There are two things that have significantly changed my life into being the man I am today: finding faith and being part of solid groups of men (often one in the same). These groups range from athletics, high school groups of friends, college ministries, my fraternity, the men’s group in Los Angeles, CA, and even the online group which is part of this site. Being part of these groups have made me a better man, and this truth is ancient.
As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Men need to be connected. The macho, distant, lone cowboy image of a man does not work. The act, the ego, and the 007 life are unfulfilling. Men need connections beyond parties and paychecks; men need true friendship, and confidence in a brother or friend who has their back no matter what.
Over the years, I’ve formed many men’s groups (from a fraternity chapter recognized as one of the top in the nation, to Young Life campaigners, to “beer and bible” studies, to the current men’s group in Los Angeles which is quickly growing). If you are not part of a men’s group, or there simply aren’t any groups you’re interested in getting involved in, why not start your own group? Build your own men’s group. You can start with a couple of friends, and with the right foundation, it might just grow.
How to build a men’s group with a rock solid foundation:
1. Have a purpose: Groups don’t spontaneously happen, but are built with intent and vision. In fraternal orders, a creed is usually recited at the beginning or end of a meeting to remind everyone why they are meeting. If you are interested in building a men’s group, you should have a good idea of what your purpose is in meeting. Our vision statement for the men’s group in LA is “We are a platoon of Christ-following men dedicated to Prayer, Service, Transparency, and Accountability – holding each other to a higher standard of manhood.” Set the vision, and you will quickly find out who wants to be a part of the group, or not.
2. Meet consistently: Meeting on a weekly basis usually works best. Set a day and time, and eventually guys will make it a habit, and will expect it. Once again, a men’s group will not organically crop up on its own. As guys, we’re often busy and success-driven, and the idea of meeting with a group of guys on a regular basis might not be initially appealing if there is no booze or women. Don’t give up on a slow start. If each guy walks away from the meetings believing he gained something that will make his life better, he’ll come back every week.
3. Get real: The one thing lacking in most men’s lives is authentic connection. Real connection happens when guys let their guards down and start sharing the things in their lives they are often least proud of showing. It first must be modeled, though, and if you’re going to start a group, you should be leading in this area too. What I’ve seen is guys who finally take off the mask and share the things they are most ashamed of will find others who have similar stories. Don’t believe the lie. No man is truly alone. When guys discover they aren’t alone in their struggles, they discover an army of men who will have their backs at any given moment.
4. Well-plan the meetings: Maybe the plan is to watch a movie about becoming a better man, having one of the guys in the group share their story, inviting in a guest speaker, etc. Early on, I used to try and wing-it, but making flexible plans at the very least will provide greater reason and purpose for everyone to keep coming back. Currently our LA group has grown so much, we meet as a big group once per month, and during that time I try to bring in a well-known speaker.
5. Find advisors: Back in college when we were starting our fraternity chapter, we had a Colony Advisory Board (CAB) to help us as we grew. If you don’t put together a board, at least find a mentor or an advisor who will be willing to help you if your quest is to establish a group. We are currently forming a group of advisors for our men’s group in LA, and I’ve already gotten some great ideas from a couple of them.
6. Sharpen each other: Iron sharpens iron because it’s abrasive and it whittles away the unnecessary material. What’s true friendship without tough conversations? There is no true friendship without accountability. As the recent fraternity racist chant at OU demonstrated, zero accountability leads to destruction. The only way men can become better men is when men are willing to point out what needs to be improved upon. Whether it’s quitting a bad habit like smoking or laziness, a true friend and a good group will help you to kick it.
7. Get involved: Once you have a group sharpening each other, go out and influence your community. Part of the mission of our men’s group in LA is to get guys involved in their church community and to help revitalize men’s ministries. What will your group do? Find something that aligns with the original group purpose.
These are just a few thoughts on starting a group. Have you had success in starting one? Please share your ideas below.