Building A Great Men’s Ministry: Transparency

26 Jun

(You can read the first entry in this series here, and the second part here)

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It was the morning of our first session in a new season of men’s group.

Breakfast was served, guests were introduced, and friendly banter commenced among the dozen or so men that had shown up. After the short opening prayer, my pastor laid out some ground rules that completely blew me away,

“Whatever things we talk about in this group stay in this group. If you go around blabbing the personal things that are offered here in confidence with people outside of the group, we will raise a posse, find you, and kick your ass. The only way that we are going to grow is if we are able to be open with one another. The only way this group will work, is if it is a safe place to be transparent with one another.”

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Generally, men can be pretty guarded.

Not all men are this way, but I would say that the vast majority that I’ve met can be. Speaking from my own experience, I am willing to talk about my hopes and fears, failures and questions, but not with any Joe on the street—that level of openness needs to be earned.

Have you ever had a complete stranger offer you a criticism? How did that go over? Even if what they are saying is right on target, I am going to be completely closed off because it is more than a little presumptuous to critique a person that you don’t know.

I have been a part of groups that ended up being little more than classroom lessons taught by the leader because no one was willing to open up and discuss things. Because there was no transparency and opening up with each other the relations between people never got any deeper. This is not to say that the sessions were worthless, but we didn’t grow as much as we could have.

Open conversation and transparency lead to deeper relationship, and deeper relationship leads to maturity and accountability… All of these things make us better men. This isn’t easy or fun, but I think that it’s vital to our growth as Christians.

How do you increase the conversation and the transparency in your group? I have three suggestions…

1. Be Safe- Don’t string up or shame men who have the stones to be vulnerable and share their shortcomings. Steps might need to be put in place (pastoral counseling, accountability structures, etc.), but at least initially, the guy needs your understanding, prayer, and support. If men are afraid that the hammer is going to come down, conversation will never go deeper than surface level.

2. Be Patient- It is important to remember that these things take time. There will be question prompts that are met with silence and blank stares. There will be days when no one volunteers any prayer requests. There will be times that your want to put your fist through a wall because you aren’t making any progress (hint: don’t do this). Even if you aren’t seeing conversation progressing by leaps and bounds, keep at it… Sometimes it takes a while to chip guys out of their shells.

3. Be First- One of my top favorite Jon Acuff writings of all time (which perfectly unpacks this point) is a post called “Confessing ‘Safe Sins’”… Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait. Finished? Isn’t that brilliant stuff? For the 3 out of 4 of you that didn’t read the other article, here’s my favorite part:

“It sucks that as broken as we all are, as desperate as we all are for a Savior, we feel compelled to clean ourselves up when we get around each other… When you go first, you give everyone in your church or your community or your small group or your blog, the gift of going second. It’s so much harder to be first. No one knows what’s off limits yet and you’re setting the boundaries with your words. You’re throwing yourself on the honesty grenade and taking whatever fall out that comes with it. Going second is so much easier. And the ease only grows exponentially as people continue to share. But it has to be started somewhere. Someone has to go first and I think it has to be us.”

If we want the conversation in our men’s groups to transparent and valuable, we need to model it and make the difficult first move. Once one person opens up, it is amazing to see the floodgates of conversation burst open!

Just so I don’t get accused of being hypocritical, I’ll go first and share a recent struggle…

I was terrible to my wife tonight. We got into a fight because of my pride and then I said things that I knew would hurt her so that I would have the satisfaction of “winning” the argument. I was a bully. I was a poor excuse for a husband. Furthermore, rather than admitting my wrong towards her and seeking forgiveness after I realized all of this, I’ve been so afraid of the conversation that I’ve been stalling it by writing a piece… on the need for vulnerable, sometimes painful conversation… Hmm… Time to wrap this up and apply what I’ve just learned.

-Dave Wonders

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Yes, “David Wonders” is his real name. Dave is  a husband, a father, and the midday host at 104.3 The Pulse (thepulse.mn). Somehow he finds time to read absurd numbers of books.  Connect with Dave on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and Klout.

photo credit: jon.satrom via photopin cc

4 Responses to “Building A Great Men’s Ministry: Transparency”

  1. For the Love of God June 29, 2013 at 09:35 #

    Dave, thanks for your transparency. I am taking these particular post to heart as I feel like this is in part where God is leading me at my new location, to grow and be a part of a strong mens ministry.

    In regard to your wife, your not alone. I recentley let myself get lazy when I shouldnt have and now she has to pick up my slack. She doesnt see it that way, but I think I could have done better. Not a fight mind you, but I have felt the conviction.

    Keep these post coming, absolutley love it!

    • More Than A Beard June 29, 2013 at 14:40 #

      Thanks for the support, Brandon! It’s good to know that I’m not the only one that struggles with this sometimes…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Building A Great Men’s Ministry (Part 1) | More Than A Beard - December 12, 2013

    […] continues the series.  Check a link to read more…  Part 2, and Part […]

  2. Top Ten Blog Posts of 2016 | More Than A Beard - January 12, 2017

    […] 5.  Building a Great Men’s Ministry: Transparency […]

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