1.3 Rehearsing the Model
Once you’ve established your core team, it’s important to practice working with the model and meeting format in order to get the feel of faith sharing discussions prior to growing the ministry. As we mentioned earlier, growing slowly is critical. There is a tendency to falsely interpret high attendance numbers as a primary success factor. You may have 25 or 30 men show up once to see what’s going on, but you will not get them back if the discussion has no depth or substance. This takes time. From our experience we recommend three to four months of weekly meetings with your initial core group before inviting more men to join you.
Why? In the stress of daily life these days most men simply do not take enough time to reflect on their inner experience. Learning to make the connections between our interior life and outer actions takes practice. In this particular model where the discussion questions focus on your lived experience, a business mind set does not work. Most men are more accustomed to a work oriented or competitive win-lose environment and struggle to answer questions of faith from an: “I feel, I’ve experienced” perspective and resort to defending their point of view and debating issues rather than maintaining a neutral listening stance. The active listening stance is one that opens to deeper discovery about how others might be experiencing God, faith and life.
Many men would agree they have put significantly more effort into developing work relationships ahead of faith relationships. We know to whom we would turn for political guidance at the office or for financial advice in our investments. But do you know immediately to whom you’d turn when your child is struggling, when you receive a bad diagnosis, loose your job or a loved one? In these weekly discussions, these are some the underlying life/faith challenges addressed from a faith perspective.
Without first developing the ability for candid sharing within your initial core group, discussions can quickly evolve into debate or arguments and can easily fall apart. Conversely, with practice you will see new men showing up and returning each week, because they are attracted to the common ground of what they hear at the small group table. Imagine a table where an SVP of Marketing, Fireman, Accountant, Plumber, Attorney and a House Painter all discover they are wrestling with the exact same life issues and are not so different after all. We have seen the most unlikely friendships and support systems develop between men whose paths would never have crossed due to different professions, hobbies, and economic status. But a shared faith becomes the great equalizer. Start slowly and give yourselves the necessary time in working with the sample sessions and our accompanying guide on Leading Small Group Discussion.