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Implementing - Implementing - Introduction


For Starting, Restarting, and Enhancing Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups
The Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network


Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups emerged in the late 1990's. As Small Group Ministry evolved, a basic model articulated the model in "Basic Elements of Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry" became more apparent. There is flexibility within the Basic Elements to design a program to meet the needs of a congregation.

"Small Group Ministry" and "Covenant Groups" are terms that have been used since the beginning of the Unitarian Universalist movement. "Small Group Ministry" focuses on the structure and mission. "Covenant" states that the groups work in an intentionally relational manner. Both the ministry and the covenant are essential. The Network uses Small Group Ministry to delineate the overall program. Congregations use various names for their groups, such as Small Group Ministry, Covenant Groups, Chalice Circles, etc.

Suggestions for implementation come from congregations, the Small Group Ministry Institutes and workshops, Network publications (Covenant Group News, the SGM Journal), and the electronic media (UU Small Group Ministry Facebook, UUA e-list Covenant Group Ministry), and various other communications. Small Group Ministry varies from setting to setting. When Small Group Ministry comes up for discussion, let the conversation be "How does that work?" rather than "It has to be done this or that way." Small Group Ministry is a dynamic concept that can influence the entirety of congregational life and Unitarian Universalism.

Implementing is organized around broad areas of consideration:

Overview of Small Group Ministry
Programming: Starting, Rejuvenating and Restarting Small Group Ministry
Group Leadership and Facilitation
Visibility for Vitality
Expanding Small Group Ministry

Each of these sections have subsections with

General comments and guidelines.
Various things to consider, and options

The things to consider and options are presented in a two column format. Choices can be made from either column or both and the columns may or may not be mutually exclusive. The options are presented with notations of impact, sometimes pro and sometimes with caution. The presentation is of choices: the decisions rest with the user. See the Web Map for Implementing Small Group Ministry for detailed information about what is covered in each section.

In addition to the content of the respective sections, there may be material that elaborates on the content. This material may be accessed via a link on the website edition, and in a composite file, Implementing Small Group Ministry: Background Resources. The location of additional material is noted at the end of each section, including the Network website On Line Resources Directory, by Topic.

Transforming Congregations
The Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry is a viable, living, organic way of "doing church". The core and power of Small Group Ministry arises from its implementation within a congregation, basically within the intentional groups that meet over time. These groups provide the relationships and ability to address deep issues in a small group that then is part of larger congregational interactions.

Congregational Vision
*Each congregation defines how the groups are integrated as part of the total congregational life.
*The congregation defines why it wants or has Small Group Ministry, and celebrates the program and activities.
Ministry goals
Goals may be defined in broad areas of Connection, Expanding the professional ministry, Congregational Growth, Strengthening and Enriching the church, and Transforming the World.
See: "Ministry Goals or Objectives of Small Group Ministry" Summary Article, Diana Dorroh, Covenant Group News, May 2010

Implementing can be used in designing, assessing and revitalizing Small Group Ministry. The focus of the material is on the traditional groups within a congregation as the basis for Small Group Ministry. However, there are also notations on expanding Small Group Ministry as an integral part of congregational life, the wider area of Unitarian Universalism, and outreach beyond the congregation.

Implementing provides content for workshops around Small Group Ministry. The Network has developed a series of Modules, or 1-2 hour sessions that can be used within congregations, with a group of congregations, and with the Small Group Ministry Institutes. Implementing Small Group Ministry Modules are available for printing, along with recommended sections of Implementing and Background Resources.

Implementing is designed to be printed by sections of materials noted above, or by the entire document. A file of the Implementing Small Group Ministry: Background Resources may also be printed.

We want to continue the evolution of Implementing Small Group Ministry through interaction with people using the materials. Please share your insight and ideas with e-mail to (, ongoing articles for Covenant Group News and the SGM Journal, and on UU Small Group Ministry Facebook. We will add comments to the Implementing Feedback Section, and later incorporating into the text of the document to This will ensure that Small Group Ministry will continue to evolve.


Small Group Ministry is intentional lay-led small groups that deepen and expand the ministry of a congregation.
"Small" means a group with a maximum of 8-10 people, including facilitator. Groups of this size provide an opportunity to relate on a more intentional level.
"Group" is a gathering of individuals, sometimes selected at random, sometimes selected for a specific interest or characteristic, that meet over a period of time.
"Ministry" is the process or act of caring or being present with another. This relates to the spiritual as well as the physical and emotional well-being of the group participants.

The Power and Promise of SGM are Intimacy, Ultimacy and Growth.
Intimacy is increased depth of relationship that comes from meeting over time, willingness and ability to listen without comment or advice, to learn from others, and to share from the soul, beyond the surface.
Ultimacy focuses on meaning and significance, rather than details, information or outcome.
Growth: Small Group Ministry provides opportunities to grow leaders and the potential to grow churches in numbers, and in generosity, cooperation, and sense of well-being. This growth occurs when people are connected.

Three agreements between the groups and the congregation as a whole are suggested:
*To abide by a set of relationship ground rules, frequently call a covenant. This includes ways to listen and to be heard.
*To welcome new members to the group or to the program overall, keeping the groups open to new people and new ideas.
*To engage in service to the congregation and larger world. This helps the group deepen its internal relationships, increases the connection with the congregation, and gives from the abundance of the group experience.

Leadership has two functions which can be done by one person or shared: The Group Leaders are chosen and trained by the minister(s) and/or designated lay leadership as shared ministry. Group Leaders meet with the minister/lay leadership for spiritual support, enhancing group development, and awareness of new resources. The Session Facilitator leads a meeting of the group, using basic facilitation skills, and assists with upholding the model during the meeting. This can be done by one person or rotated within the group.

