Skip to main content


Like the title says: Has anyone ever merged their Cadet & GEMS groups into one group? I can imagine quite a few different ways that one could so this but I'm curious if anyone has? 

I ask because this seems like a good strategy to both lessen the burden on leadership and to provide some awesome opportunities for our children and neighbors. But I also ask because I come from a Scouting background, where (never mind the current American debate), internationally, Scouting is about 70% co-educational and has been since the 1990s (Co-education scout groups first appeared in the 1930s and became more official in 1971). 

Any Ideas? I'm looking for constructive feedback—I am already well aware of potential drawbacks and roadblocks. My question is, has anyone actually done this, and what has your experience been?


Hi Jonathan. Honestly, our church has not done this, but I am curious about this as well. About a year ago, our church couldn't get enough volunteers for our GEMS program and they had to take a year off, but we still had enough volunteers for Cadets for that to be possible. Part of me wondered if it would have made more sense to try a co-ed group instead of two separate groups, but the church's goal was more to give volunteers a year off and to find GEMS counselors for next year instead.

Do you have any type of outline for what your co-ed group would look like? Like would you still call it GEMS and Cadets or would you come up with a new name? Would you still follow GEMS/Cadets curriculum or would you come up with something completely different? 

I'm sorry I don't have an answer to your question, but I would really like to know how this works out for you and your church.

Our churches have not joined the two programs. I question any advantages that a joined program would have. I believe we would have more behavioral issues. Without sounding sexist and all the other labels, girls and boys are different. As a rule they have different talents, needs and gifts. For ninety minutes twice a month, they can hang out with just boys or just girls. For twenty plus days a month, they are together. If a church cannot find counselors, this isn't a good solution. Perhaps adult members need to take the vows they made at the children's baptisms a little more seriously.

We are recently having a similar conversation - do we have a combined Cadets and Gems Sunday? This year the theme and theme verse is the same for both groups, which makes things difficult for a pastor who wants to preach to each group's theme verse on their designated Sunday, but preaching on the same text a few months apart gets to be a little redundant... Does anyone know if the Cadets and Gems plan to have the same theme going forward? Or was this a one time thing?

We always have a combined GEMS & Cadets Sunday, with "Lunch on the Lawn" afterwards to attract more of the families who don't normally attend on Sundays. We do this twice a year (November and May). In the past, we have either chosen one of the themes or something generic or more in line with what our church is doing. I don't think it's necessary to preach on the theme verses of either group.

Hello, Jonathan! And to all who are commenting. Great discussion and real-life challenges within the children's ministry--finding enough leaders. My name is Lenae Bulthuis and I serve on staff with GEMS Girls' Clubs as the Training & Club Development Manager. How we value and appreciate each leader and club! (As I know Cadets does too!)

To answer the question about combined Annual Themes, sharing the Be a Blessing theme for the 2019-20 season is unique. GEMS and Cadets will have different themes again next season! 

As far as combining GEMS and Cadets into one group, there is something important to consider. Boys and girls are very different. We get that! And while they encounter plenty of situations in church and life where they interact together, GEMS and Cadets provide a safe, like-gender environment where older women can teach younger women and older men can teach teach younger boys. All based on the principles defined in Titus 2.

Within GEMS ReFresh (an online training program for GEMS leaders: we have a message on recruiting volunteers. Please check it out! (Along with a growing library of messages to equip and encourage leaders!) Or connect with me or any of the GEMS staff: We would count it a privilege to walk alongside you to strengthen your club, equip leaders, and reach this generation of girls. I'm confident the Cadet staff would say the same.

Thank you for your important ministry with our youth. It matters!

all is grace,

Lenae Bulthuis

GEMS Training & Club Development Manager

[email protected]





I am the Executive Director of Cadets, so you may take my comments with that in mind. 

Finding "volunteers" who feel called to serve with the boys and girls can be a challenge, so I understand the benefits of finding ways to reduce the number of needed leaders and counselors by combining the groups.

