One of the initiatives of CMF is to make available at each of our Diocese’s 200 Parishes, the opportunity for men to experience a Parish Men’s Group – or more accurately, a Men’s Fellowship Group.
At this point there are 80 such groups. Thus, we have a good bit of ground to cover. But, the good news is that less than 2 years ago, we had 50 groups. So our ranks continue to grow.
The reason they are growing is because it appears that there is a “hunger” out there. Hunger to learn more about our faith; hunger to express our faith; hunger to share these feelings with other like-minded men.
I can speak from personal experience, as I have been part of a Men’s Fellowship Group for the past 20 years – even before Catholic Men’s Fellowship came into existence. Initially, my neighbor at the time, invited me to his FATHERS Group: Fathers Accountable To Healthy Enduring Relationships and Spirituality. This program was made up of several lessons, emphasizing growth of relationships with: the Lord, my wife, my children, my family and working for the Lord.
A set of “Small Group Guidelines” were introduced as the rules of conduct. These are ones which we still emphasize today:
PRIORITY - Every person will be at the meeting unless prevented by illness or other significant reason.
PUNCTUALITY - The group begins and ends on time (Each Friday morning, ours is 6:05 AM – 7:15 AM).
CONFIDENTIALITY - This is crucial. What a person says in confidence is shared in trust. Broken confidentiality is the fastest way to destroy unity, relationships and ministry.
PRAYER – Pray regularly for the group and for each person in the group by name. Sometimes group members choose prayer partners who pray for each other daily and with each other weekly (often over the phone). Such partners may change every week or every month.
Personal prayer and Bible study – Every person will engage in regular Bible study and prayer between group meetings.
No giving of advice unless counsel is requested.
Confess your own needs (not those of other members).
Affirmation and vulnerability – When we are vulnerable and open ourselves to share deep inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we must be in an atmosphere of affirmation. A person who opens up and shares something personal and is then laughed at, ridiculed or criticized may never open up again.
Keep an empty chair for someone God might want to join our group.
The format has evolved over the years, and several books, tapes, CDs, DVDs have been used as group resources. What has not changed, however, is the comradery, trust and brotherhood which has been built – and continues to keep men coming week after week, and year after year.
Adherence to the Small Group Guidelines above makes men realize that what they say “stays in this room.” Never is there a fear of ridicule or being embarrassed. It promotes a safe atmosphere which allows guys to share what is on their minds.
As we have discovered on many occasions, typically you are not the only man in the room “who feels that way.” This open forum is what has created some of the most cherished relationships I have. Outside of my family, these men have become an extended family.
If you have not been part of a Men’s Group, I would urge you to take a good look at what you are missing. You may find that this exploration will lead you to a life-changing and rewarding experience – that will make you want to return again and again.
At last year’s Gathering of Catholic Men, we encouraged men to participate in a 5 week Men’s Group program utilizing Curtis Martin’s book “Made for More.” Our Gathering M.C. Allen Hunt helped us develop a companion study guide to aid and facilitate group discussion. As Tim Storino’s recent story mentioned, this sparked a hunger in him, which led to formation of an ongoing group which continues meeting today.
I am happy to report than several other groups also began as a result of this five-week pilot program.
We have a team of men throughout the Diocese that stand ready to help you launch a new group, or welcome you to one of the existing groups.
Feel free to get started with a phone call to me at 412-638-0662.