The Training Circle

One my monthly highlights happened last night. Once a month for three hours I get together with seven other men from church for a time that is intentionally structured to foster community, accountability and spiritual growth.

We call it The Training Circle.

One Sunday night a month we catch up with each other, recite memory verses, and talk about our monthly homework–usually we read through a book, have a relational assignment with our wives and meet another guy for lunch. On top of those things, one man each month shares his story–from top to bottom, birth to present, all the ups and downs. By far, this is the highlight of the night as we get to see how God has drawn this person to Himself over the years. In the end, the purpose of our night is to intentionally pursue life in Jesus Christ as our greatest passion.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

We are a curious group of misfits. We range from young to old, kids to no kids, varying professions, and very different life stories. Colorful personalities, diverse walks of life.

I love it.

As C.S. Lewis was fond of saying, people need more to be reminded than instructed. So this post was meant as an encouragement to fellowship/have community/be accountable (whatever you want to call it) with other believers. Live life together. Be intentional. Share your story.

(On a side note: We read through The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning this month. It was phenomenal. I have plans to do a week-long blog series on some of my takeaways. Think #RagamuffinWeek. Stay tuned!)

In what ways are you fostering accountability, community or fellowship in your own life?

55 Comments

  • Moe

    May 23, 2011

    I have a few good men in my life (we don’t meet in court rooms and yell out “Code Red” though).

    I usually meet over coffee, pray and talk about each other’s struggles, victories and dance moves (truth).

    I have found so much value in having these meetings. they are encouraging, strengthening and fruitful.

    As far as iron sharpening iron, I have updated to:

    Lightsaber lasers lightsaber!

    Reply
    • Donald Borsch Jr

      May 23, 2011

      See? This is why I am so geeked about meeting you face-to-face, Moe.

      “Sons of Thunder 2011” springs to mind.

      Reply
      • Dustin

        May 23, 2011

        Sons of Thunder…. actually, that is quite fitting!

        Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      I want to meet you over coffee! Let’s make it happen!

      Reply
      • moe

        May 23, 2011

        Hell no! I’m going all the way to GA, I better get dined, wined, and romanced sucka! :)

        Reply
        • Dustin

          May 23, 2011

          Sigh……. you’re right. You’ll get ATL’s Finest when you roll into town. Count on it!

          Reply
    • Tony Alicea

      May 25, 2011

      I’m like Moe. I have a few guys in my life that I meet with regularly. It’s not structured (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but it’s always real.

      I think of it more in terms of friendship than accountability. It’s something I’ve been kicking around lately. I’ve actually thought of writing a blog post about how “accountability partners” can backfire if they aren’t real friendships. Still debating it though.

      Reply
      • Donald Borsch Jr

        May 26, 2011

        Tony,

        You said:
        “I’ve actually thought of writing a blog post about how “accountability partners” can backfire if they aren’t real friendships.”

        Now this is an good question.

        Do you, or I, need to really have a familiar friendship with someone to receive from them in the area of accountability? Would this friendship cloud their judgment, or our receiving from them?

        Hmmm. Definitely one to stew upon. Nice call, T.

        Reply
        • Tony Alicea

          May 26, 2011

          On the flip side, if you ONLY have someone in your life for the purpose of accountability, how likely are you to maintain that relationship long term?

          If the only reason I come to you is to keep me accountable for some addiction, if I’m struggling with it, at some point I’m going to start avoiding you. If I’m walking out accountability in true covenant relationships, it’s not that easy to cut someone off because we don’t want to face the music.

          The idea isn’t fully thought out, but that’s along the lines I’ve been thinking.

          Reply
          • Dustin

            May 27, 2011

            Tony and Donald – those are interesting thoughts. I’ll be honest here: in my experience (like you alluded to Tony), I’ve been there. I’ve sought out accountability, followed through with meetings/etc, and had it get pushed aside because there wasn’t an embedded relationship behind it all. I think when you boil it down, there has to be a mutual respect in what the expectations will be – in that, the structure and discipline part play a key role in maintaining momentum and follow up.

            Reply
  • Donald Borsch Jr

    May 23, 2011

    D,

    “In what ways are you fostering accountability, community or fellowship in your own life?”
    ————————-

    I pursue these things. I demand these things of myself. I have seen too many sons of God become corrupted by refusing to implement these truths into their lives.

    I have brothers in Christ that I have specifically given the right to speak into my life, both in edification and correction. I have a spiritual father and mentor who knows the me that many will never see. I have e-brothers that I communicate with that avail themselves to me, and I to them.

    I am so digging this post, D. Another great way to start the week!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      Great! Even in our brief friendship, I’ve learned that about you – you are specific and intentional in allowing people to speak into your life (and who you choose to invest in). Really, really appreciate that about you.

      Reply
  • Matthew Snider

    May 23, 2011

    I must say I am very jealous brother. I have tried starting these up but the guys I hang with have such limited time, or willingness to invest the time, very frustrating!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      Maybe start small? Coffee 1x a month? Before work or during lunch… or Skype?

