A Small Group of Men
A Small Group of Men
By Craig Ruhl
In the early spring of 2005, Karen and I began attending and later became members of Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Santa Ana, California. We had recently bought my parent’s home from their estate and wanted to find a church home where we could worship and grow in our faith while making friends among the congregation. Trinity has always had many vibrant programs including youth and adult choirs, youth ministries, Sunday school classes for all ages, and small groups for men, women, and couples. My first exposure to a men’s ministry and small group studies was at this church.
There were two services on Sunday mornings and it was customary for people to meet and mingle on the large patio outside the sanctuary between services. There was a coffee service set up and a series of folding tables with information about many of the programs and services available at the church. It was during this time while waiting for the second service to begin, that I met some of the men who would change my life forever and shape how I approached my Christian faith.
Men are not easy to engage in conversation about their faith. We learn and share differently than women do. Men also tend not to join a group easily. When I was growing up, I don’t remember my father or grandfathers talking about their faith. They went to church, prayed, and even studied the Bible from time to time, but I just don’t remember them expressing their faith verbally. I was involved with youth fellowship programs at church during my junior high school through college years. These were co-ed groups usually led by young married couples. Again, I don’t remember the guys gathering to discuss God and how we related to the Lord’s teachings. There were many retreats during those years and opportunities to get together with other boys to discuss what was being taught by the leaders. It didn’t happen. This continued into my adult life. I went to church, learned from the sermons and bible studies, but never really felt called to share my faith with others, let alone ask anyone else about theirs.
One Sunday on the church patio, I was standing next to a table that had information about small group Bible studies. I wasn’t really interested, but I took a look at the information anyway. As I was standing there, a man that I had met before and had spoken to a number of times said that he was a member of a small men’s group that met weekly in the evenings. I don’t remember his exact words, but he gently invited me and planted the seed that would take root and grow. Over the next few weeks, each Sunday we would chat on the patio and he would invite me to drop into the group just to see what it was all about. I did go to one of the meetings and I was hooked.
The group consisted of about 8 men of varying ages and backgrounds. The format was centered around a study of a book or biblical subject. Each week, the group would
discuss the material in a round-robin manner with each man having the opportunity to express his thoughts and feelings. I think the first meeting that I was a part of concerned a specific book in the Bible with a study workbook that contained weekly readings and questions designed to not just learn the passages but to also explore our feelings about them and how the messages related to our everyday lives. I stayed with the group for about 7 years until we moved from the area and became fulltime RVers.
I mentioned earlier that men learn to share their feelings in different ways than women do. It was during those years in that small group that I became comfortable and trusting when discussing my faith. I got to know each of the men on much deeper levels than I would have through casual interaction before and after church on Sundays. Through the years, we shared grief and well as joy, fear and hope, and through it all we knew that each of the men had the other’s backs. In this group, I learned how to pray and how to listen for God’s voice. During this time, I witnessed miracles among the group and was the recipient of several miracles myself. Being part of a faith-based study group strengthened my relationship with my wife and son. The other men expressed how much of a difference it made in each of their lives. Our group was just one of almost a dozen small groups that met regularly, on the church campus, at restaurants, and in homes. Several of the groups had been meeting for 20 years or more. There were groups that included fathers and sons and I think there was even one that had three generations participating regularly.
We all have been commissioned to go out into the world and make disciples of everyone. Matthew 28 verses 18 through 20 instruct us:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus showed us the way by starting out with just 12 men in a small group. They became his disciples and I think one of the best ways today to become a disciple and to make disciples is to join a Bible-based study group. You may find one at your local church or maybe start one yourself. In a small group setting, you will be able to learn, share, and explore your faith in an unthreatening and secure way. Ecclesiastes 4, verse 12 states, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but
two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Can you imagine the power of a group of 8 to 12 men, praying together, united by faith, friendship, and purpose? I can. I have been there, and I have experienced it.
Thanks, Gary, for the invite!