Men who have been discipled but are not passing it on to other men are easily one of the biggest bottlenecks to church growth.
It's also the biggest opportunity with the greatest potential return. I can prove it, but that's a different article. The real question is, "What can we do about it?"
Most Christian men know they should be making disciples and feel guilty because they're not. But they don't know how to get started. They don't feel qualified. They're afraid of looking like a fool. There's a fear of the unknown. The bar seems too high. It's overwhelming. Even though they know they're not "really" disciples until they are making other disciples, they don't reinvest in others to help build the kingdom.
But any man can easily disciple a few other men by leading them through a book or devotional. A book, devotional book or devotional magazine is a great resource to jump start a small group, especially for men who may be new to the whole "small-group experience."
You can successfully lead a lively discussion by following these guidelines:
1. Format: Decide how many weeks your group will meet and pick the chapters to read and discuss each week. Groups may be existing Bible studies, fellowship groups, prayer groups or Sunday school classes (women can be included). Or you may want to start a new group. Don't try to make guys commit to meeting for a year. That would be overwhelming! Just agree to meet for anywhere from six to 12 weeks. Then each guy can decide at that time whether he wants to continue.
2. Starting a new group: Make copies of the book's or devotional's Table of Contents, and give a copy to the men you want to meet with. Ask them if they would like to be in a discussion group that would read the book and discuss how the issues raised affect their lives. This can be a group from work, church, your neighborhood or a combination. The optimum-sized group would be eight to 12 men (assuming some men will have to miss a week occasionally).
3. First week: Distribute a copy of the book or devotional to each member together with a schedule. Assign the first chapter as next week's reading assignment, and ask members to be prepared to share a thought or two about what they read. Then go around the room and ask each man to share with the group where he is on his spiritual pilgrimage. This is a great icebreaker. Be sure to point out that there are no wrong answers to this question. Some may just be starting on their pilgrimage, while others may be well down the road. Close with a prayer. Always adjourn exactly when you said you would.
4. Typical week: Begin with an icebreaker question. As an alternative, you may ask a different man each week to give a maximum five-minute personal testimony of how he became a Christian. During a one-hour meeting, a good schedule to follow would be:
- Icebreaker question—5 minutes
- Discussion of chapter—45 minutes
- Group prayer—10 minutes
5. Alternative typical week: Prepare a 20-minute lecture based on the chapter or devotions for the week. After your presentation, spend 30 minutes discussing the questions and 10 minutes in prayer. Use your creativity to think of other ways to help men deal with the man in the mirror. Or ask each man to take a week to present the chapter and come up with two or three discussion questions of his own for the group.
6. Meals: If you meet over lunch or breakfast, allow an extra 15 minutes for eating, if possible.
7. Leading a discussion: The key to a successful discussion group will be your ability to ensure that each member gets "air time." Your role is to encourage each man to render his thoughts and ideas on the subject of the day. If off-the-subject questions are asked, simply suggest that you discuss that at a separate time. If someone rambles too much, privately ask them to help you draw out the more shy members of the group.
8. Questions: You don't have to be an experienced Bible teacher to lead a discussion. If someone asks you a question beyond your scope, simply say so and move on.
9. Be creative: There is no single "right" way to have a men's discussion group. The pleasure and added understanding you will experience from a group discussion will prove to be well worth the effort on your part.
I hope these ideas will give you the confidence to say, "You know, I can do this. And I will." I think it's fair to say the fate of the world depends on your decision.
Patrick Morley is chairman and CEO of Man in the Mirror. His book, Man in the Mirror, was selected as one of the 100 most influential Christian books of the 20th century. For the original article, visit maninthemirror.org.
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