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  GA '02 Workshop on “Boy-Friendly RE” Inspires More Ideas

By Neil Chethik

At the UUA General Assembly in Quebec (June, 2002), UUMeN sponsored a workshop called “Creating a Boy-Friendly Religious Education Program.” The session drew a standing-room-only crowd. Scores of church-school organizers, teachers, and parents came to learn how to help shape their RE programs to better serve the needs of boys in their Sunday schools.

The Rev. Greg Stewart (then minister of RE at Neighborhood Church in Pasadena ) made some important suggestions based on his experience as organizer of the “Way Cool Sunday School” at his church. His main point was that to serve boys (and girls) best, they must be integrated into all aspects of the church. They should have a chance to speak from the pulpit, to serve on committees, and to help design the RE program and church facilities.

After Rev. Stewart's remarks at the workshop, the group brainstormed on two questions, and some responses are listed below.

 

1) Why do boys leave RE programs?

a) They are bored.

b) They are not respected or celebrated.

c) There are not enough male teachers.

d) The classrooms are too small.

e) Their competitive spirits are squashed.

f) Their parents stop coming on Sundays.

g) Their fathers are inactive in congregational life.

h) There are too few other boys in their classes.

i) Class curricula are too rigid.

j) Teachers are afraid of them.

 

2) What changes would help keep boys active in church school?

a) More say by children about what and how subjects are taught

b) Less curricula, more experiential learning

c) More physical activities

d) More overnight events, field trips

e) More technology

f) More risk-oriented activities, such as rope courses

g) Bigger classrooms

h) More male teachers

i) Mentoring programs

j) More competitive activities

k) Chess clubs

l) More social action, designed by kids

m) More effective limit-setting

n) Awards for showing up, doing well

We want to keep this conversation going.  If you have had successes—or struggles—with boys in your RE program, or if you have ideas that are not on these lists, please let us know.  We strongly believe that church school can make a huge difference in the lives of children, and help encourage good, liberal religious men in our congregations.  Contact us at uumen@usa.net .

Neil Chethik , of Lexington, KY, is a founder and president (2003-04) of the UUMen's Network.