Warning: The following contains many broad generalizations on the subject of boyhood and girlhood. Please trust that the author knows that not ALL girls or ALL boys are exactly alike. He certainly realizes that there’s a spectrum of both masculinity and femininity–so not ALL boys enjoy blood, guts, hunting and football; nor do ALL girls play with dolls, love shopping, and are nurturing to people and animals. There are just times one must generalize in order to speak to some basic principles.
Praise God that He made us male and female! God has designed both genders in His image; and He calls men, women, boys, and girls to be members of His Kingdom. He has also created us to be different–in the way we think, speak, and act. To ignore that fact is to miss the beautiful diversity of the sexes as well as the opportunities for us to be complementary.
As obvious as it may sound, the Bible was written with both females AND males in mind. Just think about the various genres included in Scripture: narrative, history, poetry, psalm, wisdom, prophecy, law, doctrine, etc. These forms of writing appeal to various types of people, but they are also received differently by males and females. Even within these genres, some portions of Scripture are written in a highly relational manner, while others are much more action-oriented. To use a movie analogy (hopefully without being sacrilegious) some of the Bible reads more like a chick flick while other parts are more akin to a guy movie.
Okay, so what’s the point? I’ll make just a few applications for now:
- Our gender differences are just one of a long list of reasons why we need to teach ALL of the Bible to our children. To teach only the “sweet” stories of Scripture and avoid the “dangerous” ones is to create the illusion that the Bible just includes stories of love, niceness, and gentleness. The Old Testament, for example, is filled with blood, war, and conflict as well as redemption and salvation. Even in the relational stories, there is often more fighting and ego than kindness and mercy. I’m not saying that boys only enjoy evil while girls like goodness; but, boys do typically have the more natural inclination to aggression, dispute, and destructive competitiveness. Hopefully, both boys and girls want to read about resolution too!
- We need to watch how we teach each individual story of Scripture in order to draw in girls AND boys. For example, a story like Noah’s Ark can be told in such a way that it looks like a bunch of sweet, tame animals went for a ride on a boat. Evil people drowning for their sins as well as the utter destruction of the entire creation may be downplayed. In this way, children see God’s mercy but miss God’s justice and righteous wrath. This goes for much of the Old Testament when we avoid the stories that seem too violent or senseless. Or when we fly right past all of the animal sacrifices because of all the blood. Boys really miss out when we try to make the Bible all fluffy and sweet.
- Even when we teach the stories of Jesus in the Bible, we need to take care how we characterize Him to our children. Jesus is certainly the kind and compassionate shepherd, the one who welcomes little children, and of course the one who heals all sorts of diseased people. But Jesus is also an authoritative critic of the religious leaders of the day, a forceful preacher and teacher, and one with righteous anger against sin among His people. Some of what He says is downright mean–but totally without sin! Our boys need to recognize that Jesus was fully God and fully man, in no way devoid of true masculinity. And boys need to learn that kindness and compassion aren’t just feminine qualities but are integral to what it means to be a godly man.
- Finally, it’s important to recognize the reality that the Bible is a BOOK and boys continue to be trained in our society to NOT LIKE BOOKS. It’s sad that so many boys see reading as nerdy or even feminine. I think it is one of Satan’s great manipulations to convince boys (and men) that reading is boring or useless. This issue is a complicated educational and spiritual one, which I’ll address in another post. It’s just essential that we give our boys a love for reading so they will have a love for reading the Bible!
I have been very pleased to hear that our One Story Ministries Sunday School curriculum lineup is generally well-received by boys, as well as girls. We need to continue to teach the Bible in a way that raises up a new generation of men who learn, love, and live God’s Word!