It is obvious that the children "can" learn and grow in a mixed gender environment. Most churches don't separate into male and female groups for Sunday School, and we no longer require the men and women to sit on opposite sides of the sanctuary. But just because we can, doesn't mean we should do so in all areas of raising our children. The Cadet ministry fills a special place by allowing boys to be boys, and learn from Christian men what it means to be "Living For Jesus." Having led groups of seven year olds and of thirteen year olds, Bible discussion time is much different when there are no females in the room.

In my current church, the Cadets and GEMS spend time together at the beginning of the evening with songs and prayer, then we split into different groups. We celebrated GEMS/Cadets Sunday together. We raced our derby cars together. Yet we are still two distinct groups. 

If your church does decide to combine your children's ministry into a mixed gender group, I respectfully ask that you not use the name Cadets or GEMS, as you really aren't following the mission of either one. The mission statement for Cadet counselors is "Helping boys grow more Christlike in all areas of life." Over the last few years our organizational constitution has been clarified, specifying that the ministry is for boys and the leaders are to be men.


Steve Bootsma

Executive Director, Calvinist Cadet Corps

[email protected]

Good Evening.  I read this post, and some of the less constructive comments, shortly after it was posted.  I did not read the responses from the Gems and Cadets leadership until tonight.  At my small CRC church, where I have attended for over 25 years, we have never had Cadets or Gems.  There are a variety of reasons for this, which are not necessary to go into here.  In recent years, however, we have started a joined program for the K-5 boys and girls in our congregation - we call it Young Builders.  In our first year, we did more "projects" (planter boxes, insect hotels, bug habitats, bird feeders).  More recently we are doing more activities (tie blankets that we have donated to our local police department and pregnancy shelter, cornucopia sun catchers at Thanksgiving, game nights with the congregation, clean up activities around the church grounds).  It is more challenging to come up with quality projects and activities without the assistance of the Cadets and Gems framework.  Our church did request Cadets/Gems materials from the CRC as we embarked on this endeavor, but we were informed that those materials were generally not available to us since we did not have an official program.  They did send us some dated materials.

My advice would be to proceed as the needs of your congregation allow.  Be prepared for some gender challenges, but those are relatively easily overcome.  If you need to combine (and rename) your program, do it.  It is better to provide something than nothing, and you have a background of years of Cadets and Gems activities to build from.  The lack of having a portfolio to pull from is our biggest challenge, and that will be much less of a challenge for you.

Feel free to contact me if have further questions.

Jeff Kopaska

Trinity CRC, Ames, IA

jeffkopaska51 (at)

Hey all...

it was good to read the variety of responses here.   Thank you for them (2.5 years ago!)

The reason for my interest in this post is that I had a call today from the education team chair as the gems and cadets coordinators want to have a meeting to discuss the future of the gems and cadets programs.   Sounds ominous because I know the number of interested attenders have dropped, as well as those who are willing to serve as counselors.   So many factors are possible:  COVID, competition from other churches of which there are many in our smaller community, declining church membership, especially with younger families, and more.   Is the writing on the wall?   Hard to say.  But I do know that every year becomes more and more of a challenge for our smaller churches to have a viable and successful program.   To not have gems or cadets seems a sad prospect.  But to not have ANYTHING would be worse yet.   

Since this was posted 2.5 years ago, PRE-COVID, has anything changed for anyone?   Have any of you adapted their programs to be more inclusive of each other groups members?   Did you find something that worked well, or didn't work so well in your attempts to adjust?   I know that we'll have a meeting before long to discuss the state of things and to look at options.   Just starting to fish for information, ideas, and options so I can enter the meeting, when it happens, with some wisdom and knowledge.  Thanks in advance!

Hello, Rick! You ask great questions and your sentence, "Starting to fish for information" especially caught my eye. At the 2021 GEMS Conference Executive Director Cindy Bultema shared a powerful message "Let's Go Fish." (You can view it here. Please show your education team, and GEMS and Cadets leaders.) I serve as the Program/Content Director for GEMS and would welcome a conversation with you or your GEMS Club Coordinator to lean in and listen and explore how we can help. Rick, I couldn't agree with you more. To not have GEMS or Cadets is sad, and to not have ANYTHING is detrimental. Disciplining our kids has never mattered more. 

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post