By Jamie Shafer
Recently, as a couple was sharing their story with me, the husband referred to a men’s Bible study called Huddle that had really impacted him. Like many of us, life had given him challenges and blessings, but the connections he made with God and others through Huddle had empowered him in a greater way to live the Christian life.
This group in Kokomo, Indiana, grew out of a simple conversation between retired minister Jim Jacobs and local business owner Stan Rebber. As the two met for lunch following a weekend retreat, they discovered that both had felt burdened with a desire to help men live their faith in all facets of life. It was clear to them that God was moving.
Jacobs and Rebber approached YMCA executive director Dave Dubois to propose the idea of a non-denominational Bible study designed to help men strategically put the Bible to use in their daily lives. Dubois loved the idea, but at that time felt that his life was so full, God would really have to hit him over the head in order for him to take on something new.
Unaware of the earlier meeting, Dick Sanburn approached Dubois later that afternoon at his son’s baseball practice to ask about the possibility of launching a community men’s Bible study. Once again, there was no denying that God was at work. The men gathered a small team and spent the next four months praying, asking God to show them the group’s purpose, structure, name, and even location.
Sanburn explains, “As time went on, we came up with the name Huddle. We wanted the sense of how athletes get together, figure out the play, and then go execute it. The purpose is never to stay in the huddle.” Huddle, now in its ninth year, hosts men at the YMCA every Wednesday from September through May. The organization’s theme verse comes from Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
The group grew quickly to a roster of about 200 men, with an average of 150 gathering weekly on their lunch hour. Huddle’s teaching team is just as diverse as the men attending. “We have about 25 guys on the team,” notes Sanburn. “Ten are ministers from local churches. We also have lay leaders who are engineers, farmers, electricians, factory workers, car salesmen, and even a state representative.”
Teaching topics include a range of subjects from leadership and mentoring to facing personal guilt and embracing repentance. He also shares that they never take a meeting lightly. “We never know what God might be seeking to do in a man’s life that day.”
Men say the group helps them refocus after the workweek has begun to wear on them. Sanburn notes, “We encourage them to share and invite, to solidify their lives, marriages, and families. We empower them to be the men God calls them to be in their jobs and their communities. When men’s hearts are turned toward God, this will change our culture. They can help change our workplaces and community.”
Observing the Impact
Mike Garro, who works in the construction business, mentioned that he was struggling with living his faith at work, so he decided that the best solution would be to bring all his coworkers to Huddle. “It’s been amazing,” he states. Now there is a dominant Christian influence among his employees.
Sanburn says he is humbled to hear how God has used this group to change lives, and what it has meant to the men involved. The effects have even reached beyond the city. One man who conducts weekly business in Kokomo sets his travel schedule so he can always attend Huddle.
After a job relocation, another attendee missed the group so much that he started a group in Lafayette, Indiana, which now has 50–60 men attending weekly. Recently, news of the group spread to a church leader who liked the concept and launched a new group in Carmel, Indiana. One can’t help but wonder what God will do next.
Huddle is an encouraging illustration of how God moves in unexpected ways when we surrender our hearts, hands, and plans to him. What dream might God be placing on your heart to touch the lives of those in your workplace or community?
Learn more about Huddle at KokomoHuddle.org.
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.