Top Secrets for a Growing Men’s Group
February 20, 2017
“Welcome. Have a seat. The first night’s free. The second night, I want to know why you’re here.”
That’s how Troy Jennings introduces prospective new members to the Wednesday night meeting of the G-Men, the men’s group at Gladeville (Tenn.) Baptist Church.
“I always look for that to drive people away,” Jennings says. “But it’s only done that twice. And the reasons people give that second night have led to some of the most incredible conversations I’ve ever heard guys get into. It just blows my mind.”
Jennings’ brain-boggling experiences have come almost non-stop during the last three years, as the Gladeville men’s group he birthed has expanded to over 150 guys and nine separate meetings. What are the G-Men’s top secrets for such phenomenal growth in men’s ministry?
Like a lot of guys during the early years of the Promise Keepers movement, Jennings had joined a men’s Bible study. In fact, he was part of six or seven groups because they kept fizzling out.
“They did the same thing men do,” Jennings explains. “They got interested in something for a while, didn’t put all their effort into it or commit to it that much.”
So Jennings approached some men from the Sunday school class he taught and invited them to his house. Once they were together, he shared what was on his heart.
“I was fed up with guys and their lack of commitment,” Jennings says. “Not just their lack of commitment to a group, but their lack of commitment to doing what they say they want to do.”
He sought to create a new men’s group, with accountability built in from day one. His rules:
- Come on time. The meetings will start promptly.
- Come prepared. Some guys are talkers and some are listeners, so be prepared in your own way.
- Communicate. If you’re not here, somebody’s got to know why. And it better be a good reason.
“The difference in this meeting was the commitment that wasn’t asked – but almost demanded – if you wanted to be a part of it,” says David Liddle, one of the original 12 guys.
The whole dozen accepted the challenge.
“Probably over 200 guys have had contact with this group since the beginning, and nearly 150 have made a hard commitment,” says Bruce Grubbs, pastor of Gladeville Baptist. “For those guys, it’s been a lifesaver. I’ve got guys who will tell you this saved their life, saved their marriage or saved their family. For some, it’s been a means to conversion or to personal renewal.”
Build on Camaraderie
“Not only are we committed to being there on a weekly basis,” Liddle explains, “but when we decide to do something – cooking pancakes, helping a family move, other things – the same commitment level is there. And there’s a camaraderie that’s developed when you’re out doing that type of stuff, rather than sitting in somebody’s living room at a Bible study, drinking coffee and eating cookies.”
Mark Taylor, Gladeville’s director of men’s ministry (who also leads a G-men group on Monday nights), agrees. “It’s the camaraderie more than anything,” he says. “Out of the camaraderie comes deeper commitment and accountability.” The closeness of the group has fostered a genuineness and honesty among its members.
Once, a big, tough-looking guy joined after realizing he didn’t have any joy in his life – and he saw these men had what he lacked. Another night, when a new guy admitted he was seriously contemplating suicide, Jennings asked other members of the group to share similar feelings they’d had. “This new guy was thinking he’s sitting around with a bunch of theologians or pastors or something,” Jennings recalls. “And he finds out we have stories just like his.” That night, the man prayed to accept Jesus into his life. “Now he can’t wait to see what’s going to happen to him and in other men’s lives,” Jennings says.
Liddle feels the group has opened his eyes to seeing how God can do things through him – such as street ministry in West Virginia and Honduras. “It’s given me confidence to do things outside of my comfort zone,” he says. “No matter how things turn out, I know this group will be there supporting me and praying for me.”
Jesse Florea is a freelance writer living in Colorado Springs, Colo. This article was adapted from “Group Dynamic” in Stand Firm, September 2001.