In my experience, a lot of the real transformation in men’s lives takes place in small groups. I think several factors are involved. First, men get "air time" to flesh out the concepts for themselves—concepts that can take 10 or 20 years to fully grasp. They get to "observe" how other men react to the same concepts (e.g., are they solemn, joyful, convicted, encouraged?). They see "changed life" in other men. A small group provides "visibility" and "accountability" a man doesn’t get any other way. Finally, if it’s a men’s only group, he can talk about male specific issues in a male specific way.
If I could only have men do two things in addition to the worship service, it would be to read the Bible for themselves and be in a small group with other men. Over the years, these are the two most effective disciplines or habits for men’s discipleship and spiritual transformation.
Here’s a good illustration to drive home small groups. In 2005 Consumer Reports magazine compared the results from five popular diets. The hands-down winner was Weight Watchers.
Why? All the diets work, but success relies on sticking to the plan. And why did Weight Watchers stick with the plan? Weight Watchers uses a weekly meeting to reinforce their program. After a year, its followers were far more likely to stick with the plan.
Encourage your men to form or join small groups. In the best cases, you might build to 80% of your men in small groups. A solid effort might be 50% of your men.
Group size can vary, but I suggest not less than four. Once you get over about eight, air time starts to become scarce.
Don’t let men self-select themselves as small group leaders. Do have a training process so they know how to handle different situations (e.g., a man who wants to fix everyone or a man who talks too much). Don’t recruit teachers to be leaders. Instead, recruit shepherds who want to take care of a flock.
Don’t micromanage your small groups. Men don’t like to be micromanaged.
Yours for changed lives,
Patrick Morley, Ph.D
Man in the Mirror