So, you want to know how to start a men’s group? Interested in learning ideas that make men’s groups thrive? You’ve come to the right place!
We’ve been running men’s groups for 10+ years and we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of men’s groups. In this post will outline everything you need to know about how to start a men’s group and make it a huge success.
At the bottom, you’ll also find a number of tools and other resources, including the best men’s group topics, icebreaker conversation starters for small groups of men, the best email template to send out to potential men’s group members.
Table Of Contents:
My Story: Starting A Men’s Group
The first men’s group I attended was not by choice. I never intended to learn how to start a men’s group. I had just gone through a horrible breakup – basically a divorce – and a close guy friend thought that checking out men’s groups would be beneficial. So he dragged me there and I wasn’t enthralled.
I had a lot of preconceived notions about what a men’s group would be. I bought into the dogma/stigma that we all have seen – that it would be a pathetic scene with whiny men complaining about their lives, singing Kumbaya, reading from a bible or doing cheesy men’s group exercises.
Boy was I mistaken. It turned out that this specific men’s group was an open group of guys who were living inspiring lives and were attending the men’s group to become even better versions of themselves.
As soon as these great men started sharing what they were facing, I got tingles down my entire body.
After-all, I grew up in a household where sharing during social activity wasn’t allowed. The attitude was just “shut up and figure things out”. The same went for growing up as a competitive hockey player. Then entering the workforce as a young adult, I found the same approach to sharing my experience as a man: just work hard to pave your way. At all costs don’t share that you are confused, upset or anything else sensitive in nature.
I was fascinated to see that other men in a men’s group were facing very similar situations to what I was facing. The men were supportive but firm. You could see they really wanted to help each other and there was a palpable sense that everyone in the room shared a common goal: to help everyone involved grow to become the best version of themselves.
These experiences opened me up to the idea of regularly attending a men’s group and eventually led to me running men’s groups. Along the way, I have grown in countless ways, some of which I will outline below.
And just so you know where this advice is coming from, my name is Sean Galla and I’ve been running men’s support groups for the last decade. Some included celebrities, pro athletes and successful entrepreneurs. I ran circles of 50+ men. We held our men’s groups over adventure trips like held-skiing, skydiving, racing supercars, and wilderness survival training. I’ve been asked to fly out and speak at a variety of conferences on starting and running men’s groups.
I share this not to try to impress you but to impress upon you that I know men’s groups. It’s really all that I know.
Benefits From A Decade Of Men’s Groups
Every man takes away different things from a men’s group. Over the last 10 years, I can directly attribute a number of benefits directly to my men’s groups, including:
- I achieved more success and made more money with my work
- My friends, family, and girlfriend all benefitted because I didn’t have to talk through heavy stuff with them
- I became more clear on my purpose: the work I wanted to do.
- I was able to change the way that I was approaching dating and found an incredible partner
- I’ve learned to communicate better in all of my relationships
- I enjoyed more of the day-to-day of being me because
- My mindset improved dramatically and
- I learned how to control my emotions
Sounds too good to be true? I know right. It’s hard to believe that all this was catalyzed by me participating in men’s groups, but it’s true. And while the results are sexy, the process wasn’t necessarily sexy.
Week over week I would show up and share. Through sharing, getting feedback and actively listening to other men sharing about their situations – even if I couldn’t relate to them – I learned so much about myself and life in general. And over time these learnings lead to a dramatic increase in my wellbeing.
Some of the men’s groups were held in person, others over adventure trips and many were held in an online men’s group format, like the men’s groups we run here. The format of the men’s circles didn’t really matter. The men’s group topics discussed between the guys didn’t matter. As long as men were sharing their experiences and open to feedback, I learned a ton.
It was these results that lead me to learn how to start a men’s group for myself.
What Is A Men’s Group?
A lot of guys want to be a part of a men’s group without fully know what a men’s group is. The media has greatly skewed what a men’s group actually is and what it’s like to be a part of one.
A men’s group is nothing more than a group of guys getting together to talk about the parts of life we feel uncomfortable sharing publicly in an effort to become the best version of themselves.
At their core, all men’s groups are the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a men’s ministry bible studies group, a drug addiction recovery group or a men’s retreat weekend like the Mankind Project.
The men’s groups I’ve been a part of over the years and in the groups, we facilitate here at MensGroup, the purpose really is the same: to provide guys a confidential space to share what’s happening in their lives and how they feel about it. To talk through things and make progress in our lives.
