Setting sail (Survival tip 3 of 4 for helping church leaders engage dads)

So, you’ve prepared and prepared some more. Now what? It’s time to get down to the real details. We call this phase “setting sail” because you’ve moved passed the talking and planning phases and into implementing!  

In this post, we’ll talk about setting sail—everything from room setup, how to train leaders, and other vital details to get right. You got this. We’re right here 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 for helping church leaders engage dads 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 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 setting sail.

Setting sail: Discussion & dialogue vs. teaching & lecturing.

These meetings cannot become a lecture where you or the Facilitator talks or teaches while the “audience” listens to you. The goal is to get the dads and sons talking, and if you follow the prompts in the 1-on-1 Guides and the Facilitator’s Guide, this will happen naturally. These discussions will engage the dads and sons in transparent, honest and interesting dialogue that has spiritual context and biblical basis.

Set the expectation early with your group – participation is required! Get everyone talking without being too heavy handed.

Setting sail: Room setup is key.

If your church has a “casual” room to meet in, that would be idea. Or, if you have a small enough group (or a big enough home!) you could even meet at a leader’s house. Regardless, try to setup the room so that distractions are minimized and the space is as inviting and comfortable as can be.

A note for Table Leaders.


– Try to get all the dads talking

– Try to get all the boys talking (without embarrassing them…too much)

– Encourage various viewpoints without letting one person get you way off track

Pro-tip: Consider using “The Pre-Tee-Up” technique by working with a dad or young man to have a prepared response to get things rolling (you text this dad or pull him aside before the session and ask him to “go first” when the discussion time begins)


– Don’t let one guy dominate

– Argue or criticize

– Become dogmatic – avoid doctrinal debating and matters of opinion

– Use ridicule or sarcasm to get people talking – you might get an immediate response, but it will build up resentments over time and push people away

Respect people’s time.

Meet for 60-90 minutes. Start and end on time. Pick a night of the week that you and most of your group can agree on and honor their involvement by beginning and ending on time. Busy dads (and, that’s all of them!) will appreciate a well-organized and efficiently run group.

Sit with who brought you.

Make sure kids sit next to their dads or chaperones. Don’t let dads gather around one side of a table and the sons sit on the other. This might feel a bit awkward the first week, but with only one or two weeks of reinforcement you will have everyone trained. The goal of these groups is to have dads with their sons, not just hanging out with the other dads. Strictly enforce this early on and it’ll pay dividends later.

What’s all of this look like in action?

One example is an event we helped with over the Summer. At the request of Dr. Jonathan Schwartz (Associate Pastor of Family Ministries) at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia, we help dads and sons kickoff their Bible study. You’ll notice what we talked about in this post—including dads and sons sitting together! Dr. Schwartz and his ministry helped facilitate this event to get dads and sons comfortable and talking.


Leading a father and son Bible study kickoff event at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia.


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.


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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.