Hi there.

My name is Frank. In-depth ministry between men is what this website is encouraging. How are you involved? Here are my recent posts.  Please see the Contents page to learn what is here. Also, see the About Me and  Mission pages.

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Men need Empathy, not Sympathy

Chocolate Lab puppy ready to give men empathy not sympathy by being close contact and always faithful. He can give doggy hugs and even cry with you.
This puppy can teach us empathy
Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

Men need empathy, not sympathy, especially when they are emotionally hurting. And every man I  know has a long list of hurts. He struggles with them every day. He needs you to feel his hurts with him! That will give him a measure of relief. 

Physically be with him, listen to his hurt. And then give him a long, strong hug.

Things to do
  1. Be physically present with him. Never use social media, including Facebook, etc. They are far from a confidential container And are also easily misunderstood. The depth of feeling between communicated in person is many times deeper than the best electronic communication. 
  2. Let him do the talking. Facilitate his monologue
  3. Cry with him as he cries. 
  4. Give him a long, strong hug.
Things to never do
  1. Point to some happy thing in his life. He is already well aware of all his happy things. But the current hurt has crushed all the happiness out of him. At least for now. 
  2. “One-up” his story. That is telling him about some hurt you have had. A hurt that you think is worse than his current problem. That is probably not how he will see it. He will probably think you are bragging. And nobody likes a braggart.
  3. Offer suggestions. He has to feel his way out of this. If he asks for a suggestion, then offer him just one or two at the most. 
  4. Be careful not to TELL him what to do! All change is self-change. You can not change him. 

Again men need empathy, not sympathy. 

Here is an animated short video on the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Empathy feels connection:
  1. Perspective-taking. So how would you feel if you were the other person? With his background and his experience. 
  2. Staying out of judgment. Just do not rehearse what he did or did not do that got him into this situation. 
  3. Recognizing emotion in others (something I have trouble doing). Try naming his emotion. But do not announce it.   
  4. Feeling WITH people. A good summary of all the above 
Sympathy drives disconnection because it:
  1. Reveals your attitude of superiority. 
  2. Temps you to “one-up” his experience. 
  3. Does not include giving him a long, strong hug.
Always remember that men need empathy, not sympathy
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A Confidential Container

Glazed clay containers represent the gossip free confidential container of each meeting.

View each meeting as a glazed clay confidential container. Gossip is deadly to any meeting.

A confidential container or meeting space is necessary for a man to share anything personal with you.  Especially anything about his feelings. Therefor view each of your meetings as a clay jar. Realize that gossip is deadly: it will break the fragile jar. 

Why this analogy?

First, clay jars break easily. And so does confidentiality.  Second, they are glazed, which keeps anything from leaking into or out of them.  Any leaking (gossip) is deadly. 

Each meeting has to sealed against anything leaking out or leaking in.  It never hurts to remind guys of this at the beginning of each meeting. 

Confidential things leaking out 

Anything said or done by person in a meeting, has to have that person’s direct permission, for you to share it. Otherwise, it is gossip. I grew up on a small farm. Everyone knew “that what happens in the barn stays in the barn!”  So remember “that what happens in a men’s meeting stays in that men’s meeting.” 

Almost everyone agrees about not sharing things with others who were not present.  

Now you can share your own experience in a meeting with someone who was not in that meeting. But you must never name another person in that meeting. Nor give any clue by which a very clever person might use to guess an identity.  The best course is, of course, to say nothing because any gossip is deadly. 

Confidential things leaking in 

Inbound leaking is gossip about others not in this meeting shared in this meeting. 

Something posted on Facebook, on a church prayer list, Twitter, or any other social media does not grant you permission to share it with anyone else. 

A greater temptation is to try to help a man in this meeting by relating the experience of someone not in this meeting. Too often, the two experiences are not identical. Empathy and a hug might be helpful.

A glazed jar is often very beautiful. Beautiful is the meeting where no gossip leaks in or out.  Repairing a broken clay jar is impossible. Where it once broke will remain visible. Again gossip is deadly. 

What has been leaking into or out of your meetings? 

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Facilitate his monologue on his emotions

The best way to edify a man is, most often,  to facilitate his monologue on his emotions.  Two years ago, I wrote a post on the importance of having the other guy do most of the talking.  This post is more on how to encourage emotional expression.  

man leaning on tree during daytime. Who needs you to help facilitate his monologue on his emotions

A man who needs you to help facilitate his monologue on his emotions.