Often we end up talking about the challenges we are facing. Sometimes opportunities. Sometimes guys bring up topics they’ve been pondering. But it’s always stuff that we don’t feel comfortable bringing up with the large majority of people in our lives.
And that’s the point. To have open groups with a dedicated space to get stuff off our chest and to talk through all of the things we face. That way we won’t parlay the stress of the issues we face onto people around us. Instead, we will take the fruits of these discussions – the release of pressure, the learning, the advice – back into the world with us for the benefit of our own wellbeing and all of those around us.
Practically this looks like a bunch of guys – typically 6-15 – sitting in a circle in a quiet room where nobody can eavesdrop.
Each guy has the opportunity to share whatever he wants and to get feedback.
You can find more info on men’s support groups here.
Now that you have a general idea of what a men’s group is all about, now we can start to get into how to start a men’s group. But first, I’d like to share my own personal story with Men’s Groups.
It May Be Easier To NOT Start A Men’s Group
You’re here because you want to learn how to start a men’s group and make it successful. You’re ready to pull the trigger and start a men’s group of your own. Before you do, consider this: it’s a lot easier to find and join an existing men’s group than it is to start your own.
You may like the idea of getting your pals together. You may want to do a men’s group your way, with your vision. But the reality is that learning how to start a men’s group can be a very difficult process.
Men’s groups are time-consuming…
The majority of what goes into making a thriving men’s group happens behind the scenes. The boring admin stuff that keeps the group moving forward including:
- Recruiting guys
- Screening potential new members (via referrals from existing members etc)
- Finding a day & time that works for 10+ people’s busy schedules (by far the hardest part)
- Sending out reminder emails, texts and calendar events
- Researching exercises or formats to get discussions started
- Researching the best platforms for your virtual men’s group
- Setting up the meeting space in advance
- Sending follow up emails and recordings if requested from the guys
- Commit to doing all of this and showing up every single week or 2nd week or month for the foreseeable future
It’s a lot of stuff to do behind the scenes. On top of this, not everyone makes a great men’s group facilitator. It takes a specific set of skills including being hyper-socially aware, a patient listener, a boldness for interrupting people when they ramble or when attendees break the rules and more.
So take it from someone who runs men’s groups for a living. I thought it would be easy to organize and maintain. It’s not. It’s time and energy-consuming and can oftentimes feel thankless. And as the leader, you can’t miss meetings. That’s a big commitment.
It may be easier to find a men’s group
Accordingly, I’ve found it easier and more beneficial to join men’s support groups. They’re already set up. All of the admin is taken care of. You can still invite your friends. You get to bounce stuff off the group. BUT you have the flexibility to miss meetings if you need to.
There are so many different men’s groups out there with varying formats and focuses. I’m sure you can find an already-existing men’s group that suits your needs.
But if you’re set on starting your own men’s group, here’s what you need to know…
Get Clear On The Purpose Of Your Men’s Group
The first step of how to start a men’s group is getting clear on why your men’s circle should exist. What’s the point of it? What will it focus on? What goals would you like to achieve? How is it different from the other men’s groups out there?
Starting a men’s group without a purpose or clear men’s group discussion topics is the surefire way to have your men’s group fizzle out quickly. You must have a clear mission for your men’s circle and repeat it to the men in your group often.
The “why” behind your men’s group is also the most important part of selling potential new members when you’re getting started.
Take the time to get clear on your purpose, mission, and goals with your new men’s group.
Who Should You Invite Into Your Group?
You must give this thought before sending out your first personal invitation to your men’s group because it is very hard to remove people from a men’s group later on. You want to instead define early on the kind of men you’re looking for and consider where you may find them.
Culture in these men’s circles is everything. And culture comes from the people. So besides setting a clear purpose for your men’s group, the #2 thing that can ruin your group even before it begins is not being strategic about who is in your men’s group.
List the qualities of an ideal member
I’ve found it beneficial to focus on the qualities you desire in men’s group members instead of individuals. Here are some of the things I look for in fellow men’s group members:
- A desire for personal growth
- A desire for connection and community. Men who want to share the journey with others.
- Men who are open to feedback, even when it stings.
- Natural contributors. Men that enjoy helping others.
- Consistent and reliable. Men who show up.
Simply take the individuals you’re already considering inviting and write out what makes each of them an ideal fit. There you have your list of qualities for men’s group members.
