipping men with the core competencies they need to thrive, otherwise you’ll find them leaving your team because they don’t have the tools they need to be successful. For example, teach men how to manage a classroom of preschoolers by establishing routines, developing a discipline plan, and keeping their kids active during the service.
Men want to see results and know that they are making a difference. That is why you need to challenge men through results based training. Men also want encouragement. They want straight talk about how they are doing. They want to know where they are succeeding and what areas they need to work on.
I’m confident that as you apply these principles to attract, engage, and develop men in your children’s ministry you will begin singing a new tune…and it will sound something like “It’s raining men”!