The first thing getting him to start talking.  See my post on that subject.  Facilitating his monologue absolutely requires deeply hearing what he is saying and making often non-verbal responses. 

Here are a few questions you can insert during short pauses in his monologue. Asking thoughtful questions is a wonderful way to take any discussion to a deeper level. Men usually have little trouble going deeper into mechanical explanations but are often almost mortally scared to go deeper about emotions. Asking questions that call for emotional feelings and expressions signal that you are free and open to these things.  It just may help him get the courage to share it with you. That will also help free him from his emotional lock-up. 

  1. How did you feel when [name] said that? or How did you feel when [name] did that? 
  2. How do you guess [name] felt when saying that? or How do you guess [name] felt when doing that? 
  3. How did you feel when you said that to  [name]? How did you feel when you did that to/for [name]? 
  4. What emotion were you trying to convey when you said that? Had you thought about the emotional impact of what you said to [name]? 

When you ask these kinds of questions, you help facilitate his monologue on his emotions. When we ask someone questions like this, we need to think about the emotional impact on him! This is very important. 

For more on emotional intelligence, see this post by Eric Barker.  The book on which Eric based this blog post has an excellent chart of 100 different emotional words. It has four general categories.  I would post it here, but that would be a copyright violation. You really might want to get the book to help both yourself and others expand emotional intelligence. 

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How Many Brothers?

How many did Jesus and Paul have?

How many brothers can you minister to in a month? Jesus did only 12. And He focused on 3 of those. Yes, Jesus addressed large crowds. He sends the 70/72  to spread the message. But He worked primarily with the 12. If that is all the infinite Son of God handled, then how any can I realistically do?

Right now I treat one-on-one ministry to men as a full-time job. And I have not been able to work more than 12 into my schedule.

Look in Acts and see how many men traveled with Paul at any one point in time. It is a small number.

What you are doing is traveling through life with each man. Agewise you may be ahead of them, so that makes you the guide, maybe the defacto “leader.” I never use that term for myself. Christ-like men need to see other as brothers and nothing more or less.

Why so few?

The frequent and often long meetings, limit how much you can do in a month. You also have other obligations like providing for your family. Not only ensuring they have food but also love and spiritual care.

Wisdom in life is “more caught than taught.” One can not shortcut this with lectures or assigned readings. We truly learn as life unfolds.  You can meekly suggest things. Unfortunately, you  learn much of life in the “school of hard knocks.” You are there to encourage and support you Brother when “knocked down.” Or when congratulate him when he does well.

It should be one-on-one. Your Brother will, in all likelihood,  never share where he most needs help in any group. It is too personal to him and way to private to risk exposure.

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“What do you find fulfilling?”

Asking “What do you find fulfilling? Can take your conversation to a whole new depth. Do not use this question too often with the same person. That can make it sound like you are working off a script. And that is something people do NOT like.

Before you ask this question be sure you spend a reasonable amount of time hearing and reacting to the suggested conversation starter question discussed here.  Be sure to read that post!

One great place to use this question is when there is a long pause in the conservation. Like when you out in a boat together fishing. Or maybe just the two of you around a campfire.

I would not use that question in a group since you are likely to get a canned response that does not deepen anything. Except maybe the boredom everyone is experiencing.

You will know you have hit “pay dirt” when the answer to “What do you find fulfilling?” suggests an unmet emotional need.

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How to pray for somebody.

What prayer is

Pray is a request to divinity or some higher authority for issues beyond your control. You do not pray for what you can do or control. How to pray is for things outside our abilities.

How to pray as seen in the New Testament

I recently when through all the New Testament passages on prayer. Especially those in the epistles. And I was reminded again of the old saying, “Prayer is not  getting our desires done in heaven, but getting heaven’s will accomplished on earth.”

I found no example or command to pray for John Doe’s gout (James 5 is not an exception). Nor prevention of or relief from disasters, natural or otherwise.

Things prayed about in New Testament scripture are spiritual. Especially the salvation of unbelievers and the continuation or expansion of ministry for believers.  There are some prayers for relief from spiritual discouragement primarily when persecuted. In summary, pray for things that will bring others to Jesus or help others grow in Christ-likeness.

