Children’s leaders too often teach in ways that are more effective with girls than boys, ignoring boys’ natural instincts. How we teach can signal to boys that, while they are welcome in our programs, they are not our main interest. Girls are!
Differences in physical and mental development between boys and girls were discussed at a major international children’s leadership conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand in May. The event drew 200 top leaders of children’s ministries from 35 countries. So, what does the woman pictured above with the tiger cub have to do with the topic? Only that she, Marlene LeFever, spoke five times at the conference and is a world famous expert on how children learn. The picture was a rare moment when she took a break to enjoy some wildlife in northern Thailand.
Marlene’s books on teaching methods and learning styles are popular in seminaries and colleges as they have been for more than 15 years. She is the architect of David C Cook’s J127* curriculum for orphans and the new program for millions of children in the Church of Uganda.
In the opening session of the Thailand conference she challenged leaders,
Examine your programs. Test them against new research on how boys learn. Be absolutely certain you are not inadvertently preparing boys and young men to leave the church.
When all a boy’s church teachers during his preschool and early school years are women, with not a man to be seen, he concludes that Jesus is more for girls than for boys like him. Before he can verbalize what he feels, he has formed opinions that often point him toward the church door. To keep this from happening to their church’s children, one couple decided to team-teach a class of four and five year olds. The wife was a gifted teacher. The husband came with her to each class, and week after week, he made friends with all the children. He would count all the children, divide by the number of minutes of class time, and that’s how long each child got to sit in his lap. What he was doing sent a consistent message to the boys: “You belong here. God loves boys. God loves men.”
LeFever designed the J127 Orphan Curriculum so volunteer leaders are able to relate in ways that reach both boys and girls. As she explained at the leaders conference,
It’s time we started teaching boys the way God made them, not the way we wish He had made them, and not the way we used to think He made them.
We dare not lose the boys! Or any of the world’s 2.2 billion children. In the Thailand conference, leaders discussed what it would take realistically to reach every child on the planet for Jesus. Impossible? Not really! They decided to calculate what it would require. They estimated it would take between 50 and 60 million trained children’s workers who reach only 50 children each. This means that from every group of 100 Christians, three trainers—just three—would be needed. Put another way, if every one of the seven to eight million churches in the world had just two trained leaders who would reach 50 children, every child on earth would have an opportunity to fall in love with Jesus.
The man pictured to the right, from Bangladesh, works with a variety of church networks in his country, from Baptists to Charismatics and Anglicans. They are organizing to reach children in their communities. He is translating portions of the J127 Curriculum to strengthen their outreach.
The leaders at this conference came, not only from Bangladesh, but also from right Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Cambodia, Mexico, and many other countries. They are serious about leading children to know Jesus. Join in. Be part of the global movement to win children, all the boys and girls.
Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.