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Oakland County Men’s Group is temporarily closed to new members.

We have recently added multiple new active members, and have reached a size that is feeling at least borderline too big. The consensus opinion of the group is that when a group like ours becomes too big, it starts to lose some quality, as there is less time per person for people to express themselves and discuss the topics that arise. We want to preserve our ability to get deep about what’s going on in our lives without having to constantly be conscious of time.

So for now we will limit ourselves to the members who are already active and have been attending meetings.

This closure is temporary, as inevitably people will drop out of the group as time goes on, and with no one being added and an occasional person being subtracted the group will shrink. If and when it gets down to a number where we feel like we could use some new blood, we will reopen the group to new members.

This was a difficult decision to make, because we really don’t like to turn away anyone who believes they could benefit from a men’s group like ours. We all feel this group has been a quite positive part of our lives, and we would like other men to be able to similarly benefit.

So what I will say is that even though we are temporarily closed to newcomers, we’d still like to assist and encourage folks who are looking for a group like ours. If you are considering starting your own men’s group in this area—our recent experience seems to indicate there is a considerable demand for it—feel free to contact me and I will be glad to discuss with you how our group got started, how we run things, possible pitfalls to be aware of, etc. We could also, if you are interested, arrange for you to come to a meeting to get a sense of what it’s like. (You may, of course, choose to make some changes from how we do things.) Once you do get a group off the ground, I’d be happy to remain a resource for you.

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A men’s group is an opportunity for a small group of men to provide mutual support and friendship, and facilitate emotional growth.

Meetings take place every other Wednesday evening. We start at 6:00 PM. We go for as long as the discussion stays lively (or until some members start to nod off). Meetings run anywhere from an hour and a half to four hours; typical is probably about three hours. There is a break in the middle.

For a long time we were meeting in a classroom at the Unitarian church in Southfield. (There is no affiliation; we were simply renting a meeting room there.) It's possible we will eventually return there. However, due to the coronavirus situation, for now we are either meeting remotely via ZOOM or outdoors in a park or other public place.

Cost (for renting the room and for maintaining the group on Meetup) is split equally among all active members. (Note: That's all members, not all attendees. If you're a member, you owe your share for each meeting, including those you attend and those you don't.)

The group functions as primarily a discussion group. In a typical meeting, we first go around the table and “check in,” which means that each member briefly gives an update on what’s been going on in his life and what’s been on his mind to talk about since the last meeting. Other members may provide feedback (if he wants it; it’s allowed to say you just want to be listened to this week, and don’t want comments or advice). Then, following a short break, the remainder of the meeting usually is a discussion of a topic chosen by that week’s facilitator. We rotate who is facilitator each meeting. In addition to chairing the meeting and choosing the discussion topic, the facilitator brings snacks for the members.

Sample topics might be:

* Difficulties we’ve run into trying to communicate with a significant other, and how as men we can be better communicators in our relationships.

* Ways we were influenced by our fathers, and how we can best retain the positive influences and free ourselves of the destructive influences.

* As men, do we define ourselves too much in terms of work and career?

* Are we living our lives in accordance with the values we claim to believe in?

But really the topics are limited only by our imaginations.

What a men’s group of this kind is not:

* Formal group therapy: Though we hope the group will be therapeutic for its members and help them to grow emotionally, this is not a group run by a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or trained mental health professional of that kind and thus does not purport to provide treatment. Someone who needs the services of a mental health professional should never forego that and turn to a men’s group instead.

* Tied to any specific religion, political ideology, New Age philosophy, etc.: Many men’s groups have a rule that religion and politics are not to be among the topics discussed. For now we haven't instituted such a rule, but we will if necessary to keep things civil. In any case, subjects like that should be de-emphasized, and certainly the group is not explicitly for only Christians, Jews, atheists, conservatives, environmentalists, or whatever.

* A “men’s rights” anti-feminist group: This isn’t about hostility to women or lamenting the supposedly disadvantaged state of men in today’s society.

* A purely intellectual, impersonal discussion group: We typically don’t discuss issues in the abstract. Instead we talk about our lives, and we talk about issues insofar as they relate to our lives. So members should have some willingness to open up, and should be able to listen to others and talk to them in non-judgmental, non-argumentative, supportive ways.

If you do choose to become a member, regular attendance is very important. At "check-in" especially we talk about our lives, and if you're there sometimes and missing sometimes it'll be like you're only hearing random chapters of people's stories. Obviously if there's an emergency or you're out of town or something then no one is going to be upset with you for missing a meeting. But we do ask for more of a commitment than that you drop in to an occasional meeting when you happen to be free and in the mood.

Diversity is a positive. We can never guarantee it’ll happen, but it would be great to have a group that ranged in age from college students to retirees, with men of different races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations and occupations, as well as different worldviews, personalities, and values. The more different perspectives we have the better, as long as everyone abides by basic group values like mutual respect and civility.

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