When it comes to mission trips, what has happened to all of the guys?

Over Christmas break, we sent a group to New Orleans to work on homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Twenty-three students applied, and all were female. Not a single male student bothered to apply for a week long construction trip that only cost $150. Construction! Using hammers and crowbars! But no guys were interested enough to apply.

Unfortunately, this is not an exception. In the last few years, I have sent out several exclusively female mission teams. Feedback from mission agencies hosting us has often been, “Please send balanced teams!” It’s so bad that I have begun challenging the (usually female) trip leaders to intentionally recruit several guys to make sure we have a few.

On a campus with a 2:1 female-to-male ratio, leaders of campus ministry groups and service counselors are disproportionately female almost every year. The Habitat board currently consists of nine females, and last year, the female-to-male ratio of my campus ministry leaders was 13:2.

Where are the guys?

And it’s not just at Eastern. Colleagues in the U.S. and Canada tell me that the dearth of male ministry participation and leadership is not just an issue, it’s an epidemic.

Where are the men? What accounts for this trend? Are guys less plugged into campus life generally? Are they more involved in off-campus ministries and leadership, or are they under-represented there as well? Are guys more likely to be over-involved in video games and online time wasters?

If male students at Eastern are avoiding leadership roles, then that concerns me. How can men expect to lead well in their vocations, churches and marriages if they do not exercise those skills at a place like Eastern? I am glad Eastern encourages and celebrates women in leadership, and wonder if guys feel “off the hook” as a result.

I don’t have many answers and may be wrong about this, but I hope to spark conversation and especially to motivate our very capable male students to re-engage in ministry at Eastern.

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