NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If you’ve ever taught a Sunday School class full of little boys, you know they’re made of more than snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. They also have a keen sense of adventure, a flair for mischief, a dash of curiosity and lots of energy.
But if you have them in your Sunday School class at all, count yourself lucky, said Jan Marler, childhood ministries specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Marler and her husband, Ken, adult growth specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, led a “Don’t Lose the Boys” conference during the National Preschool/Children’s Convention Oct. 14-17 in Nashville, Tenn.
Since 1981, boys have spent 71 percent less time in church compared with girls at 25 percent less time, according to a report in American Demographics magazine, Jan Marler said.
Boys are six times more likely to have a learning disorder, three times more likely to be drug addicts in life and 12 times more likely to commit murder, she said the report revealed. Males make up 80 percent of suicides under age 20, and 90 percent of people in drug treatment programs are men, she said.
“We’ve lost a generation of boys,” she said.
The Marlers, who have four girls, said they learned quickly that boys learn “in a very different way from girls” when they began leading a TeamKID class at their church.
“Boys are very visual learners,” she said. “So, if a boy hits a girl in your Sunday School class, it doesn’t do a lot of good to say, ‘Johnny, you hurt Cindy, and you need to apologize.’ What you have to do is show him the bruise, and say this is what happens when you hit people.”
Because boys tend to learn visually, incorporating pictures, role-playing and concrete examples into lessons helps them to learn more easily, she said. When disciplining boys, a visual form of punishment, like taking away privileges or toys, is often effective.
Because boys also respond to a deep, stern voice, enlisting a male teacher is helpful, she said.
“Sometimes women need to enlist men to help with discipline,” Marler said. “Boys often respond better to men. The male teacher should be stern, but loving. He needs to be a spiritual role model, not just a Sunday School bouncer.”
Because boys come into the classroom “raring to go, teachers should have a plan of action,” Ken Marler said. “You can’t just tell them to hush and sit down. That’s not how they work.”
The key to channeling their energy is through diversion and distraction, he said.
“When you have a 2-year-old, the way you keep him is happy is to keep him distracted,” he said. “It’s the same with older boys. But don’t distract in the same way every week. When they figure you out, they’re already two steps ahead of you.”
Jan Marler suggested using games whenever possible.
“Games can communicate to children on a different level,” she said. “If you find new ways to communicate the truths of the Bible, they will remember those truths.”
Ken Marler warned against games with winners and losers. Boys are very competitive, he said, so games must be played in ways that everybody wins, and everybody holds an important role.
The Marlers stressed unconditional love and acceptance when dealing with boys.
“It’s so hard to tell what kind of home life they’re coming from,” Ken Marler said. “This may be the only love some of these kids are getting. If we show them the love of Christ, we can save the next generation of boys.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BUILDING UP BOYS.