The good, better, best and worst locations for meeting with small groups of men.
A discussion on location may seem unnecessary. But I believe the site of a small group discipleship experience with men can be a significant contributing or hindering factor. The location of your small group impacts two things, first the group dynamic, and second your leadership. With conducive environments, these two elements are either delayed or accelerated, and I prefer removing the challenges from the start to make the whole process easier. I do this because constant distractions, access problems, or meeting issues will hijack a discipleship process and an entire week of time from you, and they can sometimes draw too much attention to your leadership faults and anxieties. While I think it is imperative to be transparent with your men, I have found that if I have less anxiety and can focus on leading the group when my anxiety lowers around one major factor – the meeting location. And while my leadership flexibility is necessary, there are nothing constant meeting issues that distract from the relationships and content matter. And I have experienced it all in leading men’s groups.
- The room is too hot or too cold.
- A group is in our room.
- We cannot access our room.
- The room is not set up.
- The power doesn’t work.
- A group reserved the room half-way through our meeting.
- A person interrupts our meeting during a critical moment of sharing.
- The table breaks.
- The men cannot find the room.
Here would be a quick list of general characteristics for you to consider as you pick a location. These are broad aspects, and then we will talk through examples of the best to worse locations.
First | Reservable
The first characteristic of a great meeting location is that it is a place that you can reserve. If you cannot book it or save it exclusively for your use, then you will probably run into issues eventually. I know this is basic, but having a long-term reservation is good. If you cannot reserve it, then you run the risk of being run out at some point, and this is not helpful for developing men as disciples. I remember one year we had to move our group four times and while adventurous, this was not the preference.
Second | Right Location
I would make sure your location in an area of demand for your men. In other words, ensure that it is within an area of reasonable driving distance. I have had men drive 45-minutes to one of my groups; however, this is not the preference. I would say about 15-20 minutes from each of the guys and either their home or work is good. Much more distance and you will lose them, if not right away, eventually.
Third | Right Setting
The setting does make a difference. I have noticed this single factor contribute to accelerating or hindering groups more than any other. You are looking for an environment that is neutral and private. Therefore I prefer a board room over a home and a private room over a public area. Fewer distractions to no distractions just accelerate focus. Also, settings where you can sit in a circle at a round table, more than a rectangular table is best. Both work, just remember men will be able to see each other better at a round table. And yes a table is necessary! I have led many groups without one, but men like to have a table to sit handbooks, Bibles, drinks, and want a surface to write on.
Fourth | Right Sized
I have made the mistake of trying to cram too many men in a room. While this makes it feel full, when men cannot move around it is distracting, hot, and uncomfortable when someone needs to leave early.
Fifth | Right Price
I have occasionally paid for space, but free is the key. Paying for space is not what you want to do, but sometimes you have no choice. And discipleship is worth it. Free is best, and there is always someone out there who will be generous.
So given these general characteristics, what are examples of the best to worst locations?
The Best Locations
The best sites are donated board rooms, training rooms, or community rooms with a door. All you have to do is ask around. They often sit empty early in the morning or later in the evening. If you know a small business owner, I bet he has one. You can also contact your location church. I would say the critical requirements here are two. First, you want it free of charge. Second, you must have access without having to contact someone else. If the room is right and you can get these two requirements, then you are ready to go. FYI: I no longer use rooms or offices unless I get a key. When I cannot get into a room without someone else giving me access, it will at some point go wrong, and this creates anxiety for me. So I avoid it.
The Better Locations
The better locations are a restaurant with a private room and low fee. Examples are coffee houses with a separate room that charge a fee or require purchase. In our city, we have a number of these. They are very workable for me since men can get there early, buy their own beverage, and then join the group.
The Good Locations
Good locations are common areas with minimal distractions like a library, school, or local government common areas. I have used all of these, and they are all free if you live in the area. However, coordinating them for a prolonged period can be a little tricky
The Worst Locations
The worst locations are open areas like a restaurant in the open. While I have been forced to use these, distractions are high, and without a private room, you cannot deal with individual and private issues.
In summary, remember you have to choose at some point and live with what you have been given. But these are just the small lessons I have learned over the last few decades of small group leadership with men. In the end, just do it, and don’t let the issues derail you as a leader. I would say learning to deal with the issue and problems of meeting space has made me a better leader, and a smarter leader.
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Vince Miller is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to speak to men’s audiences and has a deep passion for mentorship and God’s Word. He has authored ten books and small group content for men. He is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Reach out to him today if you need a men’s speaker or content for your men’s small groups.