How to build a team that engages dads

Our role at Manhood Journey is to help dads become disciple makers. We want to equip you with four survival tips for helping more dads become disciple makers. You’ll find these tips helpful whether you use our resources or not. 

In this post, we’ll talk about more prep you can do—everything from key roles you’ll need to start looking for—to the ages of the boys who’ll attend. You got this. We’re with you.

Note: this series is for helping church leaders engage dads. We hope you’re already leading dads. But, if you aren’t yet leading dads—start today! Or, share this post with a church leader you know.


The four survival tips are: 

#1 Preparing for the journey: getting the vision and the heart right.

#2 Before you embark (or prepare more!): where to start, what roles you’ll need, and some other details you need to know before actually starting.

#3 Setting sail: everything from room setup, how to train other leaders, and other vital details to get right.

#4 Keeping the journey going: once you start, be ready to know when you’ll break, when you’ll return, and how you’ll keep the journey going.

Let’s talk about more prep you need to do.

Build a team: an eye toward disciple-making.

While there are no firm rules on the makeup of the groups, we hope to help you introduce a discipling component into each group. Ideally, you will have the following building blocks:

  • Group Facilitator – if you’ll be hosting multiple tables in a room, you’ll want a Group Facilitator. This person helps the group discussion get moving, but he’s not a teacher or lecturer. He’s merely a facilitator to help the Table Leaders know what to do.
  • Table Leader(s) – these dads will be at the tables and will serve to keep the discussion on track. They’ll take queues from the Group Facilitator. We suggest you have one Table Leader for every five (5) fathers in the group (1:5 ratio). This will mean that each Table Leader has a group of about 10-12 fathers and sons.
  • Fathers and Sons – these are the men and the boys they’re discipling who form up into Tables in larger group settings.

This should be an ideal setting for guys with various levels of time in the faith or at the fatherhood helm to mix with and learn from each other. Some guys will step in and lead quickly, and others just need to be encouraged to jump into the game.

Build a team: starting small.

If we hear one thing from dads over and over, it’s this: I’m too busy. Now, we realize that often our busy-ness is of our own making. In that light, what dad’s really saying is that he has taken on too much and has trouble prioritizing. But, to help him see that, we want to give him some “quick wins” with his sons. This is why the six-week format (or six sessions, delivered on some other timeframe) has worked so well for Manhood Journey. Men can usually commit to six weeks amidst a busy schedule and stick to it.

However, over time, we hope you can “string together” successive Manhood Journey studies and reengage dads and sons for years to come. Our framework and approach will make that possible, but let’s start small and get dads a “W” up on the board.

Build a team: key roles we’ll help you fill.

Church Leader: this is the person who, on behalf of the church, handles commitment, recruiting, and resources. This could be a staff person or a lay leader.

Group Facilitator: this person will facilitate the discussions during each of the sessions; and, ideally, help you recruit dads and promote and organize the groups.

Table Leaders: these are dads who will likely have a son there (but not a requirement) and will keep the discussion moving at their tables.

Build a team: recruiting a Group Facilitator.

Each Church group needs a single facilitator if you’re hosting a “multi-table” format at your church. This person could be a staff member (minister, priest, pastor, men’s minister) or a lay leader (engaged dad, elder, deacon). It’s someone who can call the group to order, decide when certain subjects need to be addressed or moved on from, and give dads direction along the way. This individual is critical to the group’s success.

These Group Facilitators can help you shoulder the load, share your frustration when some dads are unaccountable (!) and keep the discussion moving week to week. There are even some administrative things (name tags, emailing reminders, etc.) that you might want to share with this key individual. You probably aren’t gifted equally in every area – so, enlist a guy who you trust who can bring his giftedness to bear on the group and be an encouragement and support to you.

Build a team: the numbers game.

The base building block of the group is “the table.” While you’re free to setup your room however it makes sense for your group, for purposes of illustration, let’s assume you’re using round tables of 10 for these meetings.

