Our church was trying to establish a new Bible study group just for men. During the first meeting (there were four of us), we worked on developing some rules we believed would make for a healthy men’s Bible study group. The group set out three simple rules they felt were the non-negotiables.
1. We do Bible study. We can talk about our kids’ accomplishments and the box scores at a different time. We are a men’s Bible study group, and that is what we intend to be and do.
2. We don’t skip the hard stuff. Life is hard and there is some really hard stuff in the Bible. We need to know how to deal with the hard stuff.
3. No fellowships. If we want to hang out with others in the group, we will invite them to lunch or coffee.
To some, these rules may seem obvious or harsh, but they demonstrate how leading a men’s Bible study group is different from leading a coed group or a ladies’ group.
First of all, they expect the focus of the time to be Bible study. Most men have more on their plate than they can handle. One reason men don’t attend a Bible study group is the perceived false advertising. We don’t spend enough of the time actually looking at the Bible as a group.
Secondly, for men, study is about the facts. How a verse makes them feel or which person they would have been in the story are wasting questions. How what Paul wrote compares to what Peter wrote, how Jesus used the same word and with whom, and how the Bible story fits together are important.
Thirdly, men do want relationships, just in a safe place on their own turf. The third rule is partly a function of schedule (we are busy). It is also a function of risk. Men are less likely to drop their guard in a Bible study group than women are. You see this in how you ask a question in a men’s group. Rule number two about not skipping the hard stuff is really a cry for moving beyond the emotional and getting into the world of critical thinking. If you want to hear the crickets, ask a question about what temptation they personally struggle with the most (you can probably hear the quiet now!) However, if you ask them to list temptations men struggle with, the crickets will quietly watch and let the men share.
Like I said, teaching an all men’s group is different, but that doesn’t mean those differences are bad.
What do you think the rules established by this group reveal about their view of other Bible study groups?
In what other ways is a men’s group different from a coed or ladies’ group?
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for Adult and Young Adult group resources at Lifeway, leads two weekly Bible study groups (one for empty-nesters and one for 4-year olds), serves as an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience. He is married to Lisa (both native Texans), and they have two children and one grandson. Find him on Twitter: @gdwayne.