      Reply
  • Tyson B

    May 23, 2011

    Exploring the possible dangers or risks of a lack of accountability, community or fellowship could be a nice follow up.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      Good idea, Tyson. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • Arny

    May 23, 2011

    I’ve think i’ve starting to get through to the kids that i teach once of month about community. they range from 13-17 years old…and i’d like to believe i’ve gained their confidence to form a community amoungst ourselves….they come up to me after a lesson on a certain character of the bible…(last month was solomon and this month will be elijah…) and ask me question or just want to talk about anything….pretty cool for that age group….

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      Arny, that is really cool. That’s neat that they allow you to speak truth into their lives, and that they follow up and remember the lessons. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Adam

    May 23, 2011

    I have a group of a few guys that work together to keep each other accountable. The group means so much to me. Glad you have a strong group you are a part of brother.

    Reply
  • Keri

    May 23, 2011

    I like the idea of sharing your stories, from top to bottom. I think that reveals a lot of things that would never come up in regular conversation. I also think it’s cool that your group is not just people in your same station in life. It’s easy to only hang out with people just like me. But, I have so much to learn from others who are different than me.

    Mike and I are part of a small group that really digs deep. But, recently, I have felt that God is telling me to go even deeper in developing a relationship for the sole purpose of accountability-maybe just with 1-2 other girls. I just don’t know when I would find the time. :(

    I like how our posts are complementing eachother today.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      You know, it’s almost like: how in the world am I supposed to relate to these guys? Some are 20 years older than me, some younger… some are in a much different profession than I am… some are guys that I’ve never interacted with at church (so we’re kinda like strangers). But…. it’s amazing what a little transparency and vulnerability will do. Especially with the sharing of testimonies…. it is VERY cool.

      Reply
  • Jason Vana

    May 23, 2011

    I’m kind of in the rebuilding phase of having community/accountability. The guys I used to be the most open and vulnerable with aren’t really in my circles anymore – whether it was from moving, going in a different direction or schedules.

    I do have a few younger guys within Ignite that I open up to, but am looking at rebuilding the network that is around my age or older as well.

    Great post Dustin!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      There is something special about a group like this with likeminded guys, all in the same lifestage… but I’d also challenge you to not let that hold you back. Celebrate the differences!

      Reply
  • mo

    May 23, 2011

    Sounds awesome man. We launched our small group program 3 months ago. We meet in homes all over the Detroit metro area, so there’s something near almost everyone. It’s been awesome!

    We’ve started Bread of Life Crew, where we give out bread donated to us by Avalon Bread Company. We go to the same housing complex every week, and have gotten to know a lot of the residents. It’s only about a mile from our church, so it’s easy to invite folks there.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      sweet – love both of those (the home group and the service/relational work around the church). awesome!

      Reply
  • Cindy Holman

    May 23, 2011

    For me it has to be in our small group of 3 other couples that meet in our home every Tuesday night from our small church plant. We are doing life together and sharing stories, struggles, joys and prayer requests while studying together our pastor’s message from the past Sunday. It’s good to be accountable to others and take the risk of being authentic.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      “take the risk of being authentic” – exactly. it’s “risky” because it causes vulnerability. but, in the end, those things are what breed deeper and lasting relationships.

      Reply
  • Joseph

    May 23, 2011

    We recently started a small group among some of the young married couples in our church. I’ve missed a couple because of work but the one I went to was really good. I’ve also had many thoughts of starting a bible study/something like your training circle over the past few weeks. But I really could ramp up this area of my life. Having community with people around my way. THanks for sharing this and your meetings sound awesome! :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      sure thing, joseph! we’ve been involved in couples groups before and have gotten a lot of of those as well. talk about different perspectives! :)

      Reply
  • Jon

    May 23, 2011

    Great post bro!

    I’m part of a weekly small group in my church. I love it because it’s where we can share, discuss, and just be real with each other. We just wrapped up our spring series, but we’re going to start a summer one soon.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      Be real with each other- that’s what it’s all about, right? :)

      Reply
  • mandythompson

    May 23, 2011

    LOVE that group name! Very manly. Reminds me of the highschool group my husband used to lead: The Beefeaters. I never asked questions. :)

    What am I doing to foster community? two things: 1) starting a second campus for our church. 2) being more intentional to create creative community on my blog. yep. And I’m super excited about both.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      mandy, first off – thanks. i did not come up with it (it is manly/beefy/macho/beefcakey) – interestingly enough our church got it from (pretty sure) the movie “The Mask of Zorro” where Anthony Hopkins is teaching Antonio Banderas what it takes to be Zorro. He trains him in varying circle sizes. And, btw, I like the name The Beefeaters. In fact, that would be sweet Adult Softball Team Name. :)

      secondly- love those “ways”. starting a second campus- cool! and re: your blog, I didn’t think about that. we all have a prime opportunity to create something like that here on our blogs. thanks for bringing that to our attention!

