For almost 20 years, I was a children’s pastor. My most difficult hurdle was having enough leaders to assist in the classroom or a room large enough to hold everyone. Usually, the only solution was to corral all the children in one large room where, with the help of very few adults, you could still have a wonderful program with minimal disruptions. That continues to be the dilemma in most churches today, however, several very important opportunities for ministry are lost in those settings. Boys’ and girls’ programs can be the small group solution designed to meet those needs.
Boys and girls are different. We all know that and so do children. Their gender identity flows to every cell of their bodies, and how they perceive and interact in their world is very different. They learn, play, and think differently because that is how God made them, but we miss opportunities to mentor and encourage those differences when ministry only happens in mixed company.
Here are my five reasons why gender-specific programs are so vital in a church setting:
- There are greater opportunities for mentoring and modeling by adult leaders. Just because children attend church does not mean they have godly examples at home. With divorce so prevalent, even in our churches, many children do not have a father in the home, and in the case of young boys, a godly male figure is fundamental for their spiritual development. Boys’ and girls’ programs are the perfect setting for the mentoring and modeling process.
- Gender-specific groups allow instruction about the wonderful way God created men and women. Current culture has taken a new twist with gender identity. It is not what gender your genetics say, but with what gender people associate. These are strange ideas that today’s culture is using to bombard the minds of our children. Without a core understanding that God has designed us male and female, children can quickly be sucked into the black hole of today’s gender identity and LGBT movements that are contrary to God’s Word.
- Small groups allow for gender-specific questions. From the ages of 6-13, children develop physically and spiritually at a rapid rate. Often, children might bring up questions that they wouldn’t ask their parents and would never ask in the company of the opposite sex. Parents should be the primary people to answer those questions, but gender-specific small groups are the perfect setting to teach children biblically based answers for developing minds and bodies.
- Children are more secure in expressing problems or revealing issues at home. If you’ve been around kids for a while, you know that they can tell you information about their home life that would make their parents cringe. Often, those stories are a source of immense humor, but on occasions church leadership can hear a cry for help from one of their students. Small, gender-specific groups are the ideal setting for those problems to surface, and trusted leaders can get them the help they need or notify authorities if necessary.
- Gender-specific programs can be an open invitation to win your community. Not all boys love football, and not all girls love makeup. However, usually boys and girls enjoy very different types of activities. Providing activities that appeal to specific genders will have kids bringing their friends. Activities can be a specific method to drive home the weekly lesson or just be a source of enjoyment for busy kids. Either way, small group gender-specific activities develop lifelong memories of fun at church. This can never be accomplished in Sunday morning attire with 200 kids to corral.
Almost any day, you can browse the posts on Facebook and find another “gender reveal” from some very excited parents. They wait with anticipation for the arrival of a boy or girl and begin preparing for their arrival. We too should celebrate the distinct differences we have between boys and girls in our local churches. Like never before those distinctions are being attacked. As a children’s pastor, I would have never believed that such distortion would be accepted in society, but we know that it is a sign of the Lord’s soon return. As churches and children’s leaders, we must take an offensive approach and begin now, securing the minds of our boys and girls. One of the best places to see our children flourish is through gender-specific programs.
Rachel King serves as the Discipleship Ministries director for Sonshine Network Ministries. She also serves on the IPHC Discipleship Ministries Council. Rachel’s experience in children’s ministry has served her well in both of these capacities. She is a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband, Mark, reside in Orlando, Florida.