I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself sitting around a campfire with a handful of people. Sometimes marshmallows are roasting on the end of a stick for a late-night snack. Other times there is a pot of coffee boiling before the sun rises. On occasion, guitars are being strummed and songs are being sung. And then there are those times that we just sit around the fire and tell stories. One thing is certain – the campfire atmosphere is effective in helping people relax and just be themselves. Full bellies and comfortable atmospheres make for open minds and receptive hearts. That’s why it’s so important to create the right atmosphere if you are going to lead a small group Bible study. This little “How to” session is going to suggest some ways to create an atmosphere for leading an outdoor men’s Bible study, and it is going to help you take the next steps of doing something effective with that atmosphere once it is created.
Who Do I Want to Reach?
My goal is to help you create your own game plan for starting and leading a successful men’s small group ministry. The model that I’m going to use throughout will be specifically addressing a small group for outdoorsmen. If your group is of a different genre, the principles I’m going to share with you will still be the same. The methods may change a bit, and you can use your own creativity to figure that out.
How Do I Reach Out to Non-Christian Men?
The first step is to think like a non-Christian outdoors guy thinks. You’ve got to realize that this camo-clad man is probably not going to be comfortable in a church building. So, if you want to have some kind of a weekly or bi-weekly get-together, maybe you start in your home. Better yet, secure some kind of hunting cabin nearby or a really cool man-cave barn that is set up for gatherings. Mr. Camo would definitely be more comfortable in such a setting.
If this is not possible, you can always use a room in a church building. Even on the day of normal church Bible classes, you might do something that will get Mr. Camo in there. Here’s a game plan to consider. First, get permission to go in and just totally change the setting inside the classroom. Build a cabin façade on one of the walls, making it look like an old trapper’s cabin. Black out the ceiling and attach stars that glow in the dark. Install green outdoor carpet all around the room, and in the middle of the room place some rocks and literally build a fake fire pit that glows when plugged in and turned on (get some HybridLight Atlas lanterns that have LED lights that glow like a fire). Put a grill over the fire pit and place upon that grill an electric coffee pot. Plug it in and boil your coffee over the glowing fire. Now you’re creating atmosphere! Place foldout camp chairs all the way around that fire.
On one of the classroom walls hang animal mounts — deer heads or antlers on plaques, bear hides, mounted fish, turkeys, ducks . . . you get the picture. Make this the trophy wall. On another wall make a large corkboard photograph display. Encourage guys to place photos of their outdoor adventures on this wall. Mount a video projector from the ceiling, hook it up to a sound system, and hang a huge screen on one wall of the room. The goal is to create an outdoor theatre that makes you feel as if you are sitting around a campfire at a hunting camp. Call this your “Nature Room,” or even better “Base Camp.”
How Do I Get Them to Base Camp?
The band of brothers that have helped you create the Base Camp room now need to help you take the next step – advertising the launch of the gatherings. Begin with a small event, including a breakfast with a local “celebrity” speaker. Each person should commit to bring one non-Christian man with him to the breakfast. At the breakfast, hand out an invitation in the form of a large postcard detailing the new outdoors-related series of meetings and showcasing the Base Camp that has been built. Also advertise in the church bulletin to your own members, or online, or through social media and email campaigns. You can get a 90-second video production that comes along with your subscription to Spiritual Outdoor Adventures and this lesson titled “Base Camp Promotional Video.” Show it anywhere that you are allowed, including at church, on the church’s website, on social media platforms, etc.
When the night comes for the first meeting, expect more to attend than what you have planned for. Word travels when men get excited about something, especially if there is a free meal in the mix, such as a pizza party. Make it even more appealing by advertising a giveaway of a valuable outdoor product (grill, fishing rod, knife, etc.).
It will likely be an interesting mix of men. Several may be in camouflage. You might even encourage your band of brothers to wear camouflage so that Mr. Camo will feel comfortable. It doesn’t have to be camo. It might be a tan shooter’s shirt with an embroidered logo from your men’s group. But do expect some Bubbas to show up for the first session wearing the typical outdoor garb.
I heard of one such gathering where a camo-clad Bubba with a beer in his hand walked right in. What do you think the band of brothers and the class leader did? Can a guy who is not a Christian, dressed in camo, who’s pretty rough looking, walk into a church building to attend a class with a beer in his hands or a dip of Skoal in his mouth? Well, sure he can! Don’t kick him out. Let him come on in there however he is. If he’s spitting on the floor, you let him come on in. That’s what Jesus would do. Such a guy is the exact person you want to reach.
Small Group Bible Study Question: What Do You Do When You Get Them in the Room?
The band of brothers places some greeters in the parking lot to welcome the guests (maybe wearing orange vest just like deer season). They give them specific directions on finding the class, and even personally walk some of them in. Other greeters are inside the Base Camp room and welcome each of the men as they arrive. Coffee is already percolating on the fire pit (have a choice of caff or decaf).