The Session plan is a guide and a springboard for discussion. The Standard Format includes:
*An opening that introduces but does not guide the topic.
*A check-in during which each person briefly shares about such questions as, "What's most on your mind today?" or "How is it with your spirit today?"
*A time for the focus or theme of the meeting with sharing from personal stories, and learning from listening to others, rather than wanting others to agree with a perspective.
*The check-out/likes and wishes gives opportunity for each participant to say how the session was for him/her.
*A closing reading.

Implementing Small Group Ministry presents guidelines and options for establishing, assessing and revitalizing small group ministry. Congregations individualize the program within the perimeters of the Basic Elements.

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Implementing - Implementing - Overview


Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry has evolved in several stages since the late 1990's:

From a concept used by Evangelical Meta-Churches to UU focused.
From a program of specific groups within a congregation to influencing the entire congregation.
From a congregational program to a process used throughout the UU structure.

The evolution from the evangelical meta churches (or churches in transition) to Unitarian Universalist basis in Ten Years of Small Group Ministry, published in 2009 by the Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network.

See 'Evolution of Small Group Ministry (3 Parts)', Covenant Group News, October 2011, November 2011 and February 2012, Helen Zidowecki

The Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry is a viable, living, organic way of "doing church". The core and power of Small Group Ministry arises from its implementation within a congregation, basically within the intentional groups that meet over time. These groups provide the relationships and ability to address deep issues in a small group that then is part of larger congregational interactions.

Transformation for individuals
*The intent of Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups is Intimacy or connection, and Ultimacy or the opportunity to consider life issues. In the process of deep listening and sharing, participants learn and practice a different way of being together and of developing relational and leadership.
*Skills and practices from the individual groups carry into other parts of church life. *Starting and ending committee meetings with the lighting of a chalice and/or pausing for check in and check-out adds the relational aspect to what we do within congregational life.
*There is increased listening and communication beyond the groups, such as at congregational meetings.
Uses within the Congregation
*As an increasing portion of a congregation become familiar with Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups, the inherent process of Small Group Ministry can be available for broader use.
*Congregational life should not become part of Small Group Ministry conversation per se. However, session plans can provide a deeper way to address themes like Congregational Change, Transitions in Leadership, etc. Small group ministry session plans related to congregational life could be available for groups to use (optional) or developed for special meetings.
*Special Situations: Session Plans are developed as responses to broader cultural and societal events and issues, from natural disasters to tragic events.
*Committee work: Committees may use a Small Group Ministry session to consider a specific issue before engaging on policy and procedures. For example, having a session on feeling safe uncovers multiple factors for consideration in building Safe Congregation policies and procedures.
Congregational Vision.
*Each congregation defines how the groups are integrated as part of the total congregational life.
*The congregation defines why it wants or has Small Group Ministry, and celebrates the program and activities.
Ministry goals
Goals may be defined in broad areas of Connection, Expanding the professional ministry, Congregational Growth, Strengthening and Enriching the church, and Transforming the World.
See: "Ministry Goals or Objectives of Small Group Ministry" Summary Article, Diana Dorroh, Covenant Group News, May 2010
Congregational Growth: Numeric
*People may look for Small Group Ministry or Covenant Groups when looking for a congregation.
*Connects visitors with the community and people tend to stay.
Congregational Growth: Depth
*Changes how people relate, listen, and communicate.
*May become a congregation of relational groups, rather than a congregation with such groups, and thereby influence total congregational fiber.

See "Small Group Ministry and Growth" Diana Dorroh, Covenant Group News, August - October 2009

Is Small Group Ministry for Everyone?
*The focus is on implementing the program well, with opportunity for participation of as many people as possible.
*Small Group Ministry is within the context of total congregational life.
*Experience in Small Group Ministry gives parishioners a way to develop skills of listening and communicating within the congregational setting.

Small Group Ministry is available for everyone.
*The opportunity for what small group ministry has to offer is available as part of congregational function.
*There is an expectation that everyone will participate as part of congregational life.
*Small Group Ministry is part of the newcomer and new member activities, with a pathway for continuing involvement.

*Need commitment of resources (time, financial resources and leadership) by congregation to make small group ministry available for as many people as possible, all ages and diversities.
*Small group ministry is a way of 'doing church.'
*Specific attention is given to accessibility, and people with special considerations in order to participate: transportation, physical needs (including allergies), child care, time of meeting options)
*How much is possible!
Small Group Ministry may not be for everyone.
*Ministry and the deep listening may not be what a person wants or can relate to.
*A key tenant of Unitarian Universalism is choice, including the option to not participate, without jeopardizing the option of participating at another time.
*An individual may be looking for something else from a group, such as therapy, or intellectual, educational focus, or a more social focus. Various types of small groups provide connections.

*Allow people to not participate without judgment.
*Prevent the creation of two congregations: those in small group ministry and those not in small group ministry.
*Provide ways that the relational aspects of small group ministry can be part of other activities of the congregation, such as committee structure or other small groups? Or do other groups within the church meet the relational needs - the intimacy? What about the ultimacy?

The various phases or cycles in the Small Group Ministry are presented in Programming: Starting, Rejuvenating and Restarting Small Group Ministry. This is followed by five broad areas or functions for support:

Oversight Function- Direction & coordination
Leadership Function- Facilitator development and support
Membership/Participant Function -- Group formation and process
Content Functions -- Session dynamics and plans
Visibility Function -- Promotion -- Visibility
These are presented as distinct sections of this document.
The last section is expanding opportunities for Small Group Ministry within our congregations and beyond, as a powerful outreach vehicle.

"Behind the Scenes of Small Group Ministry," Susan Hollister, Devon, PA, UU Small Group Ministry Quarterly, Winter 2008

Online Resources Topic: Overview
Articles will include the impact of Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups on congregations.

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Implementing - Implementing - Programming


Top Tips for Small Group Ministry
Peter Bowden, UU PLANET Ministry & Media

Start as you wish to continue. However you start this ministry is generally how it is going to carry on. Mid-course adjustments are harder than one would expect. Design your ministry so it is a long term, integrated dimension of your ministry. This is not a time saver ministry. All the energy you put in now will need to be maintained forever. It never goes on auto pilot.