Actively curate your group!
And moving forward with your men’s group, please curate! If someone doesn’t fit well with the group – if they’re affecting the culture – remove them as soon as you can.
While this may sound cold or ego-driven, it’s not. As a men’s group leader, a big part of your role is overseeing the culture. So while you do want to be inclusive with different men’s personalities and quirks, if someone doesn’t share values with the group, as a group leader you must do something about it.
This is especially true in the beginning when numbers are small. With smaller groups, one person can completely derail the culture. A bigger group can to a. degree maintain its own culture with a few wild cards.
But be warned, folks typically don’t take this part seriously enough. With their first group, they typically wind up regretting it later on.
Yes, it is hard having those conversations and removing members but this is a large part of what creates the magic sauce in a men’s group.
What Are The Key Ingredients Of A Men’s Group?
Over the last 10 years we have narrowed it down to the following essential parts that make a men’s group thrive:
- A clear purpose: as mentioned above, this is crucial
- Like-minded members: Group members that share similar values, goals and personal characteristics.
- 100% Confidential: The group needs to be held in a room or space where nobody else can hear the conversation, otherwise guys won’t open up out of a fear of being judged.
- Consistency: in order for guys to open up, you need to have consistency with the same guys over and over. This builds trust and will help guys open up more.
- Full transparency: Guys that aren’t willing to be fully honest don’t do a men’s group any good because you can’t actually help them. Without full transparency, you can guide him or even trust his advice.
- Open to any and all feedback, even if it stings: Sometimes the truth hurts but it’s what’s required to grow. Men in men’s groups need to be open to this feedback otherwise, what’s the point?
- Taking action: When guys don’t take action on the advice they receive in circle, it’s a waste of time. Nothing can drag down a men’s group more than having guys month after month spin their wheels and complain about the same stuff over and over again.
- Masculine challenge: While we never encourage telling people what to do because it can lead to conflicts, we do encourage healthy challenge. We’ve observed that it can be healthy for a guy to have a blind spot pointed out or to be challenged on a belief. It can lead to tremendous growth.
- 100% Commitment: Without guys committed to showing up, a men’s group will quickly lose momentum.
Let us know in the comments below this post if you can think of others!
Common Issues To Avoid Starting Your Men’s Group
While there are incredible benefits that come from being a part of a men’s group, over the years I’ve run into some annoying issues as well.
Here they are in no particular order:
- A lack of a moderator: Some guys can’t help but ramble or dominate a conversation. I’ve seen this a lot in free groups without a moderator. A good moderator will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak and get value.
- A strong victim narrative: Openly sharing an emotional experience, venting and expressing emotions – crying whatever – can help bring your men’s group closer. Victim complaining will not. If a guy is constantly complaining about his situation when he could take action and change things, this can be like poison to a group’s culture. Make sure your group is about healthy expression, but also action and making a change to avoid slipping into victim narratives.
- Groups Focused Around A Coach: Coaching is great, but in the context of a men’s group it can hinder the growth of the group. The vast majority of the men’s group members come to discuss men’s group topics of all kinds and hear from all of the men, not just the coach.
- Free men’s groups: Free always sounds great but we’ve seen that no money commitment can lead to a lack of commitment and to the quality of the discussions. Many free men’s groups are self-led or led by someone who isn’t a trained facilitator.
- Should, would could: Effective men’s groups never allow men to tell each other what to do. Avoid the words “should”, “would” or “could” when giving feedback. Instead, encourage your guys to share their own personal experiences and what they learned.
That’s it! Aside from that stuff, anything is fair game.
How Regularly Should Your Group Meet?
This really depends on the group. A group on divorce for men recently out of marriages, a group may need to be held weekly, as the men will need more frequent conversations. Another group that is more business-focused may meet monthly because not much changes in a month in business.
Here are MensGroup we hold our men’s group meetings bi-weekly. We find this is a long enough period of time for men to digest the discussions had in a men’s meeting and take action. While it’s still regular enough that it catches the variability of life.
So this one is really up to you and the guys in your group to decide how to start a men’s group with the right frequency.
The Best Men’s Group Format / Agenda
You’ll find 1000 different groups out there with 1000 different formats. A lot of people get confused around what is a men’s group? Yet most men’s groups have a lot of their agenda in common, including:
- How to start the meeting: the men’s group facilitator will typically do a quick intro speech to the group that reinforces the purpose of the group and some of the rules and guidelines for healthy discussions.