How to pray for somebody

So instead of praying forJohn Doe’s gout what do we pray for or with him? We pray for his coming to faith in Jesus. When he comes to that point, we then pray for effectiveness and expansion of his service (ministry) to others.

We do not need to pray for God to bless someone. He is very good at doing that without our reminding Him. It is something God longs to do. We do not pray for God to bless us, again He wants to do that. We do not pray for God to bless other people for the same reason. Benedictions can be a problem if we see ourselves as the provider of the blessing.  An exception to this was in the Old Testament when the priest serves as an intermediary for conveying God’s grace on people. As believers today we are indwelt by God and so have no need priest to bless us. We are all believer priests with direct access to God. Wishing another well as Paul does in his letters is excellent. Just remember that God is the source of this and not us.

Now, look at this discussion of I Thess. 4:14.

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Active Listening

There is so much to say about active listening, on how the other guy knows we are truly listening. I will need several entries on this topic.

Active listening starts with your total attention focused on the other person.

If at all possible sit directly in front of him. Be close enough that you do not miss his non-verbal expressions. The good news is that he will also be able to read yours. What he sees in your body language allows you to communicate a lot with having to take up “air time.” Speaking focuses attention on you and away from him which is terrible. You are here for him!

Also, sit where you cannot be distracted by a TV or other activity in the area. He can feel it each time glance away. He makes him think you have lost interest in what he is saying. Or are disapproving of what he just communicated. Do not look at your watch or have it propped up in front of you. It means that your focus on him is not complete.

Keep other thoughts out of your mind. Especially on how you will respond to what he just said. That little pause when you switch speakers is long enough to do that. Also, the next words out of his mouth often change what you were planning to say. Maybe even reversing it.

Active listening involves your ears and brain.

Process everything he says. Do not it go in one ear and out the other. Keep asking yourself questions about what he just said. For example: Why did it he express it that way? What is the real meaning of that figure of speech?

In time he will become more direct with his statements. When he is hinting around, you know there is something more profound involved.

Active listening sometimes involves “non-words” on your part.

You can show that you are following what he is saying with little noises like “um,” “ah”,  “oh,” “wow,” etc. Now be sure it fits what he just said. Do not say “ah” or “wow” when he in tears says his companion dog just got killed by a speeding truck. At that point, you want to hug him and cry with him.

Make sure you are not interrupting his train of thought.

Active listening involves your facial expressions.

For most of these come naturally. Do not force or suppress such expressions.  Smiles and frowns communicate a lot. They must match what he just said. Remember you are here to show brotherly love and acceptance. Do not let your face convey hate or rejection. If there is some problem, you want to seek loving restoration.

Your face can signal that you have a question. Be careful with this one.

Active listening involves other non-verbal communication.

What you do with your hands can say a lot. For example, both hands behind your neck can indicate rejection.  Bringing your hands towards your body is a signal for him to say more on this topic. Pointing your feet away from him and towards the door would mean you are ready to leave this meeting. These are just a few; there are many others.

Active listening may involve asking some gentle questions.

These rare gentle questions are excellent. For example, if your friend just mentioned his grandmother, you might ask on which side of the family. This question shows that you want to get the story straight.

These short little concrete questions requiring a one or two-word answer are excellent. Avoid anything complicated that may get your friend off his current train of thought.


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How long does a meeting last?

My Usual meeting length.

One hour is, to me, a short meeting length. Two to four hours are usually more productive than one-hour meetings. Dealing with heart level items takes a lot of time. My sessions occasionally go 6+ hours. Assuming you asked a very open-ended conversation starter then followed that up with the suggestions in this other entry. It will take more than an hour.

Also be sure that you are actively listening to him alone. No other thoughts than his words are in your mind while you are together.

Again he needs to articulate how he feels at items in his life today. Have to put thoughts and feelings into words make them evident in the speaker’s mind and heart.

The times suggested for a psychological counseling session are not applicable nor enough. You are not a psychologist nor is this “counseling.” You are building a personal relationship with a spiritual brother.  It is a bond often more profound than physical brotherhood. Note Jesus’ reaction to his physical half-brothers in Matthew 12:46-50. Also Matthew 19:28-30. Jesus puts spiritual brothers ahead of the closest physical relationships.