      Reply
      • mandythompson

        May 23, 2011

        Where’s my kindle? ;) Just joking!!! Love that movie, btw. Ok. Actually, I just really like Antonio Banderas

        Reply
        • mandythompson

          May 23, 2011

          Btw, I’m totally stealing the “comment of the day” idea. ah huh… Maybe one day you’ll win!

          Reply
          • Dustin

            May 23, 2011

            LOL, go for it! :)

            And, no need to apologize. Who doesn’t love a little Banderas accent? :)

            Reply
  • Mark

    May 23, 2011

    Dustin I think it is wonderful that you are able to meet monthly with a group of peers in order to edify, fellowship, and confess to one another! I was once part of a similar group but I found the group dynamics tended to break down around educational and spiritual lines. In essence what ended up happening was that many of these meetings turned into secular counseling sessions and started diverting from Biblical teaching. Even through I’m a mental health therapist I fought the secular methodologies tooth and nail with varying degrees of success. It was at times very stressful/vexing! Anyway my point is that I really think its great that Christian men of various walks can come together to share time, life, and the Word of God:->

    I will also be awaiting your thoughts on the “The Ragamuffin Gospel”. I read this book a couple years ago. It will be interesting to see if you found any doctrinal problems with Manning’s interpretation of scripture? Look forward to your next installment Dustin! Blessings to you and yours!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      mark, thanks for the comment – always appreciate your thoughts. you bring to the table an interesting perspective. as a therapist by trade, i’m sure you brought up things and had a perspective that was different than anyone else. especially when folks started to share “deeper” things.

      about Manning’s book – I liked it. I really did. I feel like it will be one of those “nightstand” books that I’ll want to reference back to every once in a while. there were some points and interpretations that I felt were muddy, but I felt like the overarching theme of the book was something I needed to here: “this book is for the worn out, beat up, and knocked down Christian”. let’s stop pretending and accept the fact that we need Christ. but anyway… yeah… I’m anxious to start thinking about that a little more.

      Reply
  • ThatGuyKC

    May 23, 2011

    Dustin, that is awesome.
    I got involved in my church men’s ministry about a year and a half ago through a program called Men’s Fraternity. It was awesome.

    I like this idea of the Training Circle and would love to “steal” it for our church.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 23, 2011

      Do it! I did it last year (year long commitment) and decided again to do it this year. Well worth it – for both me and my walk, and my relationship with Jen as well. Also, love The Fraternity. Keepin’ it real with the bros. Love it!

      Reply
  • jenn

    May 24, 2011

    Okay, I admit that I’m totally jealous of your men’s group. I wish my church would do this exact thing… except with the women. (The men can have a group also, but I’m being selfish here.)

    There have been tons of transitions at my church in the last year, the biggest one being the pastor leaving, so maybe we will do something like this in the future.

    Honestly though, I think it’s great that the men at your church do this. Even though I would love for the women to do this at my church, I know it is even more difficult to get the men to meet together. So the fact that the men in your church actually show up is great.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on The Ragamuffin Gospel. I haven’t read it and I’m always looking for good books to read.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 25, 2011

      You know, you’re exactly right – people have busy schedules, families, kids, businesses, etc…. so it has been neat to see the commitment to a simple thing like a 3hr/month meet-up. :)

      Reply
  • Tom

    May 24, 2011

    Great reminder Dustin of the critical nature of accountability and intentional actions we need to stay on purpose. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Jim F

    May 24, 2011

    That is truly an awesome ministry and it is a needed ministry! I at the ground floor of a men’s ministry and this is a good thing to borrow from. Thanks for sharing.

    BTW – Love The Raggamuffin Gospel.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 25, 2011

      Sure thing!

      And about TRG – awesome. As you know, me too :)

      Reply
  • Larry Hehn

    May 24, 2011

    Every Thursday morning I meet with a couple of close friends for breakfast. Let me tell you, there not much else that would get me to wake up voluntarily at 5:30, but I treasure the time we have together, encouraging and watching out for each other.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 25, 2011

      Funny. :) Yeah, those times are tough (initially), but so worth it!

      Reply
  • David Miles

    May 27, 2011

    I have a good friend that I regularly either get together with or talk with on the phone and we ask each other some of those difficult questions. We also just do life together and I think this helps as well.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 29, 2011

      That’s perfect- I’m a huge fan of “doing life together”. That is where it’s at!

      Reply
  • Alex Humphrey

    May 28, 2011

    I am currently working on building those Godly relationships. It is so encouraging to see you have this! God is so great, Dustin!

    You are grounded in a way most men aren’t. You understand aspects of life, children, and wives that most husbands and fathers miss, and you are solidly grounded in scripture.

    Could this be because God has brought you together with several other men? Could it be because you all are intentional with one another? Could it be because you and a few other guys open your hearts to one another?

    It certainly doesn’t hurt! lol

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 29, 2011

      Certainly doesn’t hurt. :) I appreciate the kind words, Alex.

      Reply
  • Pingback: Participating in My Story | AbrahamChronicles.com

  • Pingback: Investments | AbrahamChronicles.com

Leave a Reply