- Opening ritual: Lots of men’s groups have a ritual they start with to snap guys out of their day and into the setting of a men’s circle
- Introductions: The men go around the circle and introduce themselves.
- Why the men are here: After their introduction many groups have the men explain why they are in the circle.
- Hot-seats: The meat of a men’s group is typically in the hot seat part of the agenda. Each man has the opportunity to share and get feedback on whatever they want.
- Group exercises: some men’s groups include time for full group exercises including Life story sessions, the father dying, anger releases, father or mother work, king’s process, monthly or quarterly or yearly goal setting and a lot more. We don’t do this in MensGroup because we feel our time is better spent focusing on whatever they guys are facing in their lives right now.
- Gratitude: To conclude the meeting many men’s support groups will have the guys share what they will take away from the meeting and what they appreciated.
- Social time: At the end of many men’s groups you’ll find the guys hanging around and following up on some of the things discussed in the men’s circle.
Beyond that, it’s really up to you. You can throw in anything else you want.
How To Facilitate A Men’s Group
A huge part of starting a men’s group is learning how to facilitate a men’s group. Facilitation is a completely different set of skills from all of the organizational and administrative aspects of starting and running a men’s support group.
It is crucial that you learn how to facilitate a men’s circle before you actually get into the small group of men and share. Group members will be sitting there looking at you as the leader. Think of them like they’re your male clients. They made time to attend the men’s group in an effort to find help, so you want to make sure you can lead the group in the best way possible.
This is why organizations such as the ManKind Project have men’s group facilitator trainings as part of their offering. It’s because lots of guys want to run men’s groups but don’t have the facilitation skills needed.
Here are some tips for facilitating a men’s group effectively:
- Drop your ego: You don’t need to speak all the time. Let the other men talk. Your role is to keep the conversation flowing.
- Develop self-awareness: You need to be able to observe your own actions and reactions to things in real-time so that you can adjust yourself to what is needed in the room.
- Help guys open up: You can help men open up through good facilitation. By asking great follow up questions like “What did you mean by that?” or repeating the last few words they said as a question: “You are finished with her?” This will encourage them to talk more.
- Calibrate your facilitator energy to the room: The energy will shift as the men’s group goes along. Sometimes it will be boisterous. Other times it will be serious and heavy. Other times it will be moving and beautiful. Sometimes the feeling of commoradary can be cut with a knife. Make sure you are matching your tone of voice and energy to the energy in the room at any given moment. Become a chameleon. Match the room!
- Create laughter: Guys can talk about serious, heavy stuff for hours as long as they get a laugh in now and again. Laughter releases tension and puts people at ease.
- Prioritizing men’s group members: Let the guys that have the most pressing men’s issues go first. This will set the tone for the rest of the discussion and always support the guys that need it most.
- Facilitate by calling on members with relevant experience: Sometimes men will be too shy to speak up on a specific topic or men’s issue. So you may have to say “I believe that Steve may have experience with this as well. What do you have to say Steve?”. Obviously, if the person expresses they don’t want to talk about it, then don’t go there. But most of the time the guy will be happy to share.
- Know the group members beforehand: It always helps facilitate if you know who is going to be in the circle of men and what they want to talk about.
If you apply the tips above, you’ll learn how to facilitate a men’s group in no time!
Useful Rules & Guidelines For Men’s Groups
There are a few men’s group rules and best practices to use when facilitating your men’s group:
- The moderator rules all. He can cut people off and will typically choose who speaks next.
- Don’t talk over others. Wait for them to finish.
- Don’t ramble. Keep your sharing concise or else a moderator will cut you off out of respect for the group.
- Raise your hand to talk next.
- When you are giving a guy feedback in response to his question, you can only do so once unless the moderator states otherwise (to prevent guys from getting into back and forths where repeat the same things.
- Never tell another guy what to do. Avoid using the words “you should”, “you could” or “you would” and instead just share your own experience.
- It’s not okay to only show up to meetings when you have an issue to discuss. Aside from talking value, you also want to be showing up to support fellow board members.
- You miss 4 meetings in a row and your out! Your seat will be given to someone who can show up
That’s all of the rules we use to keep our men’s groups running smoothly and to ensure everyone gets value.
What Are The Best Men’s Group Topics?
Everyone always asks about the best men’s group topics. Honestly the men’s groups I’ve attended that encourage discussions around specific topics always feel forced to me.
