Every child comes through our double doors, walks through our lobbies, and signs into our Children’s Ministry as individuals. Our goal is to find out what makes each one tick, hopefully before we find out what ticks them off. They come with various experiences and expectations. Discoveries can take time especially when our time with little people is limited to one or two hours each 168-hour week and that’s if they come every single week. We all know how unrealistic that is for most families. It doesn’t take long in a classroom of 3rd-4th graders to discover a chasm of differences between boys and girls. I’ve heard 3rd-4th grade referred to as Ninevah. My son’s 4th-6th grade Sunday school teacher they nicknamed “Braveheart” when they were in high school because they KNEW what they put that man through in early adolescence. I’m not sure he’s still teaching boys, but those boys are now men and it is THAT season they all remember and speak of now that they are grown men, with families of their own, serving in their own local churches.
It was my daughter, wife and mother of two, who told me, “Mom, you’ve GOT to read these books by Dr. Leonard Sax!” I read and blogged several weeks from Boys Adrift primarily in an effort to intentionally ensure my ministry with children was boy-friendly. What I learned was beyond my capabilities to ‘just know’ and I’ve been very forthcoming about the changes we’ve made to foster a more boy-friendly environment while meeting the goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The first of those blogs can be found here.
Some early adjustments to intentionally make our ministry with children more boy-friendly included more games (they thrive on competition). We ask “What would you DO?” rather than “How would you FEEL?”. We use paper products and not water bottles or plastic (environmental estrogens). We speak of Jesus winning (will to win). We have planned Faith Field Trips (outdoor day trips for faith formation) because children are wired to live life and engage in nature rather than read about it, and we seek to engage more men in ministry with children even in a ‘ministry of presence’ because boys learn to be men of faith by spending time with other men of faith. We all need a mentor: a Yoda in the faith.
Dr. Leonard Sax’s companion book Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the new Crisis for Girls has been just as enlightening about the current state of girls and young women in America. In clear language, the blending of anecdotes, clinical research (LOTS of research), Sax offers a holistic, sobering call to help the current generation of young women develop the support and sense of self that will allow them to grow into resilient adults. The next few weeks of blogs will focus on ways the local church can further partner with families and equip small group leaders to navigate a girl’s center of self toward her Savior and the adventure He has for her.
The obsessions are worse, nastiness is rampant, drinking is up, and sexuality keeps creeping down the age ladder. They want attention. They want to feel special. How do we invite and welcome girls into the place of relationship with God their maker, Jesus their Savior, the Holy Spirit their comforter and partner in life, and one another as hope-filled, joy-filled, confident, women of faith? How do we teach our girls to be more like Jesus in kindness, compassion, and generosity? What plans can we put in place to let them learn and then practice interacting with the real world and not just be a good student? They may look strong and confident on the outside, but they’re fragile within. They’re fragile because a negative comment will repeat itself a million times in their heads, a top-to-down-and-back-up look from a peer can break a heart, and changes in the most important relationships around her can make even the ‘smartest’ girl without the emotional vocabulary to explain the depth of her disappointment.
What are we doing to equip them to fight the rise of a relentless focus on how they present themselves to the world in images and sound bites before the self has had a chance to fully form? How do we offer a ‘social life’ beyond kids their own age so the voices they are hearing and repeating in their heads are of truth, God’s loving truth, spoken into their lives from Titus 2 women of faith so girls of the church know what a women of faith looks like, sounds like, acts like, and lives like? How do we offer girls a private time and private life when technology deprives girls of any break, any breather, any alternate perspective because as girls become hyperconnected to their peers, they are disconnecting from themselves? (pg 47) Parents are shaking in their boots as their little girls prepare to move to middle school.
I hope you pick up the book and/or join me over the next several weeks. Adult guidance is essential because there are too many unknowns. And though we women have taken this journey, we’ve not been down their road of today’s culture. We’ve got work to do and we’re better together.
“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” Proverbs 31:17