Life in North America has returned to “normal.” Men are working hard at their jobs and spending more and more time and money on their families and hobbies. Life is busy and full, so many churches find it difficult to connect their men in small groups. If you are like other leaders, you probably feel frustrated over why men aren’t participating in your small groups. But I believe it is possible to create small groups men want to join.
To create any momentum around men and small groups, you need to be willing to step back from how you have always done things and remind yourself of who you are trying to reach. When I look at men and small groups, there are three principles that I have observed and believe to be true.
- Most men like to have a goal they aspire to. Because men are busy, they don’t have time to participate in things simply for the sake of being there. They need to know there is a purpose for carving out time and energy in their schedule.
- Most men want friendships, but this is not their primary motivating factor. If you want to know what we believe is important in life, look at how we spend our time and money. Jesus told us where our treasure is, our hearts will be also. While most men want friendships, how they spend their time and money says they value other things in life even more.
- Most men genuinely want to spend time with their wives. I believe with all my heart in the importance of men being with other men. But whenever you bring men together only with other men, you take them away from their wives. In a world that is already busy for men, your efforts need to support this desire.
Now that we have these foundational principles, here are some ideas/questions on how you can make your small group ministry something men want to be part of.
Do your small groups have a name that communicates a clear purpose that men are attracted to?
Many of us will use words like “Community,” “Life,” or simply “Bible study” to describe our small groups. Here’s the problem. None of these titles connect with a purpose that stirs the hearts of most men. Men are not primarily driven by finding friendship, but we often promote our groups around the importance of “finding community.” The majority of men looking for friendships do not go and find it in a small group; they find it by working on a project or task with other men.
When our church changed the name of our small groups from “Life Groups” to “Discipleship Groups,” we had a significant uptake in men participating. The feedback we heard from many is because they now understood the group’s purpose – to help each other become more like Jesus.
Structure your groups around the primary purpose of growing as a disciple of Jesus, and communicate that purpose repeatedly. Men will respond to this.
Do your men’s small groups complement or compete with the small group’s ministry in your church?
Do you consider it a win for a man to be in any small group, or is it only a win for him to be in a men’s small group? I have had many conversations over the years where a men’s ministry leader is upset or disappointed because men are not participating in a men’s small group. The reason? They’re too busy being in a small group with their wife. Think about that for a minute.
You need to believe that anytime a man is connected in a small group, it is a win because he is in an environment where he can grow as a disciple of Jesus.
Do you provide different types of commitment?
Life is busy. Men are working hard, and travel has continued to increase for many families. Because your purpose is to make disciples of Jesus and not just fill up your small groups, this allows you to be flexible with your groups. It’s great to have groups that meet throughout the year, but it’s also important to have short-term groups where you are intentionally helping men to grow and connect. Many men can attend in person, but many men get home from work late and want to be home to put their kids to bed. Provide some groups in person and some that are online.
There is no doubt in my mind that small groups will continue to be a significant key in the spiritual formation of men. What I am sharing with you is not theory. We have implemented many of these ideas in our church and have seen God do some great things in the lives of men – especially younger men in their 20’s and 30’s.
You can create small groups men want to join, but it may require changing how you approach your small groups ministry. If you are a small group leader, consider our immersive 7-week small group leadership experience to transform you and the men you lead.