A quick story to show you what I mean. I was once sitting in a men’s circle and the guy beside me looked like he was on the verge of emotionally exploding. He told me just before the meeting that he had recently watched a family member die in a horrible way. Then we get into the circle and the leader/coach started a general discussion on “masculinity: what it means to be a man” that lasted for an hour.
Needless to say, that guy beside me needed to get his situation off his chest. I did too, my girlfriend at the time had just cheated on me. Neither of us was interested in talking about masculinity and neither of us attended the group again.
So I’ve found through my own experiences and through running men’s groups that the best men’s group topics are the ones that guys are facing right now. And they are always changing.
So I suggest that you consider abandoning stock men’s group discussion topics and instead give the men the opportunity to bring up whatever is on their mind.
Common men’s group topics
That being said, here are some topics you are guaranteed to find brought up in any men’s group:
- Purpose / career / work
- People conflicts
- Communicating better with others
- Personal finances
- Being a better father
- How to control emotions and emotional intelligence
- Stress, anxiety, overwhelm, paralysis and depression
And a lot more!
Again, if you just let the men in the men’s group bring forward their own topics and ideas, you will find yourself discussing these topics anyway.
Expect and encourage heavier topics
Every person runs into adversity and needs to talk about it. Sometimes these situations can be heavy or unique, sensitive stuff including dramatic people conflicts, people dying, addictions to porn and substances, depression, sexual preferences and more.
Know that it’s going to come up in any men’s group.
The good news is that it is often in these darker, heavier conversations that deep fundamental truths about life are revealed. These truths are then beneficial in my own life.
More than once I’ve also heard some crazy situations I couldn’t relate to and then a few months or even years later I found myself in a similar situation. I already knew what to do because I had been active listening during the men’s group conversation.
The Best Tools For Facilitating Men’s Groups
In our online men’s groups, we use a number of tools and platforms to bring the guys together.
The ones we use most often are as follows:
- Zoom: the best video conferencing platform out there. It just works a lot smoother than Skype or Google Hangouts and it can manage one hundred participants.
- Doodle: one of the most challenging parts of organizing a men’s group is finding the best day & time that works well for everyone. Doodle makes this a lot easier. You can select a number of days and times you think would work and then you can have the guys vote on which ones work best.
- Google Calendar: Create your recurring calendar event and paste your men’s group members’ emails into the calendar event. They will have the event on their own calendars and they’ll receive meeting reminders before every event.
- Callfire: We use CallFire to send text message reminders for our men’s groups.
- Gmail: these days getting into people’s inboxes isn’t easy. All of the email providers have such strict spam filters now so there is a good chance your men’s group emails may end up in people junk mailboxes. If you send emails from Gmail you have the best chance of hitting people’s inboxes because they have – by far – the best email deliverability rates.
These tools will hopefully help make the admin part of running a men’s group easier for you.
Practical Next Steps For Your Men’s Group
- Write down the purpose of your men’s group. Why are you guys getting together? What’s the point of it all?
- Get clear on who it’s for by focusing on the qualities of potential men’s group members.
- Reach out to guys you think might be interested.
An email template for members
It can be a bit of a touchy thing asking guys if they want to be a part of a men’s group. Because the idea of a man needing support is considered weak by our society, many men don’t want to think that they need a men’s group. So you have to reach out very casually and give them easy outs.
Here is the exact email template that I use to bring together a men’s group:
Subject: > Getting The Guys Together
I wanted to reach out to you because you’re a good friend of mine and someone who seems to enjoy a good conversation.
I’m not sure if you’re open or interested in this kind of thing, but I’m getting a bunch of guys together as a men’s group.
The purpose of the group will be to have a confidential place to talk about whatever we’re facing in life and to help each other achieve more growth, success, and happiness.
There will only be 10 spots. If you’re interested please reply back with a simple “yes” and any questions you may have.
All you have to do from there is email all of the guys you think would be a good fit and you’re off to the races. That’s literally it, once you’re clear on what you’re men’s group will focus on and who you want in it, just start emailing people!
And if you would like more info, we recommend this article on how to start a men’s support group
Don’t Be Afraid To Join Other Men’s Groups
One of the best ways to help get clear on how to start a men’s group is to check out a few other men’s groups. Through seeing how others run their men’s circles you can get clear on what will work for you and the group you’d like to create.
There are many men’s groups out there in a town near you, or you can give one of our online men’s groups a try.