Over the past two years, Bethel’s Spring Break Missions Trips have seen a decline in male attendance.
By Conrad Engstrom
Matt Runion, Associate Dean of Campus Ministry, smiles when he talks about the many missions trips that Bethel students will attend over Spring Break and what students will be able to accomplish on these trips. The only thing that concerns him, year after year, is seeing less males represented on Bethel’s mission trips.
“Every year we have to work extra hard to recruit men,” Runion said, who has been working with spring break missions since 2003.
Of the eight mission trips that were offered over Spring Break last year, 58% of the members were women. This includes the Men’s Soccer team’s trip to Jamaica that had 19 men and no women.
Of everyone who has signed up for a mission trip in spring, 77% are women.
Runion blames athletics and other time commitments that men have on campus as to why men are not going on missions trips. He understands and accepts that men are more hesitant to commit to trips over spring break, but he sees it as his job is to recruit men to go on these trips.
“For some reason men apply late and wait right before the deadline before they apply,” Runion said. “Our team leaders say they are planning to apply but won’t actually do it until later.”
To discourage males from signing up late this year, anyone signing up for mission trips prior to October 23 would have his or her $50 deposit fee waived. The final deadline for applications was November 1.
While his focus in recent months has been the recruitment of men, Runion is careful not to discourage more women from applying. He believes that gender balanced teams can provide the tools for a healthier trip.
Senior Jon Moe is leading a team to Jamaica this spring, and he does not see a real issue in men not going on mission trips. He doesn’t see this having an impact on the purpose of the trip.
“It is comforting to have men on trips because of their stature, so if anything goes wrong there is someone there to call on,” Moe said citing the physical demands that are sometimes required, but adding that the mission to further the Kingdom can be accomplished regardless of gender.
Though the numbers of men on trips is declining, Runion said he’s as loving as ever toward the men of Bethel.
“I have no criticism or judgment of men on our campus,” Runion said. “My ministry challenge is to find ways to mobilize all students — regardless of gender — to participate with what God is doing around the world. The particular need right now is to find ways to get the attention of men. The gifted, strong, compassionate men of Bethel.”