Develop in-house leadership training capacity. Outside leaders can provide facilitator trainings to help you start, but you absolutely must develop an in-house system for continually identifying, mentoring, recruiting, and supporting new group leaders. This is the engine behind small group growth. No leadership development process? Your ministry will stagnate and the groups will often become a liability.

Make it official. Whatever model you are using, whatever plan you have for supporting and training leaders - make sure you document it and get it approved by your board. Create a "charter" document for your group ministry. If you're launching a new congregation-wide group ministry this is a huge deal and commitment. Write it up and have your board approve it.

Too late? If you didn't do all of this when you started, no worry. Revisit your vision, write up how you want your group ministry to function, including leadership development as a central dimension, and then get the board to approve it.

Programs go through cycles of starting, enhancing, revitalizing and, sometimes, restarting. The process of starting is pertinent to the other phases. The guidelines here for Starting Small Group Ministry provide a basis for assessing the process as part of ongoing revitalization, and, if there is an interruption within Small Group Ministry, restarting.

*Learn about UU Small Group Ministry on the UU Small Group Ministry Network website
*See "Designing and Implementing Small Group Ministry Focus for Your Congregation" , Glenn H. Turner, November 2003 Excerpts.
“Designing and Implementing Small Group Ministry Focus for Your Congregation”, at

Collaboration involving everyone who has an impact on Small Group Ministry:
*Staff - ministers, religious educators, music director, administrator
*Governing body
*Implementation Team on Small Group Ministry
*Leaders of the program, such as Coordinator or Director, coaches, facilitators
Visibility keeps everyone informed throughout the process.
*Keep congregation informed through newsletters, exploratory meetings, etc., to create anticipation
Where/How to Begin: Exploration
Allow at least 6 months for:
*Interest in pursuing
*Visioning Power and Promises of Small Group Ministry
*The place of Small Group Ministry in the life of the congregation, considering other groups in place, other major things going on in the congregation

Implementation Team - vision to inception
*Include people who are excited about the program, have time, are team players.
*Use small group ministry format for meetings.
*Decisions to be made regarding design, primarily the discussion of Implementation Team. (See all areas of Implementing.)

Engaging people to join groups
*Sunday service inaugurating the program
*Brochures or some type of written information
*Sign-ups that day or as soon after as possible
*Groups starting as soon as possible to keep the momentum
Where/How to Begin: Support structure for the group leaders/facilitators
*Roles of the person(s) working directly with the facilitators/leaders
*Develop facilitator/leader training/orientation that moves into facilitator development
*Coordinator/program director
*Resources, including conferences and workshops

Facilitator selection and orientation
*Glenn Turner has 5 session plans for the orientation,
*Facilitator Training Manual, by Diana Dorroh and Susan Hollister, available from the Network

*Change from Implementation Team to Steering Committee - make this change public and clear
  Honor and 'release' the Implementation Committee
  Initiate and start the Committee
*Support goes into effect immediately, including ongoing leader development
*Monitoring of the groups, group process and impact on the congregation
*Make changes as needed -but with careful thought, patience, and intentionality

Keeping it going!
*Recognitions and appreciations
*Renewing the vision as a congregation, including publically
*Review the "Important Factors In Growing a Small Group Ministry Program"
Enhancing the Program
*Be aware of the impact of Small Group Ministry on the congregation, and look for ways to expand that influence
*Topics of concern, including change, inclusion and diversity, faith in action
*Configuration of groups, such as differing lengths of time, variation in times groups meet, child care and family considerations

'Revitalizing' is regaining the vision of Small Group Ministry, and working toward realization of that vision.
'Restarting' is declaring the end of one program and the starting of a new program.
It might be helpful to review the previous attempt at starting Small Group Ministry

The review of a program is to identify factors that prevented the implementation or continuation of Small Group Ministry and to plan a restart or revitalization that will be successful.

Factors leading to need to revitalize or restart.
*The key person (minister or lay) is no longer involved.
*Lack of support from the minister and/or congregational leadership.
*Too many activities going on within the congregation when implementation was tried.
Focus for Revitalization or Restart *Establish the structure to include more people with commitment and for sustainability so that the program does not rely on a person.
*Assess support at each step, and work to develop such support
*Timing. While Small Group Ministry can help congregations through many things, starting a program may be more successful during a calmer period so that attention and energy is available. On the other hand, strong leadership can result in development in a time of transition.
Factors that May Influence Success
*New professional and/or volunteer leadership emerges with new energy and is willing to look at and move the congregation from the past. The role and support of a minister is critical in all phases, as a partnership of shared ministry.
*This restarting process is a time to acknowledge and let go of the past experience and start fresh.
*With so many successful programs, and such willingness to share, intentionally talk with other congregations and attend conferences and workshops.

Online Resources Topic:

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Implementing - Implementing - Oversight


Oversight is the broad understanding of the role and place of Small Group Ministry within the congregation. and the factors that need to be in place for the program to be strong/sustainable.
Specific responsibility may depend on the size of the program and change as the program grows.

Oversight Functions
Guide the program
Keep the vision of Small Group Ministry
Support Leadership, Membership, Content, and Visibility functions

Oversight Leadership
Oversight is provided by a Committee or Team (Coordinator, minister, Group Leaders/facilitators). The role functions of each will vary between new and longer-existing programs, the size of the program, and the congregational characteristics.

