Section 1: Welcome

Thank you for your willingness to lead your group through Wild at Heart. This film series features the teaching of John Eldredge and the stories of men pursuing their warrior hearts through God's invitation of battle, adventure, and beauty. We're excited for you to take the men in your community on this journey. The rewards of leading are different from the rewards of participating, and we hope you find your own walk with Jesus deepened by this experience. This leader’s guide will give you tips on how to prepare for your time together and facilitate a meaningful experience for your group members.

Get together and watch God show up. Seriously, that’s the basics of how a small group works. Gather several people together who have a hunger for God, want to learn how to get their lives back, and are willing to be open and honest with God and themselves. The Lord will honor this every time and show up in the group. You don’t have to be a pastor, priest, theologian, or counselor to lead a group through this study. Just invite people over, watch the video, and talk about it. All you need is a willing heart, a little courage, and God will do the rest. Really.

As the group leader, you will want to make sure everyone in your group has a copy of the Wild at Heart Study Guide. (The group members will also want to have a copy of the Wild at Heart book if they are doing the recommended readings for each session.) It works best if you can get the guides (and books) to your group before the first meeting. That way, everyone can read the material in the book ahead of time and be prepared to watch the first video session together.

This series is presented in six video sessions, with each session being approximately fifteen to twenty minutes in length. Each week, you will meet together to watch the video and discuss the session. This series can also be used in classroom settings, such as Sunday school classes, though you may need to modify the discussion time depending on the size of the class. You could even use the video as sessions for a special prayer retreat. Basically, each week you will:

1) Watch the video session, 
2) Talk about it, and
3) Reflect on what you have learned by completing the between-sessions activities.

That’s it!

The setting really matters. If you can choose to meet in a living room over a conference room in a church, do it. Pick an environment that’s conducive to people relaxing and getting real. Remember the enemy likes to distract us when it comes to seeking God, so do what you can to remove these obstacles from your group (silence cell phones, limit background noise, no texting). Set the chairs or couches in a circle to prevent having a “classroom” feel.

Consider having some refreshments! Coffee and water will do; cookies and snacks are even better. People tend to be nervous when they join a new group, so if you can give them something to hold onto (like a warm mug of coffee), they will relax a lot more. It’s human nature.

Good equipment is important. Meet where you can watch the video sessions on a screen big enough for everyone to see and enjoy. Get or borrow the best gear you can. Also, be sure to test your media equipment ahead of time to make sure everything is in working condition. This way, if something isn’t working, you can fix it or make other arrangements before the meeting begins. (You’ll be amazed at how the enemy will try to mess things up for you!)

Be honest. Remember that your honesty will set the tone for your time together. Be willing to answer questions personally, as this will set the pace for the length of your group members’ responses and will make others more comfortable in sharing.

Stick to the schedule. Strive to begin and end your meetings at the same time each week. The people in your group are busy, and if they can trust you to be a good steward of their time, they will be more willing to come back each week. Of course, you want to be open to the work God is doing, and at times you may want to linger in prayer or discussion. Remember the clock serves you; your group doesn’t serve the clock. But work to respect the group’s time, especially when it comes to limiting the discussion times.

Don’t be afraid of silence or emotion. Welcome awkward moments. The material presented during this study will challenge the group members to reconsider some of their beliefs and compel them to make the necessary changes in their lives. Don’t be afraid to ease into the material with the group.

Don’t dominate the conversation. Even though you are the leader, you are also a member of this small group. So don’t steamroll over others in an attempt to lead—and don’t let anyone else in the group do so either.

Prepare for your meeting. Watch the video for the meeting ahead of time. Although it may feel a bit like cheating because you’ll know what’s coming, you will be better prepared for what the session might stir in the hearts of your group members. Also, be sure to review the material in this guide and spend some time in prayer. In fact, the most important thing you can do is simply pray ahead of time each week:

Lord Jesus, come and rule this time. Let your Spirit fill this place. Bring your kingdom here. Take us right to the things we really need to talk about and rescue us from every distraction. Show us the heart of the Father. Meet each person here. Give us your grace and love for one another. In your name I pray.

We understand people are busy, but we encourage your group members to also prepare. Before the first meeting, secure enough copies of the study guide for each member. Have these ready and on hand for the first meeting, or make sure the participants have purchased them. Send out a reminder email or a text a couple of days before the meeting to make sure folks don’t forget about it.  

You will find the following counsel to be especially helpful when you meet for the first time as a group. These comments are offered in the spirit of “here is what I would do if I were leading a group through this study”:

First, as the group gathers, start your time with introductions if people don’t know each other. Begin with yourself and share your name, how long you’ve been a follower of Christ, if you have a spouse and/or children, and what you want to learn most from this study. Going first will put the group more at ease.

After the introductions, jump right into watching the video teaching, as this will help get things started on a strong note. In the following weeks, you may want to start by allowing folks to catch up a little with some “how are you?” kind of banter. Too much of this burns up your meeting time, but you have to allow some room for it because it helps build relationships among the group members.

Note that each group will have its own personality and dynamics. Typically, people will hold back the first week or two until they feel the group is “safe.” Then they will begin to share. Again, don’t let it throw you if your group seems a bit awkward at first. Of course, some people never want to talk, so you’ll need to coax them out as time goes on. But let it go the first week.

If the group members are in any way open to talking about their lives as it relates to this material, you will likely not have enough time for every question suggested in this study guide. That’s okay! Pick the questions ahead of time that you know you definitely want to cover, just in case you end up only having time to discuss a few of them.

You set the tone for the group. Your honesty and vulnerability during discussion times will tell them what they can share. How long you talk will give them an example of how long they should respond. So give some thought to what stories or insights from your own work in the study guide you want to highlight.

WARNING: The greatest temptation for most small group leaders is to add to the video teaching with a little “teaching session” of their own. This is unhelpful for three reasons:

1) The discussion time will be the richest time during your meeting. The video sessions have been intentionally kept short so you can have plenty of time for discussion. If you add to the teaching, you sacrifice this precious time.

2) You don’t want your group members teaching, lecturing, or correcting one another. The group members are all at a different place in their spiritual journey. If you set a tone by teaching, the group will feel like they have the freedom to teach one another. That can be disastrous for group dynamics.

3) The participants will be watching the video teachings during your group time and exploring the topics in more detail by completing the between-sessions exercises in the study guide. They don’t need more content! What they want is a chance to talk and process their own lives in light of all they have taken in.

Some of the best learning times will take place after the group time as God brings new insights to the participants during the week. Encourage group members to write down any questions they have as they work through the between-sessions exercises in the study guide. Make sure they know you are available for them as they explore the material. Finally, make sure you close your time by praying together—either by following the suggested prompts or coming up with your own closing prayers. Ask two or three people to pray, inviting God to fill your group and lead each person during this study.

Thanks again for taking the time to lead your group. May God reward your efforts to help men recover their masculine hearts!