Saturday, July 25, 2009

Got Guys?

My church's vacation Bible school finished last night. I think a good time was had by all, but, never one to be content with such as I have, I was still disturbed by something. And this morning, as I sent my daughter off on the church youth group missions trip, I got hit again with the same unease.

Our Bible school made the Beach Boys' Surf City ("two girls for every boy") look like Boys' Town. The ratio of girls to boys was more like four or five to one. On the missions trip the ratio was five or six to one.

Where are the boys?

(My church is not alone in this situation. This is true of every summer program I've been part of, which is why I'm writing here and not in a personal letter to my church elders.)

Our Wednesday night Pioneer Clubs over the winter were mostly girls, but not overwhelmingly so. After it was over, I wrote Mrs. Kay, who organized both the Pioneers and later the VBS, and suggested that maybe one way to get more boys involved would be to have men more visible in the clubs. I was afraid she'd consider it just another of my rants, but to my surprise, she agreed.

Kids of single-digit age wake up to Mom, Dad having gone off to work. They either go to school, where they are taught primarily by women in an atmosphere that as early as 1969 feminist Patricia Cayo Sexton wrote was an unhealthy "feminizing" atmosphere for boys (The Feminized Male [New York: Random House], 1969). Or they are home schooled by Mom. Those from broken homes usually live with their mothers. Sunday school teachers for that age are usually women.

Where do boys find a masculine atmosphere? They can watch sports, go fishing, or work around the house with Dad. They can play video games or Recreation Department sports or form music groups with their male friends. They can join gangs or do substances. They can cruise in hopes of finding their own Surf City. But church? It's just another girl thing. Would we want our boys to look forward to hanging out with the girls? And as good as Mrs. Kay was as MC at Pioneers and Mrs. Oh at VBS—and no man could have done better—they were still not men.

Y-chromosomes alone in the teachers won't cure the ailment. I gave my Pioneer boys too much "Let's have it quiet in here" and too few dead arms and high fives. We need masculine men who can not only teach the Bible effectively but mix it up in fun, convey the dignity of sweat, and model respectful treatment of women.

Three white-collar men are accompanying a gaggle of females on our church's missions trip this week. Their target people group is the children of blue-collar Latins. I'm curious: what will the male-to-female ratio of their attendees be? Is God still interested in reaching boys for Christ? Are all his future missionaries to be female?

And, yes, I'm once again the pot calling the kettle black. Though my daughter is one of those missionaries, I'm staying home. My excuse? I need to chase the dollar. "Well done, good and faithful servant." Right. Servant of whom?

It's not too early to plan for next year.

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