By Chris Surratt
My first men’s group experience was almost my last. I didn’t know any of the men around my table that morning in the back room of a dark restaurant. The group leader asked us to go around the table and confess our biggest struggle, then pray for each other. As we started going around the table, it quickly became evident that a couple of the guys did not have the same inner boundaries that I did. They were confessing sins I am pretty certain were illegal in a couple of states. By the time it was my turn to speak, the confession bar had been set pretty high. I could feel disapproving stares burning through me as I looked down at my plate and muttered something about not reading my Bible and praying enough. You know, the adult equivalent of when I ask my kids what they learned in their class at church and they answer, “Jesus.” We finished the confessions, and I quickly left the restaurant, pretty certain that I did not want to have anything to do with any future men’s small groups.
I would bet my Weber grill that my first men’s small group experience is what most guys imagine when asked to join one. Their first impression of groups is they will be forced to be vulnerable and quite possibly hold hands with another person at some point during the meeting. Neither of those options appeal to most dudes.
If we are going to reach men with groups, we have to flip the stereotype. After all, the first biblical small group was a group of twelve guys who dropped everything to follow Jesus and change the world together. We need guys to believe it’s possible to do that again. When my family moved to Charleston to join the staff at Seacoast Church, our friends Sam and Joan invited us to attend their small group. I had never been part of a home group before and honestly had no interest in starting. I had all the typical fears about my manhood being stripped in a quick two-hour span on a Tuesday night.
My nightmare would definitely end with a group hug after the closing prayer. To my surprise, the first meeting wasn’t that bad. No one invaded my introverted space, and not a single person asked me to share how I had sinned that week. In the conversation after the meeting, with a beverage cup tightly in my hand, Sam did something brilliant: he discovered that I was a musician and invited me to bring my guitar next week. Up to that moment I was trying to think through every excuse to not come back, but the thought of breaking out my axe trumped anything I could come up with. I returned the next Tuesday night with my acoustic in hand and have been immersed in group life for the eighteen years since then.
Sam tapped into something I was passionate about and used it to hook me into community. We had a common interest. Finding those common interests is the key to reaching men. We need to stop expecting guys to give up who they are so they will conform to our vision of who they should be. Take a look at what a few dudes did in the Bible:
• David fought battles with his mighty men.
• Jesus took a group of fishermen and went fishing with them.
• Paul made tents with Aquila in Corinth.
Ask yourself, what are some common interests that guys already have to build biblical community around? Throw in a great Bible study like this one, or this one, and you might just have something worth being a part of.
Give a group of men the freedom to add God to what they are already doing and there’s no stopping them. How powerful could men’s groups be if they discovered their purpose? They might just change the world—again.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with more than twenty years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN., and Seacoast Church in Charleston, S.C., prior to becoming the Discipleship and Small Groups Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes. You can follow his blog at www.chrissurratt.com.