New program. A small number of individuals and the minister study the process of starting the program. This group may become facilitators or the core of an ongoing Steering Committee. Established program. The oversight can be done by the coordinator and minister. Input from a larger group, such as a Steering Committee, gives breadth to ways of addressing the program logistics.
Smaller programs with 2-4 groups: Coordinator, minister. (When there is no minister or a consulting minister, the Coordinator may be the key person for the program.) Larger programs
*Program with 5-10 groups: Committee + minister(s) + coordinator
*Programs with 10-20+ groups: Steering Committee, subgroups + ministers + staff

The role of the Minister is key in whether and how a Small Group Ministry Program works. Visible support and active involvement of the minister is a factor in success. Role of minister varies in implementation and stage of the program and the size of the congregation. The minister does not do this alone: Small Group Ministry is a program of the congregation rather than a program of the minister. However, if the minister is not involved and not supportive, the program probably will not succeed.

Major functions of minister.
*Encourages groups to provide ministry to each other, and this extends to the entire congregation.
*Advocates for the program
--Provides resources
--Assists with selection and development of program leadership (including facilitators)
--Includes Small Group Ministry in messages from the pulpit.
--Is a resource for all areas of the program.

The Minister: Starting Small Group Ministry.
*Orients congregation to the concepts and process.
*Actively involved in the recruitment and selection of the lay leadership.
*May be involved in writing or selecting session plans.

The Minister with an established program
Longevity of the current ministry (a minister in place since the inception of the program or 5+ years)
Same minister: Have you seen the role of the minister change? Possible changes:
*Congregation or the program itself may grow, requiring more lay leadership attention.
*Minister and lay leadership increase their confidence in each other and greater sharing may occur.
*Minister may, intentionally or otherwise, be less involved to the point of not being as supportive of the program. Reinforcement of the ministerial role may be needed.

Program continues, minister changes. How do you orient a new minister to the established program?
*Search process. include questions in the search process.
*Include Small Group Ministry Program in the candidating week. (Suggestions: meeting with Program Coordinator, Steering Committee, and Facilitators, and participants in groups.)
*Minister arrives. Start with clear expectations on the parts of all of the 'players'.
Ongoing program.
*Encourages shared ministry and may take more of a support rather than administrative role.
*Is available to the lay leadership for group and faith development

Without settled minister
Shared ministry.
*A designated lay leader assumes the coordinating function in the absence of and/or by delegation by the minister.
*To the degree possible, the structure of Small Group Ministry is in the hands of laity, especially the facilitation of the Small Group Ministry groups. (The minister as the facilitator of a groups brings an imbalance in the group, as the role of the minister in and of itself brings a degree of influence.)

Interim Minister
It is not the role of the Interim Minister to start Small Group Ministry, unless that is part of the goals and arrangement of the interim period, usually 1-2 years.
It takes at least 6 months to get Small Group ministry started, and would take a great deal of attention that might be needed in addressing other parts of congregational life.
If the interim minister starts Small Group Ministry, the intentional focus is on building the structure for sustainability.

How the interim minister relates to the ongoing Small Group Ministry program:
*Successes: Supports the ongoing program and interacts as needed in the interim period.
*At the very least, the coordinator keeps the interim minister informed of the program status. This helps the interim keep small group ministry in the picture in the interim period.

The Coordinator/Director
*The designated role of coordinator may be a voluntary or staff position, depending somewhat on the size of the program and congregation.

Coordinator: Management functions *Oversees program membership and growth Manages data base of facilitators and groups. *Oversees group formation process, group status, and ongoing new memberships *Is a resource for service projects, and may track, acknowledge, and publicize groups' service projects *Submits annual budget request to Board of Directors *Submits/presents Annual Report and other reports to Board of Directors/congregation Coordinator: Shared functions *Coordinates with minister(s) on upcoming session topics, Facilitators' Meetings, enrichment workshops, and facilitator appreciation events. Consults with minister and facilitators to form groups and assimilate new members. Works with minister to promote Small Group Ministry within the congregation *Facilitators: Works with minister and Steering Team to select, recruit, orient, train, and support facilitators. Maintains contact with facilitators through meetings and individually. *Works with Committee: Plans and attends Steering Team meetings. Works with Steering Team and minister to publicize Small Group Ministry, including newsletter articles. Works with Steering Team, makes long-range plans and evaluates and modifies the program design.

Small Group Ministry Committee
*The SGM Committee works to ensure the vitality of the Small Group Ministry program as it furthers the mission of the church.

Committee Composition: Separate Entity
*The Committee is comprised of the SGM Coordinator, Minister; and members from the congregation who may or may not have been involved with the Small Group Ministry program.
*The Committee includes interactions with other parts of the congregation regarding how
Small Group Ministry supports the whole congregation, and to enhance the program.
*Able to provide insight regarding the program, in addition to group issues. This includes recognition of Leaders.
Committee Composition: Group Leaders
*Group Leaders bring the group experiences, essential understanding of how the program works, but it may be a limited vision of the overall program.
*Group Leaders may feel this is extra commitment, in addition to their own group meetings.

The placement will differ from congregation to congregation, depending on overall congregational structure. Factors to consider include:

*Location may influence visibility, program oversight, resources available, and recognition within the congregation.
*The integrity of Small Group Ministry is maintained, regardless of location.
*Resources are available and identified for Small Group Ministry.
*Location is some congregations:
Separate entity or program
Under Ministry or Under Pastoral Care
With Adult Programming or Lifespan Faith Development

Evaluation/Assessment. This is done to identify what is going well and what needs modification in the groups and the program as a whole.
Assessment is ongoing at multiple levels, all of the time and at specific times, formally and informally. Guidelines for assessing are found in the basic Small Group Ministry descriptions and in the specifics of a congregation's program.
*Be sincere in using feedback. Therefore, ask what you really want to know, what information you can use, and what is realistic to request.
*Focus on strengths and evoke commitment. What is going well? What would you like to continue and/or expand? What is needed to enhance the program? What can you do to enhance the program?
*Assessment results in a plan that provides change to a specific part or entire program.

