Small groups ideal for
|Men pray over a participant at a "No Man Left Behind" conference in Chattanooga, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Man in the Mirror|
men to form relationships
by Joey Butler
"A lot of men have suspicion about small groups," says Larry Malone. He should know. As the national men's ministry director of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, he identifies the best ways to reach men.
"We don't want men's groups to turn into nothing more than ROMEO: Retired Old Men Eating Out," Malone says. "Small group and relational experiences are vital for a man's Christian walk."
The United Methodist Church has partnered with three U.S. men's ministries, each focusing on a different aspect of spiritual life, and each providing a consultant to advise United Methodists with their programs.
Wesleyan Building Brothers focuses on spiritual formation and the concept of "spiritual reproduction."
The yearlong program makes a small group of men confront the "father vacuum"Ð unresolved issues with a father figure that impede their relationship with God. Initially, they discuss these issues together, then go back to their church to implement a ministry.
"It takes us back to the Wesleyan tradition of small groups," says George Houle, Wesleyan Building Brothers coordinator for Kansas.
After completing the program, each man is expected to start two more Building Brothers groups.
"It's the 'Luke Principle'," Houle adds. "Jesus grew His disciples from fishermen, and then sent them out in twos."
"We don't have to depend on huge numbers, but a small number can begin to influence others," Malone says.
Man in the Mirror hosts training seminars at local churches designed to bring men closer to Christ and to strengthen their leadership in the church.
|United Methodist men in Dallas pore over materials during a "No Man Left Behind" training seminar. Photo courtesy of Man in the Mirror|
Seminar topics include setting and achieving goals in one's Christian walk, being a good father and the "Seven Seasons of a Man's Life," which helps men identify which "season" they are in and learn how best to live it from a biblical standpoint.
The organization helps churches with publicity and provides speakers, materials and handouts for a six-week small group follow-up to each seminar.
"Almost 100 percent of the men attending these seminars have signed up for the follow-up sessions," says the Rev. William Green of First United Methodist Church in Cary, N.C.
Letters from Dad coaxes men into expressing their emotions, committing their thoughts to paper and sharing them with their families. More than 60 United Methodist churches now participate in Letters from Dad.
|The Rev. Phil Grose speaks to a Letters from Dad gathering at First United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas. Photo courtesy of Phil Grose|
"We were looking for a program to revitalize our men's ministry, and we wanted something new and different and family-oriented," says the Rev. Phil Grose, associate pastor and director of men's ministry at First United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas.
The church threw a kickoff barbecue and drew 70-80 men, more than half of whom, Grose says, signed up for the letter-writing program.
The men met once a month for four months to tap into their emotions and learn practical writing tips to better express themselves.
After presenting the letters to their loved ones, the men shared their experiences with the group.
"When you get a group of men together, everyone tries to hold their emotions in, but we were all just bawling after a while," Grose says.
The church will begin another session in April.
The popularity of Letters from Dad may stem from its appeal to any age. The group at Sugar Land First ranges from young fathers to great-grandfathers.
"The basic lesson of the program is that things happen quickly, and we never know when God will call us home," Grose says. "This is a simple way for men to express love and gratitude."
--Joey Butler, managing editor, Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine
Create a 'safe' environment for men's ministry
Space, both physical and abstract, is important for men. Is there a place they can go in the church and let down their guard? In this place, can they share their pain, their challenges?
* It can be as simple as how you arrange the chairs. (Hint: men don't want to sit too close to one another.)
* You don't have to hang power tools from the walls, but the area decor should be "masculine."
* The space must provide confidentiality. Men must feel comfortable to expose their hearts. Intimacy is arrived at over time.
* There is a "male" way of communicating. Church-going men often use too much church-speak that would drive away men they may invite from outside the church.
* Men are goal- or challenge-oriented. The goal is the launching pad for what men do. The group can't focus solely on discussion. Here they make plans, and learn to trust one another by doing things together.