Small Group Ministries For Men
I attended a Christian Men's Rally. The topic was Male Spirituality. I would like to report on the lessons, the discussion, and the recommendations made during the meeting.
Psychological profiles of men and women were presented to compare and contrast the various personality traits of both sexes. Examples of feminine traits include intuition, creativity, and nurturing. Examples of masculine traits include planning, asserting, and directing.
Our culture categorizes certain traits as masculine or feminine. The sexes have been stereotyped to the point of prohibiting people from exhibiting traits of the opposite sex. But no trait actually belongs to only one sex. Every person needs to develop a wider range of traits to be more whole and complete.
Women have a head start on men toward being whole, in that women have been forced into two roles. They have taken on supposedly masculine roles to be competitive in the business world. But women have still retained their feminine roles through their roles as mother and wife at home.
Men assume the masculine roles in the work force and with their buddies. But when they return home, they are not forced to assume feminine roles to the extent that women have been forced to assume masculine roles. Hence, women are ahead of men when trying to become whole. This is not because women's roles are necessarily better than masculine roles. This is because women have been forced into a wider range of situations in which they can develop their personalities more fully.
Men perceive relationships as a hierarchy: each person is on a rung of a ladder. Men are always trying to move up the ladder and are constantly aware of who is above them and who is below them on the ladder. Women view relationships as a web: every person they meet could be part of a support network, with relationships being built laterally and horizontally.
When men get together, they build relationships by doing things. When women get together, they build relationships by sharing secrets. A man conceals himself, and proves who he is by what he does and what he creates. A women reveals herself, and proves who she is by how she thinks and how she feels.
In review, the lessons concluded that although some personality traits have been stereotyped as masculine or feminine, every person needs to develop a wider range of traits to be more whole and complete. Then we discussed how a witnessing situation might be a good example of this.
You might think that a man has the advantage when sharing the gospel with someone because men are supposed to be more assertive and more direct than women. But you could also assume that a woman would have the advantage because she would be more comfortable with sharing her feelings about her relationship with Christ.
Actually, we all need to be assertive enough so that we will be effective in following through with a contact. And we all need to feel more comfortable with sharing our feelings about Christ with others. Keep in mind that our relationship with God is a love relationship. We find it difficult to be open and vulnerable with our feelings, while at the same time being assertive and direct. It is difficult to be all things.
If we are to learn how to be open and vulnerable, we must first find or develop an environment that will encourage and support the expression of Christ's love without fear of embarrassment or criticism. And while in that environment, we must learn enough about the Bible and prayer to give us the confidence that we need to be more assertive and direct.
In other words, it will be difficult to express Christ's love to unbelievers until we have learned to express His love to fellow Christians. We cannot be bold and confident until we are certain we know what God's Word is, what His will is, and how He wants us to carry out His will, according to His Word.
Groups tend to operate in two types of environments. Bible studies at most churches are conducted like a classroom, leaving little time for discussion or personal expression. Social outings are less structured and more casual, but God is seldom discussed at social gatherings. Most churches need a small group environment somewhere in between a classroom and a social gathering.
I have talked about the lessons and the discussion at the meeting. Here are the recommendations. We concluded that we need to develop a supportive environment, in which we can learn to express our love for Christ in an open and positive manner. We must also gain confidence to speak and to act through an understanding of God's Word and His will.
Several types of small groups were suggested to accomplish these objectives. Some of these include prayer groups, Bible study groups, support groups, volunteer groups (to do specific tasks for the church or community), and sporting activities.
There could also be combinations of these. Start a men's group (or a women's group) with prayer training classes, then rotate the format between Bible study and topical discussions or training. But always allow time for prayer to continue building on what was learned in the prayer training classes. A support group will often be a by-product formed within a prayer or Bible study group.
Although it is often helpful to select material that is relevant to the group's needs, the main goal of these groups is not usually to cover any specific materials within any specific time frame. The goal is to provide opportunities for a limited number of people to share with each other a time of growth and fellowship. Size is also not a major objective. In fact, if a group becomes too large, it should divide into smaller groups to facilitate discussion.
When people visit a church, they often ask, "What does your church have to offer my children, my spouse, and me?" I used to think that was a very self-centered question to ask. Is our church here to serve them? Yes, it is. Christ came to serve and we should do the same.
When people ask what our church can offer them, they are really looking for a place to "plug in". If they are to be active and alive in Christ, they need the support of fellow Christians. They are looking for a place where they can find the support that they need while serving and growing in the Lord.
We do not need to go program crazy. But if a visitor is looking for some type of small group, where he can both contribute and receive encouragement, what do we tell the visitor? Do we tell him to stick around, maybe something will turn up? Or do we develop a strategy to select and develop programs to meet critical needs of target groups, and then make a commitment to keep them going while the current members and the new members fill in the groups?
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