Ways to Assess Small Group Ministry:
--Meetings: Facilitator meetings, periodic meetings of participants
--Questionnaires (or questions on general congregational surveys) for participants and the congregation in general.
--Interviews: When people leave a group, randomly from participants and non-participants.
--Stories and testimonials: Informal conversation, presentations to newcomers, during services, newsletter articles.
Assessment Considerations
Done at various levels:
*Assessment is ongoing, from each time a group meets, to regular facilitator of steering committee meetings, to annual surveys.
*Assessment also extends to the influence of Small Group Ministry on the larger congregation is ways the congregation itself functions. This makes it a continuous and dynamic process.
*Ministry and goals
Groups: Ways to Assess
*Track who is in groups, for how long, and whether they move to another group, if groups change or there is a need to leave a group.
*Track the ability to get people into groups. What is the relationship between the number of people wanting to be in groups and the availability of facilitators?
*Note group diversity, inclusivity, similarity between the group participants and the demographics of the congregation. Who is being included? Who is not included and what would be needed to engage people?
Groups: Assessment Considerations
*Note the group dynamics, changes within groups, groups that need additional members, ongoing attendance.
Sessions: Ways to Assess
*Check Out/Likes and Wishes. How a session went includes session content and group process. The importance of asking this for each session keeps the opportunity to comment open. Co-facilitators can evaluate on an ongoing basis.
*Monitor attendance and commitment to the group.
Session Considerations
Review how the topic went for the group, as well as group dynamics. This involves "Likes and Wishes". Are there things that need to be addressed?
*Note the variety of session plans available to and used by the group over time, including intensity, diversity. Are particular types of plans needed?
*Review how the Basic Elements of Small Group Ministry are being followed, and the leader and group understanding of Small Group Ministry.
Facilitator Selection, Development, Support
*Track how facilitators are recruited, and how long they are willing to facilitate.
*Track participation in meetings of facilitators.
*Note the content of the meetings. Is there opportunity for celebration as well as for considering problems.
Small Group Ministry Committee
*Monitor the visibility of Small Group Ministry, such as Newsletter articles, etc.
*Review how the Steering Committee connects with both the larger congregation and the Small Groups.
Small Group Ministry Committee: Consideration
*Does the Steering Committee have a sense of how Small Group Ministry is strengthening the congregation?
*Is the focus of the committee on issues and problems, or on moving Small Group Ministry forward?
*Is there a process for addressing issues?
Staffing and Support Structure
*Review the clarity of the respective roles, responsibilities and functions of the staff (minister, coordinator/director) Committee, facilitators. Are these understood and working?
*Consider the basic resources needed, for groups to meet, including financial support for trainings and literature.
Support Structure: Considerations
*Consider space options for groups to meet, including space at the church. Is Small Group Ministry a priority for space?
*Have needs been identified (space, transportation, child care, etc.) and is there a plan for addressing the needs?
Congregational Connection
*Consider the program visibility, and how well the congregation understands the program, the importance of the program to the congregation (participants and non-participants).
*Review the place of groups within the structure of the congregation. Is it a congregation with or of small ministry groups?
Attendance: Givens
Defining the current situation within your congregation
*Keep note of who is in which groups, why people join and leave groups.
*When people leave, have an exit interview that will give an idea of the reason for the change. The importance is to ask.
*Energy level -what do groups do for service?

Your congregation and larger community
*the opportunities and expectations that people will participate, and the competing activities.
* changes in leadership within the congregation and within the Small Group Ministry program itself
*Change in the interest for specific times, such as evening versus daytime, possibly related to work status (part time versus full time, retired) or younger families with children
* How does attendance trends in the groups match with the attendance trends at Sunday worship?
Attendance: Options Considerations to address attendance concerns
*Identify why people stay in groups - what holds them.
*Review the options for Groups and Sessions. Review the basis premises upon which your program is based, and consider options.
For example, if the groups are time limited, give the option of having continuing groups, and visa versa. If groups meet twice monthly, give the option of meeting once a month, and visa versa. If groups all follow the same session plans or are tied with the sermon or a shared topic, allow for selecting from the broad variety of topics available.

*If the issue is with a group, consider ending the group.

See "Attendance Fluctuations" CGN January/February 2013.

It is critical to maintain an historic reference of the process that was used at various stages of starting, revitalizing and, as needed, restarting the program development process. People involved change, and the documented historic record may show what was tried, the successes and the challenges - and the reasons for both.
See "Document Your SGM History for the Future" CGN January/February 2013

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Implementing - Implementing - Group Leadership/Facilitation


Group Leader implements the model to promote intimacy and ultimacy and provide ministry. The Leader also maintains the group's connection to the larger program and the congregation.

Session Facilitator leads a meeting of the group, using basic facilitation skills, and assists with upholding the model during the meeting.

Selection of leaders: Factors.
Leaders are selected for:
*commitment to the model,
*strong connection to the church,
*understanding of the role,
*ability to relate well
*being a good listener and an non-anxious presence,
*willingness to attend Leaders Meetings and accept direction from the minister and program coordinator.
Selection process:
*Selection is by the minister and/or Steering Committee.
*This is a leadership role within the congregation. Membership is a commitment to the congregation.
Support. Facilitators meet with the minister, coordinator or 'coach' on a regular basis as a way of being connected with the congregation and having support regarding group process.
Contacts (Meeting and individual)
Regular Contacts: Group leaders may meet on a regular basis to discuss issues and problems in their group, for short training topics, to reinforce the "shared ministry" between the leaders and the minister, and/or to have a SGM session themselves.
The theme of the sessions may be related to leadership or group needs. This also allows dialogue on group development.

Non-regular contacts. Leaders may meet less frequently as a group, with contacts between the coordinator and the leaders on an individual basis. Without contact with the larger program, a group can become insular, exclusive or detached.
Leadership 'training' and development. This is done initially and/or over time, to include:
--small group ministry model overall and in the specific congregation.
--dynamics of group process.
--facilitation as spiritual practice
--enhancing skills in facilitation as ministry
Initial orientation.
*This can be an extended period of time and sessions, especially when the program is new and the first group of facilitators is being oriented.
*A Facilitator's Guide can be developed that provides everything a new facilitator needs to know for success. The trainer then reviews the manual with the new facilitator.
Facilitator or co-facilitators.
*Co-facilitators gives opportunity to review group dynamics with another person.
*Newer facilitators can be partnered with experienced facilitators.

