The Church and Boys

Making the connection

Nick Harding

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Why are men and boys so under-represented in churches? Why do churches find it so difficult to cater for boys? What would help boys in church grow into mature men of faith? This uniquely inspiring book by Nick Harding spells out the problem and encourages churches to see this in missional terms. The main part of the book includes resources, suggestions and ideas to help boys connect better with the church, with the Bible, and with the Christian faith.

Contents include:

  • What boys are like
  • How this affects their view of church
  • Including boys
  • Prayer with boys
  • Children's worship with boys
  • Church worship with boys
  • The Bible with boys
  • Activities with boys
  • Mentoring and supporting boys
  • Mission to boys
  • Continuing with boys (as boys become men)
  • Conclusion - Through a boy's eyes
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Author info

Nick is currently Diocese Children's Ministry Adviser and DBS Manager for the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, where he works with church leadership structures and children's leaders in training, consultation and delivery of quality children's ministry. Before this he was a teacher, schools worker, training officer, and Cathedral Education Officer. He is passionate about seeing children, young people and families grow in the church, the place of boys in faith communities, and making school visits to churches much more fun! He serves on national bodies including the C of E General Synod, is trustee of a number of charities, and has written many resources and songs for children's and schools work. He has led all-age worship, is part of the event leadership team, and has taken seminars at Spring Harvest for many years. Nick regularly speaks and delivers training at conferences around the country and in Ireland, inspects Church Schools, and sits as a magistrate in Nottinghamshire. Most importantly Nick is married to Clare (a primary school head-teacher) and they have two grown-up sons. He has books published by CPAS, Kevin Mayhew, Scripture Union, Grove and SPCK.


Premier Youth and Children

Review by Ruth Young

This is a book that challenges you to think about how to better engage and connect boys with the church.

The ideas and suggestions are focused on primary school boys, although, as the author says, some will work well with other ages. It follows on from Nick Harding's Grove booklet 'Boys, God and the Church' and offers a more detailed look at the issues and challenges as well as offering practical suggestions. Nick starts by asking the key question, 'What are boys like?' and says that: 'Equality does not mean we are all the same.' He reminds us that evidence suggests that boys who do attend church and church-based activities tend to leave because there is not enough to keep them connected.

After reading this book I was left with some clear challenges, including thinking through the particular needs boys have and reflecting on how 'boy-friendly' our church services, groups and teaching materials are. It is logical that giving a bit more thought to the kind of activities and teaching programmes you provide will ensure that the needs of both boys and girls are met, which will, in turn, lead to them coming to faith and playing an active part in the life of the Church.

'The Church and Boys' is well set out with clear and helpful chapters. I started scribbling ideas and thoughts from the beginning and have already made changes to the way I do things. It is definitely a book I will be sharing with others.

Ruth Young, children and families' missioner at St John's, Walmley

The Door - Diocese of Oxford, December 2016

'This book is a must for anyone seeking to re-evaluate their ministry with children.'

'To recognise that boys are different from girls can be a dangerous thing to do.' So opens Nick Harding's latest book The Church and Boys. This book is an expansion of a Grove booklet Nick wrote back in 2007 when the Church was only just beginning to recognise that perhaps boys and girls do have different needs when it comes to faith formation and nurture. My sense is that it is still difficult to have in-depth conversations about how, as churches, we can helpfully acknowledge difference without getting hung up about it. But here Nick provides a great way in.

I must confess there are many things in this book that made me think, 'that applies to girls too', and, 'yes, but I know girls who share those preferences too', but it also challenged me to consider again how intentionally I plan my Sunday Group to be accessible and engaging across the spectrum of needs of both boys and girls - which, I expect, can only be a good thing. It is easy to get complacent about what we think we know about children, or to get set in a pattern of how we like things to be done.

It also made me extremely grateful for the fact that I have the opportunity to minister to boys as well as girls, something that Nick highlights as not to be taken for granted. Boys do bring unique things to our groups. Is that because they are boys or because they are uniquely human and therefore made in God's image? We could debate that a lot further.

This book is a must for anyone seeking to re-evaluate their ministry with children and who wants to intentionally and seriously nurture both boys and girls.

The massive challenge Nick presents us with is that the biggest thing that will make a difference to boys in our churches is that they have male role models as leaders of their groups. Unfortunately, the gender disparity in the majority of churches will mean this either feels completely impossible or offers us a huge missional opportunity to seek to reach boys and men in meaningful ways. You choose!

This book offers useful and thought-provoking theory and background, plus some helpful practical tips and ideas. It's an easy read - I read it quickly but it still had an impact. This is certainly a good resource if you have never really thought about this issue before or are just getting going in your thinking.

Yvonne Morris is the Children's Work Adviser for the Diocese of Oxford

Pobl Dewi, June 2017
Recently I looked around our Sunday School: with an average attendance of 20, about 80% are girls. By contrast, the evangelistic youth group I run has only boys. Boys are absent from churches, but are not against Jesus or Christianity. This book covers a topic I am grappling with, but the whole church urgently needs to tackle it as well. Harding's introduction highlights Christian statistician Peter Brierley's work, which suggests that by 2028 males will be an endangered species in our churches. Having written my dissertation on this topic I think Brierley is optimistic, especially if we look at the Church in Wales. This needs urgent attention -- look around your church on Sunday. So, how does this book help?

We need to realise that boys are different from girls. 'Churches still tend to see they their children, if they have any, as a homogenous group.' Only once we recognise how boys and girls differ does the number of problems boys face in church become obvious. I recognised situations I had encountered in my youth, in churches I know now or in our own Sunday school. Read this chapter with an open mind, expect to be challenged and, maybe as part of a group, look at what you can do to be more accessible to boys. Every year I attend many carol services and subject people to my dislike for Once in Royal David's City. Why? Because what does the line 'Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as He' say to a boy? Boys want to be boys, they want a challenge and a hero. Jesus offers both, but does the church?

Harding offers practical help with planning, materials, prayers, session outlines and worship ideas. After a recent discussion with young people at the Governing Body a point to highlight is simply talk to boys in your church, listen to them and include them in decision-making. We should be inspiring the leaders of the future, and therefore appropriate mentoring and role models are needed. I was encouraged by a male vicar, who, once a month, made a point of leaving the service to help in the Sunday School. Far from his comfort zone but showing that young people were just as central to church life as the rest of the congregation.
This book is a must read for laity, clergy and bishop; it is an excellent first step to engaging more with boys.

Dan Priddy

Book details

  • ISBN: 9780857465092
  • Published: 23 September 2016
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
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