3.1 Early Growth
Early Stage Growth
We have stressed the importance of growing slowly and striving for meaningful discussions instead of trying to attract large numbers in the early stages of your ministry.
Once you’ve worked with the model as a Core Team and feel your discussions are staying grounded in the men’s faith experience and on track with the questions, it is time to start expanding the ministry. We’ve found the best way to do this is to begin extending personal invitations to men you know or meet at Mass. The key in the early stage of growth is to invite men you believe would be attracted to and grasp the model.
People will accept invitations from acquaintances more easily than from strangers. If you start inviting people you know even causally and they do the same, the ripple effect kicks in and growth picks up.
As a core team, when you are ready, here are some starter questions to ask:
Ask the team for suggestions of men they know who may be interested in attending.
- Whom might your Pastor or Deacons suggest you invite?
- If you have other complimentary ministries that involve men, for example; the Knights of Columbus, or a traditional Bible Study, ask them if they might be interested in attending a meeting.
- Set a goal that each core team member will try to invite one person to your next meeting.
If you work at this one-on-one invitation process you will often see your group double in size within a few months.
Think broadly about these invitations. In addition to the low hanging fruit of men in the parish, we’ve had men invite their neighbors or men they know might be struggling to get more involved in a faith journey.
We’ve had non-Catholics who started attending meetings and eventually went through the RCIA program and joined the Church. Some have become leaders of their Men’s Ministry.
Also, it’s important to keep track of any new men that begin to attend and then stop coming. Following up with them to learn about their experience and their reasons for not staying with it can sometimes provide helpful feedback for the team.
Set the Tone
Create an open prayerful environment
- Listen actively
- Encourage participation
- Help members feel at ease
Members look to you for guidance and leadership
Keep the conversation on track
- Focus on topic and questions for discussion
- It is ok to digress to the extent group is willing to “go there” BUT:
- Be mindful of the relevance of discussion to the overall theme of the day
- Relate the “off-topic” discussion back to the general theme of the session
Foster an atmosphere of acceptance of each member’s point of view.
Let the group explore various related themes to the topic at hand but do not hesitate to steer the discussion back to the main point of the discussion
Everyone who wants to speak should have the opportunity to do so.
- Create an environment where members feel comfortable speaking freely
- Encourage others to listen
- The speaker should have the ability to finish his thought before someone else jumps in
The ideal table complement is five members
- Be aware of the tables around you
- If there are too few or too many people at your table make an effort to encourage consolidation
Be sensitive to body language
- Someone may not be speaking but their actions may indicate that they are uncomfortable with a particular discussion thread
Attempt to steer the conversation away from a topic that may make someone uncomfortable
Keep the conversation moving when it appears to be slowing
- Attempt to connect the points members have made on a particular subject
Do not let any one person, yourself included, monopolize the discussion
- Try to keep everyone engaged and sharing
Draw those who have a tendency not to speak into the discussion by actively seeking their views on the question; but do not press if they are not ready to speak.
What about Silence
Do not fear silence
- Members may be digesting a question and trying to frame a response
- Silence may be awkward but it is OK
If silence persists, move to another question and suggest that the group can come back to the topic later if there is time remaining
Encourage sharing by affirming the input being given by members
Share with the larger group important points that may have been discussed
- These comments could be of a general nature
- Or, if they are personal make sure that your group is comfortable sharing.
Small Group discussions
Additonal helpful suggestions
- When meeting with a new group for the first time, go around the table and ask each member to introduce and share a little about themselves
- Familiarize yourself with the weekly reading ahead of time
- Read aloud or ask a volunteer to read aloud each question then ask the group if any specific question is resonating with them. Who would like to begin?
- Do not focus on one person and do not let one person drive the discussion
- Keep the members of your table at ease by creating a warm relaxed environment
- Share your own personal experiences when appropriate as a way to encourage others to share, but avoid pressuring anyone to speak
- Laughter can be a great way to put the group at ease and make members more inclined to share. However reestablish a more serious tone when the time is right to move on