At a retreat center in the mountains of South Carolina, Denny McGurer sat in awe as he watched men from his church stand up, one by one, to share scriptures that are significant to their lives.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in my career,” says Denny, “but that was powerful.”
The dream of holding a men’s retreat was born as soon as Denny and his wife started attending the First Presbyterian Church of Aiken, South Carolina. Before they moved there, the McGurers had witnessed the powerful impact of community and the special strength in a close-knit group of men.
“A close community of men was really a cornerstone of our former church,” Denny says.
When they moved to the south, the First Presbyterian Church welcomed them warmly. Denny was shocked to find out, however, that even though the congregation is nearly 200 years old, it had never held a men’s retreat.
“But the church is very mission-oriented,” says Denny. “It had a new minister whose tagline promoted change and growth, and that was infectious.”
The tagline was “Writing a new chapter in an old story,” and Denny knew that his dream would fit right in to that campaign.
“This is a new chapter: men’s ministry,” he had thought. “I think there’s an amazing opportunity here to bring three generations of men together.”
His idea to start out with a retreat was encouraged and the date was set: two nights in the mountains with all men in the church welcome.
Denny’s next objective was to plan their time together, and that’s where Lead Like Jesus came in.
Denny has known Ken Blanchard in business circles for two decades. When he found out that a Lead Like Jesus facilitator lived close, he inquired about incorporating him into the men’s retreat. Steve Cartin, who has been an Lead LIke Jesus facilitator for four years and a Regional Representative for two, was enthusiastic as soon as he heard Denny’s heart behind the retreat.
After the retreat, Steve said that his time with the 24 men from Aiken was “probably the biggest blessing I’ve ever had in an Encounter.”
“There were retired men and young professionals in their 20s,” said Denny. “All ages were represented. We got away, built friendships, and built community.”
According to Denny, Lead Like Jesus gave their weekend retreat just the right amount of structure.
“The Encounter more than delivered,” he says. “Steve was fantastic, using his tools wisely and giving us content in acceptable bites. Then we always broke into small groups to go deep into discussion. The guys didn’t even know each other at the beginning, but after two and a half days, they washed each other’s feet.”
Since the men returned from their special time in the mountains, they have continued meeting and planning in order to maintain momentum. They have the next annual retreat on the calendar, as well as a reunion bonfire planned and a new church bulletin board dedicated to the now-established men’s ministry.
“Lead Like Jesus got us thinking and gave us a great basis to start this ministry,” says Denny. “We had substantive material that was focused, and Lead Like Jesus gave us sustainability for the men’s ministry initiative in our church.”