Small Groups, Mental Health & a Few Good Men…

As you may well know, mental and relational health issues are at what experts believe to be an all-time high in our world. Therapists, counselors, life coaches and psychiatrists routinely have waiting lists for clients who are mentally, emotionally and spiritually desperate to see them.

Prior to writing this article, I spoke with a well-respected psychiatric doctor in our community. He backed up all the things we’ll discuss further on. He then told me the clinic where he works currently has a new client waiting list longer than there’s ever been in the 30 years of their existence.

The truth of all this: the enemy has declared war on relationships, marriages and individual mental health.

If you’re reading this, it’s very likely you serve as a group leader or group point person within your church or organization.

This means you and I are on the front lines of this war.

Scripture tells us the family is the core of relationships and the husband/father is the Christ figure in the family. If you were to declare war on the family of God, the husband/father would be your prime target for assassination.

Not to minimize or marginalize the spiritual assaults on women and children, but the war declared on men in the church is not only a key strategy of the enemy, it’s a battle we’re collectively losing.

Thankfully, we all know God ultimately wins the war. But like physical, earthly wars, there are always casualties.

We’ve all heard the cry for more men to step up and lead in the church. We’ve likely all seen the stats that say if a man decides to come to church, his family is over 80% likely to follow. We also know that man is the family protector, the metaphorical military of sorts. If men fall, their family might not be far behind.

And, so the assaults rain down on men. The enemy seeks to wound us so deeply that we leave the battle altogether.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
John 10:10a

If a man is so wounded from the spiritual battle that he believes the lie that he doesn’t need church, doesn’t need spiritual community and, worst of all, doesn’t need God… well, things become very grim.

This war on men isn’t just a church thing. It isn’t just an American thing. It’s an earthly realm thing.

As I was preparing to write this post, from the angle of encouraging men to take up leadership roles in ministry, God sent a well-timed news piece my way.

“The benefits of friendship are profound. Having a strong social circle is associated with a longer life and fewer illnesses. Your pals lower your blood pressure and trigger positive chemicals in your brain. People with a strong social network are less stressed, more resilient and more optimistic. They’re more likely to be a healthy weight and less likely to suffer cognitive decline. They also enjoy some protection from cancer, heart disease and depression.

But there’s one group – a big one – that is missing out on these benefits. Men are lonely. Growing numbers of men are standing at the bottom of that hill, alone and overwhelmed, as surveys point to a recession of social connection among those of us with a Y chromosome.”
– BBC Science Focus Magazine

Note this quote is from a secular article, citing skads of secular research studies and surveys. And, they all come to the same conclusion: Men are the target of a spiritual battle, and many are losing.

“A YouGov poll in 2019 concluded that one in five men have no close friends, twice as many as women. In 2021, the Survey Center on American Life found that since 1995, the number of American men reporting that they had no close friends jumped from 3 to 15 per cent. In the same research, the number of men saying they had at least six close friends halved from 55 per cent to 27 per cent.

A major study by scientists at Brigham Young University in the US found that long-term social isolation can increase a person’s risk of premature death by as much as 32 per cent.”

This all sounds very gloom and doom, doesn’t it? Well, it should hit you with a proper amount of trepidation: again, we are on the front lines of a war for souls.

Thankfully, we fight for the winning side.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33b

The article continues to dovetail things we all know: the best way to combat the enemy’s strategy is to build up men, then build the relationships among the men in your church and community.

How do we do that? By making Men’s Groups and Men’s Events a priority in our missional strategy. That isn’t to say make it the only priority, because women need community just as much, couples need other couples, singles need other singles, etc. We were all born for relationships. But building a core of solid, God fearing men in your ministry will do wonders for those other demographics.

There is likely a “few good men” in your sphere of influence who are already passionate about building men’s ministry. Some may not recognize it, but we must all put up our “leader of men” radar and find those guys. Then empower them, equip them, prepare them and unleash them to do the good deeds God prepared in advance for them to do.

Most men love several common things: good food, tasks that are challenging yet completable to provide a rewarding sense of accomplishment, respect from their peers, a purpose for their lives.

Did we cover “good food”?

Whether your church is just a handful of folks meeting in a living room or public place, or a well-established sea of people numbering in the tens of thousands, you can build a thriving men’s ministry. And, if you already have one, adding more value to it is still a big win.

Do for one what you wish you could do for all.

How do you do this if you don’t already have the ball rolling?

You simply start with one man.

Identify the guy, the rock God will build on. If you don’t already know who this is, ask God for the wisdom, insight and vision to identify that man.

He will.

Invest in that man, let him know you respect him, value him and that God does too.

Give that man a task to complete, to build his momentum. Maybe it’s simply to show up on Sunday and help you look for other men to join the cause. Maybe it’s to lead a men’s group. Maybe it’s to organize and oversee a Men’s breakfast or serving event. Once you’ve identified the guy, you’ll know his current capacity and God will show you how big or small of a task to start the ball rolling.

It is also very important that you quickly partner your first man with another. Scripture tells us two men working with God as the third is a powerful alliance.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Once you have two men working in unison with God, others will follow. We’re all social creatures and when a man sees other men actively enjoying a purpose, respect from others, a sense of accomplishment and, yes, even good food, it will draw others in like a moth to a flame.

As this continues to grow, you’ll also notice God’s hand growing other aspects of your Groups ministry. When the involvement of men increases, so does nearly everything else.


Have a question or an insight? Leave it below!

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Daniel Thomas

Connections Director


Daniel serves as Executive Pastor at Community Church of Mountain City, TN.  Daniel and his family are on a mission to establish roots within their community, fight for peace and serve well.  He serves as our Connections Director in laying the groundwork for Circles. He loves great coffee and traveling with his wife Tia and two children, Deklan and Aden



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