So there appears to be a shortage of males in many of our youth groups. One youth leader skyped me on this issue just this week. His questions were straightforward and ones many of us can relate to: “What can we do to attract more young men to our group? How can I get more boys to show up? How do I evangelize the boys in our community?”
Good questions… difficult ones too… and especially difficult to answer in a short post like this one. So, if you allow me to speak in bullet points… here’s some things to think through…
- Males like male leadership. Aimfor this – work to have males who are strong in their faith to help lead the group. This may be a long-term process so begin now—are there any males in the high school group that you can see as leaders in a couple of years? If so, build build build for the future. Female leadership is good for the young women, but boys need men to follow. If you are a female leader with no males helping you, can you bring in some volunteers to help out in some way?
- Following on from this, can you have long-term male leadership? Some boys are used to a pattern of abandonment from the significant males in their life. Strive for a 2-3 year commitment from the male leaders in your youth ministry. I know this can be a toughie- but it is the right target to aim for.
- Try and develop a core of male youth who attend regularly. Guys like to see other guys at anything they are thinking about committing to. Start to develop a core from within the church… this is where connecting and linking with children’s work is a must (see ‘Flow’ in my book Changing the World). It has been my experience that “guys bring guys… and girls too”! For some reason I have not seen a youth group of girls attract males—even though some think this happens. However, I have seen a group of guys be attractive to both sexes. I’m not sure why (although I have a hunch)… just my experience. Teach, encourage and work to build a regular core of guys (this is where small groups are key).
- Make sure your program is not too … how do I say this… wussie. Many are. Boys tend not be as interested in ‘feelings’ as much as in action and doing. Nor do they enjoy sitting around and chatting as much as older people do. Think through active learning and profitable kinesthetic activities (rather than typical youth group games). Build this into your small groups and into your weekly program.
- Have single sex Bible studies. This is a must. Guys don’t want to feel stupid or immature. This often happens with girls in the group. Nor will they share openly about struggles or pain. For some reason, many youth leaders disagree with this and continue to run coed groups. While there can be a minor argument made for this, males love to meet together in a group of males and the arguments in favor of a males only group far outweigh a coed one.
- Be clear on who you are and what you do. Steve Biddulph says in Raising Boys that males need to know three things: Who’s in charge? What are the rules? and, will they be enforced? Boys like strong leadership, clear expectations and purpose. Be a group that exists to help young men connect with the creator of the universe in a clear and real way.
- Model the great adventure of following our strong God. The Christian life is a great journey. Our God is a great God of love and strength. Model this, teach it and talk about it often. Talk about what it means to be a man of faith and to take God’s call seriously in this world. Spend time outdoors teaching on the creation. Spend time indoors talking about issues that matter to boys. Think creatively about how to teach a group of hyperactive young men. One practical outworking of this is in our teaching program. Balance your teaching to include studies on topics that will interest guys like King David or the Book of Judges.
God bless you as you seek to attract and build up mighty men for the Kingdom.