If possible have an open-ended meeting length

Try to leave your meeting length unspecified. You can schedule some for an hour or more after you usual meeting time. When it is time for that meeting, just tell your brother you have another meeting. Guys never seem to mind. And you have not cut his time short. If he has another meeting or has to get back to work then never complain. Immediately schedule the next meeting. Thank him for his time. And get out of there. If you have to use your phone or a GPS to set, do not do that where he can see you. You don’t want him to wonder if he has detained you. He needs to know that he has all your time he needs.

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Conversation starter for one-on-one men’s meetings.

The heart of each meeting is a time of one-on-one, soul to soul discussion. So what is a good conversation starter to get a man to talk about this? There may be some discussion about what to order for lunch. Or maybe the project you are going to do together today. Or even the weather today.

But when it gets to the heart of the meeting, you want a straightforward question. Never something like the opening line of a  speech or sermon. Err to asking that question too soon. So you do not bog down in nonessentials. 

The center of each meeting is lovingly getting to the heart of the other person.

 Possible Conversation Starters

  • “Well, what’s been going on with Joe?” this is a good opener in almost any situation. You can use it to open every meeting. No one gets tired of it.
  • “Whats been going on with Joe since we last met?” Good for someone you talked in depth with a little while ago.
  • “Tell me about Joe.” Good line if you have never met one-on-one before.

What a conversation starter should do.

  • Get the focus on the other person
  • Get him to talk about what is in his heart. His current concerns or joys.  Remember He Needs to Talk.
  • Use his preferred name.
  • Be VERY open-ended.

What conversation starter should NOT do.

  • Suggest a topic. If Joe told you in advance what he wanted, it might have changed.
  • Pull the focus toward yourself.
  • Indicate your opinion on ANYTHING. Especially politics, sports teams, and theology.


What if he asks you first?

Answer him with the same depth and sincerity that expect from him. Admitting that you too have issues is healthy. It often strengthens the relationship.  Now immediately flip the question back on him! And next time you take the lead.

Here is a blog post that suggests 125 conversation starters. However, I found NONE of them that opens up the way for an in-depth ministry.  And meaningful personal ministry to others is the heart of being a follower of Jesus. John 13:34-35.

This medical article has a suggestion in Table 1. I will talk more about that and its meeting outline in another post.

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Pre-Meeting Reminder

Shortly before you meet someone, send him a Pre-Meeting Reminder Message

Each meeting gives you three contacts with your Brother.

  1. First, a message confirming the meeting in the next eight to 18 hours.
  2. The actual meeting. And scheduling the next meeting.
  3. The post-meeting thankyou message eight to 24 hours later.

Why this time frame?

You want to give him time to get your message. He also may have a conflict so will need to reschedule. If you do it any earlier, he may get distracted and forget your meeting.

These timings assume you are using cell phone text messaging or a voice call/message. You may need to allow more time if you have to use email. You need to know how your Brother usually responds.

Pre-meeting reminder Elements

It is a personal note tailored to the upcoming visit. Never used an automated canned message or have some assistant write the words. You are building a personal relationship.
  1. Greet him using his preferred name. If you accidentally send it to the wrong person his guy will probably let you know so you can correct it.
  2. Tell him you are looking forward to seeing him.
  3. Remind him of the time a location.
  4. Again allude to your positive anticipation.

And here are a few do not’s

  • Please do not remind him of anything he promised to do between meetings. Your message is enough of a prompt.
  • Don’t mention anything you plan to give him or do for him. You may learn at the meeting your plan is not best for him now.
  • Also, don’t repeat any gossip you have heard related to him. You are building a positive connection with him. Sharing gossip weakens relationships. Remember you are helping him develop positive relationships with others. Even positive reports are a problem. He may wonder if you also talk to other about him.
  • Do not ask him to confirm. Just sending him a message does that. If he can not make then, he will let you know. A no-show that tells you a lot about him.  Asking him to respond seems like you do not trust him.

Pre-meeting Reminder Message examples

  • Hey Joe. I am sure looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, same time usual place.  Frank.
  • Tom, Sure looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. I have us meeting at the Polar Bear Cafe at 1234 North Antarctic Blvd. for lunch at 11:30.   Meet you there. 🙂 Frank.

Here is an outside source that warns about using the word “just” in reminder messages.

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