For most of my youth ministry career, I was a dad, and I was fortunate enough to have a great team of volunteers that included both men and women. My own kids thought having an engaged dad was pretty normal. Yet for some ministries having an enthusiastic male populous is not always the case. In ministry, we often have to take what we get. I see many children and youth ministries where only women serve. Not that women aren’t wonderfully gifted and capable leaders, it just seems that male volunteers are not encouraged to work with children and youth.
But, having male and female balance served me and I believe our youth well. After all, ministry leadership should reflect the diversity of the community it services. Engaging dads was pretty easy in my context because my pastor modeled husbands and wives serving together. Also, I was in a military town, so our church also had a good number of single men willing to serve and be a part of a church community. For those of you having trouble getting dads to serve, here are a few creative ideas to get them off the couch and more involved.
While some dads are intimated by the emotional or theological aspects of ministry, those same dads have no problem being superheroes. The dads who would be afraid to lead prayer or lead a song would have no problem fighting a grizzly bear to protect his kids or others. The next time you have a youth event ask a few dads to provide security for you. If you are doing volunteer work get dads to pitch in some labor or show the kids the ropes.
What dad doesn’t think he is the king of the barbecue? Students love to eat, and many dads love to grill. At your next gathering or fundraiser turn the dad cadre loose and let them do their burnt offerings, Texas style.
Al Bundy Dads.
If you remember the sitcom “Married with Children,” the father, Al Bundy always talked about his glory days as a high school football player when he scored four touchdowns in one game. Many dads in your congregation may be sidelined by the dreaded and undefeated champion “age,” or they suffer from Done-Laps disease (the belly done lapped over the belt buckle). Whatever the case, like Al Bundy they miss the glory days. Any “dad versus” day is bound to be a success, whether it is dad versus daughters or dad versus sons. Dads love competition. Just make sure you have plenty of ice and Bengay on hand after the event.
Often if you get one-half of a couple, you can get the second half for free. If possible, I think modeling husband and wife ministry is a great thing. Who says serving can’t involve the whole family? Of course, each family dynamic is different. We have blended families and non-traditional families. You have to be sensitive to your ministry context and the needs of our students, but even Noah knew the power of gathering in groups of two.
As a dad, I have to confess that sometimes I have a short attention span. A dad like me might be a little wary of volunteering long-term or staying engaged during football season. But give me a project with a definite start and end date and I am in. Get the project dad engaged in a building project, a short-term service trip or a one-hour event. Project dad will give all they have in short-bursts. While I am not trying to enforce the old “quality versus quantity” time argument, sometimes a little engagement goes a mighty long way. You might hook the dads into long-term engagement or you just might know that every Christmas project dad will help you build the manger for baby Jesus.
Sure some of these ideas seem a little old-school or stereotypical, but if you are going fishing to reach dads who might not be as engaged, you have to use the right bait. In ministry, we always have to meet people where they are and eventually hope that the transformative power of God’s love will help them see and experience the world in new counter-cultural ways (Romans 12:2). Ultimately not only will you build engagement between the dads and the ministry, but hopefully this engagement will strengthen familial bonds and faith formation in your students. My daughter has great stories from our time together in youth ministry (including one where I supposedly forget her at church. A story I vehemently deny.)
The simplest way to get dads involved is just to ask. After all, if they serve a heavenly father who was willing to sacrifice a son, giving a few hours to youth ministry should be a piece of cake.
Glen Guyton is the Chief Operating Officer for Mennonite Church USA, but got his start in youth ministry. He is an advocate for bringing intercultural competency and innovative leadership practices to ministry so that people can find practical and meaningful ways to engage the world. You can connect with Glen on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, LINKEDIN, his BLOG, EMAIL or WEBSITE.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.