1. Start on time—end on time!
If you want men to show up—don’t waste their time. In today’s world, men are busy at work and at home. Regularly attending a men’s group is a major sacrifice for most men. They often have to choose between attending a men’s group and all the other things that are going on in their lives. When you host your men’s group—start on time—even if it means starting with only five guys in the room. Communicate a clear ending time, and let the group know that if they have other commitments, it’s okay to leave. You will show them that you value them by honoring and respecting their time. Don’t start an open-ended closing prayer with three minutes left in the meeting without telling the men that they may leave if they have to. As you honor and respect their time, you will frequently see men show up early and stay later because they feel valued.
2. Men grow side-by-side in small numbers, and rarely face-to-face.
More will be shared between two men while changing the oil in a car versus sitting around a table in a small group discussion. Provide opportunities where men can “do stuff” together in small numbers, and watch their relationships grow.
3. It’s not a church service.
Don’t treat your men’s small group like another church service. Use this time to unwind and step back from the responsibilites of life. Often, we tend to over-formalize our groups and stick to the tight regiment of a typical church service. Give men time to bond and connect in various ways. Save the worship sing-alongs and personal testimonies for Sunday services or special events.
4. Remember the three phases of a group process.
Each guy that comes to your men’s group will experience the three distinct phases of a group process. Some will go through these phases quicker than others, but every guy must go through them all. These phases are:
- The Inclusion Phase:
In this phase, men decide how much they want to invest in the group. They assess the other men to see how comfortable they are around them and typically refrain from talking about anything extremely personal about themselves. Conflicts are scarce and disputes are avoided because everyone wants to make a good impression. Men can transition to the second phase of the process once they feel that they are valued by the other members of the group.
- The Influence Phase:
In this phase, men are able to gradually let their guard down. They begin to voice their differing thoughts and opinions, which often sparks conflict. In order for men to develop closer relationships with each other, it’s vital that they learn to successfully work through and resolve their conflicts. They will not be able to establish deeper levels of trust until they know that they can say what’s on their mind and still be respected and valued by the group.
- The Intimacy Phase:
In this phase, men begin to leave their comfort zones by disclosing more personal information about themselves and their struggles. Each man will decide how intimate he wants to be with the other members of the group, some choosing to share at deeper levels than others. Regardless of how open they are, the men all begin to feel that the group is a safe place for them to be vulnerable with each other without fearing ridicule or rejection.
5. Think like a man.
Most men’s groups consist of reading a book and eating some snacks. Throw a wrench in the usual plan! Men want to take risks, have fun and get dirty. Have a few group meetings outside the church building or at someone’s house. Plan non-traditional special events that are focused solely on fun and manly enjoyment, like skeet shooting, sporting events, car-care clinics, etc. Organize a work day that allows the men to be active while helping someone in need (e.g., split firewood for an elderly church member).
6. Remember that your group is made up of men from a variety of different backgrounds.
Everyone has different life experiences. Our spiritual walk, family life, socio-economic background, race and personal beliefs all shape how we see and think about the world. These differences should not separate the men in your group. It’s vital that each man is respectful of the other men’s opinions and willing to hear what they have to say. God may open your eyes to something you haven’t seen before.
7. Don’t get discouraged.
Your group might start off with 35 guys and dwindle down to 12 guys within a few weeks. Don’t get discouraged; this happens to all small groups. Many men are overly busy and do not prioritize their need for spiritual growth. Others are not ready to make real life changes. Find ways to minister to these men on the side, but don’t lose sight of the men who attend the group regularly. These are the guys who value spiritual growth in their lives. Try to stay focused on them and not on the men who are absent.
8. Men need to see measurable results.
Give the men in your group specific action steps that will lead them toward a stronger spiritual walk. Men want to know how they’re doing; they need to see that they are making progress in a direction that will lead to their success. Show them their progress by pointing out the positive changes you see in their lives. Schedule a graduation ceremony for those who participate in your men’s group for a specified amount of time. This type of celebration will allow the men to make a public commitment to pursuing Godly manhood.
9. Get it done with God!
No matter how many men attend your group, whether it’s five or 85, a good effort isn’t good enough—make it your best effort. The amount of effort you invest in the group will determine whether you and the men you lead grow spiritually or stagnate. As you invest in leading your group, be genuine; men can tell when someone’s faking it. If you want them to open up and talk about their struggles, emotions and thoughts, you need to open up and talk about yours. Focus on building a relationship with each man in your group, and watch their relationships with each other thrive.
10. Patience, patience, patience!
Patience is essential for anyone leading men. No one is capable of changing someone’s heart—only God can do that. Your job is to minister to the men around you and give them opportunities for spiritual growth. You can’t control how men will respond, but you can do your best to make sure that they are given the chance to grow in their relationship with God.