Question: Do you have a format that you use to set the groundwork for the relationship?
Answer: As I look back, what seems to have been the pattern for me was that I would start meeting with a man, just loving him and encouraging him, and helping him as issues came up. Bit by bit I would teach him the basics (quiet time, etc.). I would have several men like this with whom I was meeting scattered around the city. At some point it would become obvious to me that of the men I was informally meeting with here and there that several of them shared a lot in common (mutual interests, were at the same place in business or in their professions, families, etc.), or perhaps it was just an educated guess on my part that there would be chemistry between them if they met each other. I would individually tell those men that I believed it would benefit them to meet these other men; that there is a potential of our growing spiritually as a group. Because they had grown to trust me, they consented to meet the other men. Then in a very low key fashion, I would lay out a simple experiment (code word for plan) of what we could do, for say the next six meetings (be it every week or every other week, or monthly, etc.). I cant remember when men have said no to my invitation. They knew that I cared for them; that I was already helping them, and they were drawn in. This same approach would apply to couples.
Question: Do you start with a particular book of the Bible or have a set number of questions you ask?
Answer: I have found that we need to start with relatively simple question and answer Bibles studies. NavPress has wonderful material such as the Design for Discipleship series or their Deepening Your Roots series. Greg Ogdens book, Discipleship Essentials (Intervarsity Press) is an excellent discipling tool. There are many excellent Bible study materials. Always look for the studies that are Biblically sound and strongly stress application. InterVarisy Press, Campus Crusade, NavPress, and many other publishers have outstanding material.
Once we get started, we are in no rush to complete the studies. Keep in mind that processing the material at their pace is infinitely more important than filling in the blanks or racing to complete a study unit. Once they have completed a question and answer a series of studies, we move them on to the inductive Bible study method. The Navigators publish The Navigator Bible Study Handbook which lays out in a simple format the principles of inductive Bible study, starting with a very simple approach, and then matriculating to increasingly in depth studies. This inductive method of study is a must for people who are serious about mastering the Scriptures and growing deep.
Question: How often do you suggest you meet with this group as a whole?
Answer: I have found that every other week, or even once a month works well. With the pressure, pace, and complexity of peoples lives these days, I find that folks are more likely to burn out if it is every week. I also break for summer and Christmas.
This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.
R. Dwight Hill