Note: This is the more traditional model, and the facilitator (s) serve as Group Leader.
Facilitation rotates. The facilitation of sessions may be shared within the group. There still is a designated leader who holds the vision of the group and observes group dynamics and may intervene if the group violates the covenant or strays from the model.

Ongoing development.
*This provides opportunities for facilitators to share skills and experiences, with an awareness of how their own skills are developing.
*Skilled/experienced facilitators can become mentors to newer facilitators.
Facilitators and Session Content.
Facilitator involvement in selection of the session topics varies with program structure within the congregation.
Knowledge of Content.
*The facilitator does not need to have knowledge or expertise related to a topic. The focus of the group is on personal relation to, rather than knowledge about, the topic.
*A facilitator knowledgeable about a topic (example, a poet with a Poetry session) needs to be aware of the topic as related to ministry.

Facilitator Manual for Training and Development, UU SGM Network, Dec. 2008

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Implementing - Implementing - Groups


Groups are ways of integrating people into the congregation and of developing leadership.
*People are invited to join small group ministry.
*People gain confidence in small groups and may be willing to become leaders in other areas of the congregation.
*People increase the depth of connections and ways of relating through small group ministry that extends to other parts of congregational life.

Oversight functions, usually done by the Small Group Ministry Coordinator
*Maintain a data base of facilitators and groups, including meeting time, people interested in joining a group, and pertinent notes regarding group development.
*Follow up on group status at leadership meetings, and/or connect with facilitators to track changes in groups.
*The number of groups varies with the configuration of groups, leaders/facilitators available, congregational vision for small group ministry, and other groups within the congregation.

Size: Smaller.
There needs to be an adequate number of participants for diversity of discussion. In a smaller congregation, this could be 4-6 in order to have at least 2 groups, with the expectation of growth.
Size: Larger.
People are able to go deeper in discussions and bonding in smaller groups, preferably 8-10 maximum, including facilitators.
Number of Groups: Smaller number.
Suggest that congregations start with at least two groups. This offers variety in group availability, gives the facilitators support, and makes small group ministry more of a program than a group that could be seen as exclusive.
Number of Groups: Larger number.
*Focus is on the health of the groups rather than on the number groups or people involved. *Participation in a group is an option and an opportunity, but not everyone is interested or able to be in a group.
Selection: Random
*Selection is frequently based on meeting time. *Groups offer unexpected relationships and greater diversity.
Selection: Affinity group
*Selection is based on like interest or characteristic.
*If the priority is its affinity or focus, it may not truly be small group ministry.
How Assigned: By Coordinator.
*Members are assigned by the minister or coordinator with input from the facilitators, who may also suggest members. The facilitator is not 'in the middle' if there is a concern about placement.
*This also may increase diversity of the group.
How Assigned: Self-select.
*Members join a group by preference.
*It may limit the diversity or someone who requests to join but may not be perceived as fitting into the group.

Composition factors. The diversity of the group enriches the small group ministry experience.
Note: Unless specified, the term 'participants' means people involved regularly with the congregation, even if they have not signed as 'members' of the congregation.

Time With Church: Diversity.
*New members with longer-term members gives broad connection to the congregation and traditions.
*Longer-term members reaffirm their commitment as they integrate newer members.
*There needs to be an awareness and willingness to explain terms, expressions, and traditions.
Time With Church: Similarity.
*May be easier to give orientation to newer members
*Newer members may feel a bond around that 'newness' and feel more comfortable.
*Longer-term members may have deeper discussion because of shared time in the congregation and in UUism.
Beyond UUs and Congregational Membership.
*People who are not members of the church may be included. However, this is a program of the church. Suggest that facilitators be church members (have signed the book).
*Small Group Ministry can be an outreach function of the church. However, it must be clear whether eventual membership is the focus or requirement.
Church Participants.
*Small group ministry is a program to integrate people into the church community.
*This is ministry of the church to its members.
Relations: Partners/Relatives in the Same Group when:
*The integrity of the group will not be compromised if partners or relatives participate.
*Each person will be able to fully participate with the other present.
*This shared experience enhances own relationship.
*One person may not participate if not able to come with partner or relative.
Relations: Partners/Relatives NOT in the Same Group when:
*Such close relationships interfere with the openness and equality of group discussion.
*Relational issues interfere with or distract from the group.
*Each person benefits more from being in different groups.

Need to be prepared to make a change if the relationship interferes with the group process.
Diversity of Demographics (such as gender, sexual orientation, abilities, racial background, age).
*Each person is a unique and more than the sum of the characteristics.
*There may be a preference to have more than one person with a specific characteristic in a group, such as gender.
Similarity in demographics.
*There may be comfort within the group with shared characteristics.
*There may be decreased diversity and a narrower group experience.
Special Consideration
People who present special consideration may
(a) not able to be in right relationship and cannot seem to listen or share time fairly.
(b) continually challenge the model.
(c) challenge the boundaries, with sharing that would be more appropriate for a therapy group or that contains over-sexualized, racist or homophobic comments, etc.

*A member should not absorb an unequal amount of what is supposed to be mutual ministry, to the detriment of the full group.
Special Considerations: Actions
*Make the covenant clear and part of ongoing group meetings.
*Review the basic elements of Small Group Ministry, and the assessment tools annually and as needed. This will reinforce the intent of the model.
*Be aware of your reaction to the boundary challenges. Possibly suggest that the needs of the person exceed what the group has to offer.
*Seek advice from the minister, program director, or your coach. You need this support. Give one of them a call.

