Some men just don't like small groups. I can't blame them.
Those of us who write about and train people to lead groups are guilty of asking a group leader to create an environment that would drive a man's man to clean the house before attending a small group meeting.
A few suggestions:
1. When listing the goals of a small group, never use the term "intimacy." This will make most men cringe. It will make a man's man run.
2. When working on a group covenant together, make certain the men in the group are engaged in the conversation. They may remain silent. Their silence may mean that they are hearing the conversation but they aren't necessarily committing to the covenant. They need ownership of the covenant in order to commit to it. They will only sense ownership if they are given the right to push back and find some give when they do.
3. Give the men in the group more time than the females in the group to begin revealing who they really are. Men are apt to talk in facts and clichés for a long period of time before ever giving an opinion about a biblical passage or unveiling what's going on in their personal lives. Don't rush it. If you want to speed up the process subgroup into two groups, a men's subgroup and a women's subgroup. Men are more open to talking about their life situations, struggles and sins when women aren't listening in.
4. When deciding on social experiences, suggest things the men in the group get excited about. Go camping, fishing, hunting, paintballing or to a ballgame. When a group leader suggests experiences like these, the men in the group subconsciously recognize this group is going to work for them.
5. Take pleasure in sarcasm and laughter. We men are notorious for turning a meeting into a brawl, a weekly reenactment of the film Animal House. We love to harass one another and laugh at one another. Don't let this get out of hand, but don't demand the environment of a wake either. If you give men freedom to laugh and tease early in the meeting, they will seldom be angry or disappointed if you ask them to calm it down during the Bible study and prayer times.
6. Unless everyone is in agreement, don't demand homework from group members or that they read a book. Very few men are readers, and even fewer are willing to do homework. This may be possible in time, but not as the group first starts meeting together.
Rick Howerton is a consultant and trainer on small groups. He is founding pastor of The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He is the author of several books.