Five Rules For Great Small Groups Experiences and Avoiding The Pet Peeves Of Men
Pastors want men to lead, but often the complication is training them to lead in an environment without a lot of structure. Most men from the marketplace are accustomed to working within structures but in a non-profit setting there is often not a lot of structure, and more freedom than leaders are used to. Given this, pastors and directors give their men's ministry small group leaders a long leash but sometimes find this is counterproductive and that only a few survive when throwing them into the deep end of men's group leadership. What these men need, is not just more experience, but maybe a little structure to get them going.
Principle: We need to give leaders a little structure.
As a man who has lead hundreds of groups in my ministry career, there is nothing more challenging than coaching a men's small group leader in an environment where you will never see the dynamic. I would even have problems dubbing this "coaching" because most coaches, like an athletic coach, watch their dynamics unfold and make adjustments along the way. For a men's leader in a small group experience, we might never see events happened. And if we do attend their meeting, men are on their best behavior. And this is what makes a men's group and leadership a messy experience.
Several years ago, we invited Heather Zempel, a small group expert, to come in a speak to our leaders. She authored a book entitled "Community is Messy," and she stated:
"Discipleship is a whole life journey, not an eight-week class. It's a process of becoming, not a destination. And this is always messy."
What a timeless reminder. But just because groups are messy and different in every situation, this does not mean that we shouldn't have a leadership approach that will help us lead the men in our group toward greater success and higher percentage results. Here are a few rules that I believe help men have a little bit of a framework for their role as a leader and facilitator of a group.
Rule One | Spend More Time Asking Over Telling
I believe the best leaders in a group setting are not those with all the answers. They are those who ask the best questions. For reference, you may want to spend time counting how often Jesus asked questions. He asked a lot of them. And even when people asked him questions, he often returned a question with another question! For example, take the Rich Young Ruler, who asked: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus could have just answered the question, but rather he asked back "What is written in the Law?" And why did he do this? Becuase this is what great leaders do. Even when you know the answer, sometimes you need to hold back. This is one of the hardest things to teach leaders who have a passion for teaching. If you ever need a failsafe question, I have told all our leaders to use the question, "Say More?" This is my favorite go-to question when men offer short anecdotal answers to a question because it turns the comment into deeper personal sharing.
Principle: Use the question "Say More?"
Rule Two | Catch Men Doing Things Right
Nothing will get your group moving in a positive direction quicker than encouraging and complimenting men when they engage in behaviors you want. While we may be tempted to tell the group what to do, it is better when men make impromptu actions, and you reward them publically for the behavior. For example, "Thanks John for being so transparent, I know that was probably difficult to share." Or "Bob way to go on bringing donuts and coffee this morning, can someone else do that next week?" Or my favorite, "Man everyone was early today, thanks for being on time!" Catching men doing things right creates a growing group dynamic in a small group setting that is much more positive than a list of rules or telling people how it is going to work.
Principle: Catch men doing things right and call it out publically.
Rule Three | Focus On Relationships Not Just The Material
This is often the forgotten rule for those who gather men. We must remember It is okay to postpone a lesson or to truncate the material. Yes, you can do that. Because you are free to do what you want, and no one is going to punish you if you don't get all the way through something in the time you were given. Sometimes you might even need to modify a group meeting. It is okay to eat breakfast together or go bowling, hunting, or golfing to build relationships in a different context. Relationships are important to the meeting along with a shared path of discovering life together with God.
Principle: It's the men, not just the material.
Rule Four | Be Curious About Everything
A great men's leader is naturally curious about people, things, and life in general. Men want to know other men in the group. Let them share prayer requests in the group time. Have men share about the challenges they are facing at work, home, with children. Welcome men in the group to share testimonies of their life. The more men share personally, and not just facts and opinions, they grow in relationship depth. So be curious, a little like an investigator. But do this with everything, because everything is interesting in a small group setting.
Principle: Be curious and interested in men.
Rule Five | Keep The Big Picture In Mind
Great small group leaders keep the big picture in mind while working on the details. For some, this is a challenge because we got caught up in a lesson, a point, or an illustration we cannot wait to make. Leaders should lift their heads sometimes and remember men in our group need direction and understanding of both why we are doing something and where we are on the path of getting there.
Principle: Cast vision for the big picture in your group.
These are just a few rules for your men's leader to keep in mind. These have helped me greatly over the years and ones that I have embraced for myself in every group meeting. They are broad enough that they also work in almost any type of group I have ever led. And while I could have included a dozen more, these are the one at the top of my list because they are the pet peeves I dislike in poorly led small group experiences. Notice the contrasted pet peeves I have about poorly led small groups.
My List of Pet Peeves
- Leaders that teach the whole time <vs> spend more time asking over telling
- Leaders that talk down to men <vs> catch men doing things right
- Leaders that only care about the material <vs> focus on relationships, not just the material
- Leaders that are not curious about me <vs> be curious about everything
- Leaders that don't guide me through the lesson <vs> keep the big picture in mind
If you are looking for material for your men's group or are looking for help with your small group leadership, reach out to us a www.beresolute.org.
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.