"Extra Grace or Care Required" By Diana Dorroh, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA, Covenant Group News, January 2010

--The length of time a group continues needs to be enough to establish deeper relationships. It is critical that the expected time be known to the participants as the group starts. No matter how long groups are together, there are always revelations and surprises!
--Groups meet frequently enough to maintain continuity in personal connection. A session lasts long enough for significant check-in and exploration of the topic (usually 1.5 to 2 hours per meeting).
--The meeting space must free from disruption and distraction, readily accessible, and comfortable. The space can be arranged with or without a table.
--Have as many options as possible for meeting times, such as evenings, variety of days and times. If on Sunday, a group meeting should not limit attendance at worship.

Duration: Undefined Term
*Groups that are together for more than a year need to remain open to ways to keep the group 'fresh' and welcoming.
*People who have difficulty establishing relationships may be more comfortable with a longer commitment and less change.
*Longer term groups may provide opportunity for a person to feel ready to move into more active role, including leadership.
Duration: Specific Term
*It may be easier to get commitments for facilitators and group members for shorter periods of time, such as a year. However, more facilitators will be needed if the groups go less than a year.

"Building Community: The Spiral in Small Group Ministry"
Invitational Group. This can be available for visitors, people new to the congregation, or those who have not committed to a group. The topics need to be engaging and the appropriate depth, with a time for getting to know basic information about the participants.
*This allows flexibility for people to attend, but will not provide the intimacy that is part of the ongoing groups.
*If a group attendance becomes consistent, it can be develop into an ongoing group.
*Covenant needs to be included in each session
Focused Group.
Time-limited series, one or more, with a focus on a topic.

*If the time is a few weeks or a few sessions, it may appear more as an adult religious education program than a focus on ministry This must be considered in presentation.
Meet Twice Monthly. This seems to be a realistic schedule for many groups to maintain a sense of connection. If a person misses a session, the gap of connection is "manageable". Meet Monthly. While the amount of time that the group can commit to meet is reasonable, it is more difficult to maintain connection. If a meeting is missed, the time between connections is long.
Meet in Homes.
*This helps the group members understand and appreciate home setting of the members and adds to group bonding.
*Offering home for a meeting is an option rather than a requirement. Meeting in a home might be inconvenient or a burden for a group member.
Meet at the Church.
*The space at the church needs to be available to the group at the designated time (on the church calendar), and the group use of the space is a priority (versus other groups or rentals).
*Meeting at church may be more convenient for group members.
Geographic Proximity.
*With wide geographic distribution of congregations, meeting in closer proximity may be a necessity.
*This may be an outreach to a geographic area.
*Will limit contact with other parts of the congregation.
Geographic Considerations.
*Plan to pool transportation to meetings.
*Participation from a diverse area may increase understanding of the geographic considerations in the work of the congregation as a whole, including cultural factors.
Provide Food.
*Consideration includes simplicity of preparation, food preferences and limitations of group members, and the place of food in the total group experience, such as beginning, a break, closing.
*Food should not interfere with the overall purpose of the group, which is spiritual depth.
No Planned Food. Even if food is not planned or provided, it should be clear whether or not it is acceptable to bring food. Example: it might be acceptable or usual to bring lunch to a lunchtime meeting.
Meet Beyond the Session: Yes. Members may plan on attending worship together, or participate in activities outside of the session time, as deeper connections among the members develop. This is voluntary and may involve some or all of the group. Meet Beyond the Session. No. Members that are not able or do not wish to participate beyond the sessions are valued for the time they can participate.

--Groups remain open to changing membership, regardless of how or when.
--The size of the group is critical, and increasing size may necessitate change in a group.
--A process for welcoming and saying good-bye needs to be a planned part of group process.

Groups are for community and spiritual development. Anticipating that the group will change helps to prevent exclusivity. Change Occurs.
*People change connection with a group for a number or reasons, including scheduling, differing expectations or needs. This may result in the person leaving the group.
*Groups change as part of program practice, such as designation time.
Group Splits. When critical size is met, the group could split, with either a member of the group or an external person becoming the new facilitator of a second group. Start New Group. When several people are interested in joining a group, start an entirely new group rather than add to an existing group.
Planned. Announce the changes several meetings before they are to occur. Engage the group in planning a special welcome or good-bye, regardless of whether it is one person or the entire group that is changing. Unplanned. When the departure of a member is sudden, such as conflict or death, allow time for healing before adding a new person to the group.

Congregations are becoming increasingly aware of how to live in community in 'right relation'. We have only begin to look at the connection between the right relations in a group and the larger community, or what that means related to our Principles.

Theological basis:
*Honors the inherent worth and dignity of all members, friends and guests.
*Supports the religious diversity and spiritual growth of members and friends through Small Group Ministry by encouraging open and inclusive small groups where individual expression and group dialogue fosters respect and celebration of shared, different and divergent ideas and experiences.

Concern Arises/Process to Resolve:
*When conflict or other concerns about group dynamics arise within a small group, the individuals involved should attempt to resolve the problem through open, respectful dialogue.
*If the issues are not resolved promptly and did not involve the group leader, the issues should be brought to the attention of the group leader for further attempts at satisfactory resolution.
*All attempts at resolution should be guided by the principles described above.
Issues Not Resolved Within the Group
*There needs to be a process for bringing the issues to the attention of the Coordinator.
*The Coordinator may consult with the minister or the Committee, and together they will, again based on the principles described above, determine and undertake any intervention necessary to resolve the ongoing problem.

If in the judgment of the Committee, group dynamics have deteriorated to the point that the group can no longer function in a way that meets the purposes and goals of the SGM program, there needs to be a process for disbanding the group. The coordinator will refer any members of the disbanded group who wish to continue in the SGM program to another group when openings are available.

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Implementing - Implementing - Sessions


The session itself is more than the sum of its parts, but if the parts do not complement each other, the session feels disjointed and possibly disruptive.

Following is description of session flow relates to experiencing a session. The writing and critiquing of a session will consider and expand on these items.