At a table, you might have:

  • 4-5 dads with their sons
  • Odds are, one dad will bring 2 sons
  • A designated Table Leader (one of the dads)
  • Total of 10 fathers & sons

We recommend one Table Leader for every 5 dads you expect to have.

As you probably know, you hardly ever get 100 percent of your people to show up for any particular event, and Manhood Journey groups are no different. In fact, we normally find that if you invite 10 dads, you’ll net about 5. Everything from night of the week to family dynamics to busy schedules will converge to have you bat about .500 when inviting your dads, so plan accordingly.

Here’s how a typical church with 200 weekly attendees might play out:

  • You might have about 70 dads in your church
  • Only about 35 of them will have sons between 8-18
  • About one-third to one-half of those will attend
  • So, you’ll have about 3-4 tables of fathers and sons
  • You’ll need 1 Facilitator and 3-4 Table Leaders for your study

Manhood Journey groups have launched in churches of a couple hundred, and they’ve launched at large churches running over 10,000. It can work in any context. You just will want to scale your number of Table Leaders down or up as needed.

Build a team: Family Social (optional, but awesome).

About 45 days before your first session, as you’re recruiting dads to join, you might want to host a family social. This could be a cook-out at someone’s home, or a dessert social or lunch at the church after Sunday services. The point of this is to make a face-to-face offer for dads to join up, and ideally, within the hearing of their wives! If the wives hear that their husbands might be meeting up to walk through the Bible with their sons, it can go a long way to convincing dads to sign-up. Is this a trick we’re playing on the dads? Sort of. But it works. 🙂

Modules and lessons.

A few terms will be helpful as you work with Manhood Journey resources:

  • A Lesson = one hour’s worth of discussion content
  • A Module = 6 lessons that fit together on a topic (work, leadership, and so on.)
  • A 1 on 1 Guide = a booklet (or PDF) with one Module’s contents in it

We have 6 full-length modules that your dads and sons can walk through along their journey. We recommend that if you’re starting out, you begin with the EMBARKING Module. It provides your group with a solid point of launch, and they can chart their own course from there.

Boys age ranges.

The modules are built with boys ages 8-18 in mind. You and your dads can be the judge here, but the idea is that 8 years old is about the right age to begin, and boys over 18 can’t be found anywhere except commuting to their jobs or college!

You may wonder, “Is it odd to mix groups with 8-year-olds and 18-year-olds?” In our earlier years, we thought this would be an issue too. However, over time, here’s what we’ve found. When you mix the boys’ ages, something amazing happens: the older boys automatically and naturally step into a leadership and discipleship role.

So, when the young boy says, “I hate my sister!” we see the older teen boys volunteer, “Yeah, I used to feel that way too. But, I’ve realized as I got older that she’s pretty cool.” The young boy listens to the older teen (probably even more attentively than to his own father!) and the older teen is beginning to learn how to disciple. It’s powerful and effective.

Build a team: someone other than dad.

Some boys in your church don’t have a father who’s engaged or even alive. In those cases, the group will run great if you can pair that young man up with someone – another dad who’s coming, or that boy’s uncle, grandfather, or neighbor. Each boy in the room should have a “chaperone” of some sort, but it’s not essential that chaperone be his own father. If you know of boys in your church who will fit this profile, you’ll want to be careful in your messaging and perhaps use language like “fathers and sons, and mentors and mentees” in your promotion.


Want to learn more? This is just a snippet of what’s in our Church Leader Survival Guide. Snag it for free for more details on equipping you and your church on how to engage dads well and make more disciples.


Manhood Journey ministry

Manhood Journey is a nonprofit organization based in Louisville, Kentucky. We provide various resources – eBooks, studies, reading plans, events – all geared toward helping dads become disciple-makers in their homes. While we’re focused in our studies on the father-son relationship, we’ve seen thousands of dads with daughters benefit from our resources; and, we’ve heard from many single moms who use our resources to “fill the gap” created by a dad who’s no longer in the picture.


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About the Author:

Kent Evans is the Co-founder and Executive Director of  Manhood Journey. Kent's the author of  Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You . He and his wife April have five sons and live in Louisville, Kentucky.