*This signifies the beginning of the session.

Session Related.
*Opening words relate to the session topic, but do not direct the topic.
Group Ritual. May be a consistent opening decided by the group. This may become an opening ritual. This may include the same candle.
*The group may use a ritual in addition to the ritual. For example. some congregations have an opening ritual (lighting the candle), do the Check in, then have the Opening on the session plan.

Check In.
Participants take time to share from their lives, one at a time
--Sequence varies but ensures that everyone has opportunity to share.
--Time and process is planned as part of group formation, with suggested maximum time as half of the total group time (allowing for unusual situations).
--Listening allows space for the person without judgment, verbal or nonverbal, and without interruption.
--Acknowledgement is a way of affirming.

Check In:
--Sequence: go around the group, allowing a person to pass and speak later.
--Time: Specific time with a time keeper. Speaker indicates when he or she is finished.

--Open: What is happening for you? What is alive for you today?
--Listening without comment (verbal or nonverbal). We are conditioned to look for response and to respond. Responding may interfere with the flow of sharing.
--Acknowledgement: pausing after each person shares.
Check In.
--Sequence: people speak as they wish, making sure that everyone has opportunity.
--Time: Flexible, with members monitoring overall time. Speaker indicates when she or he is finished.
--Lightly focused: What did you heave behind to get here?
--Listening with clarifying questions at the end of the sharing

--Acknowledgement: waiting until a person is through sharing before responding.

--Provides context within which participants share their own stories, reflections, learnings about the topic.
--Listening and Learning. Each participant has opportunity to interact. Comments are from personal perspective and may include connecting with expressions of other group members.
--Modality: Consider the many ways that people processing information, conversation and interacting

Questions are open-ended and can lead in various directions. Standard questions for a topic might be:
*What do I have to share with the group about this topic group? What stories do I have to tell?
*How does this topic relate to me spiritually and why?
*How does my perspective of the topic influence my living and my actions?

--Listening and Learning. Go around the group, allowing a person to pass and speak later. Continue this pattern, or, after the first go-around, open for speaking as desired.

--Modality: Sessions may be exclusively verbal. To add other activities may be stretching for the group and would need planning.

Note: Some congregations suggest additional readings and questions for deeper reflection of the topic.
Focus/Topic/Activity. Participants process information and interactions differently and may engage more deeply with additional modalities.

--Listening and Learning:
*People respond as they wish.
*The thoughts of one person may spark ideas for others, and the conversation moves along a theme, until someone changes it.

--Modality: Activities (music, movement, arts) as well at questions may make the topic more accessible.

Check Out/Likes and Wishes. Share what went well and to suggestions related to group dynamics and session content.

Session assessment:
Reflection on the group process.
Personal relevance: How the session was for the participants, personally.
Process: Each person responds around the circle, or as there are comments

Closing, extinguishing candle. Bring the session to a close but does not summarize the session.

Closing words, extinguishing candle. May relate to the topic but does not summarize the topic Closing words, extinguishing candle. May be a consistent closing decided by the group, used after the Closing in the Session Plan.

"Business" items include planning for the group's meetings and other activities. Groups decide when to include these in the course of the session so that the session itself is not disrupted.

A covenant provides relational ground rules. It is a promise that participants make to create a safe environment for spiritual exploration. A covenant typically includes time management, commitment to the group, respectful listening, confidentiality, and speaking from one's own experience. It effects the comfort level within a session.

Confidentiality impacts
--how groups welcome new members.
--communication among members outside of the session.
--how pastoral care needs are made known to the minister/pastoral care network.

The group needs to discuss sharing information beyond the group session as part of covenant. . Suggested guidelines for "respectful sharing":
--Share as needed when an individual is in danger or is a danger to self or others.
--If there is any question about whether it is appropriate to share, don't.
--If there is a need to share information, let the individual know.

Covenant: Informal. The covenant is discussed at some point but remains oral, and is reviewed occasionally and when there are new members. Revision occurs when there is a need. Concerns: Are all group participants are aware of the informal covenant and of changes? Do all members interpret the covenant consistently? Covenant: Formal. The covenant is crafted, written, available to members and may be read occasionally or as part of the plan of each session. This provides a sense of continuity and consistency, tends to minimize misinterpretation, and can be given to new group members.
Confidentiality: Not Defined.
*Sharing information beyond the group is left to the discretion of the individual.
*Participants may make assumptions or interpretations which may not be consistent with the other group members.
*People can specifically request that information not be shared beyond the group session.
*The sense of security for sharing comes from trust of the individuals in the group, and cannot be assured by group structure.
Confidentiality: High Level of Confidentiality.
*May provide a sense of security for sharing.
*May make the group feel or appear to be exclusive.
*The level of confidentiality cannot interfere with connecting individuals to additional pastoral care and other resources.

UU Small Group Ministry Network website - over 300, regular additions
Other congregations and resources
Create sessions for specific reason or to meet specific need

Selection guidelines.
--Consider the needs and culture of the congregation.
--Consider the stage of the group in building community.

Sources of Session Plans.
*Use session plans that are available from a variety of sources as is.
*Adapt session plans that have been developed.
*Create plans from the beginning. Having a group of facilitators or a session writing team review a plan can ensure that it is more inclusive and will enhance dialogue and spiritual development.
Who Decides?
*The minister, designated individual or group may select topics and develop plans. *Ministers may write plans or work with a writing group.
*Session plans can also come from groups themselves and from facilitators.
Groups Use Session Plans Simultaneously: Yes
*Groups use same plan at the same time. Or there may be common theme. Presents common points for communication within the congregation.
*Session plans may be connected with the sermon topics. (Content needs to include participants who did not hear the sermon.)

Groups use session plans simultaneously: No
*Groups select session topics independent of other groups.
*Session plans may or may not be connected with other congregational considerations, like sermons.
*Session plans may be suggested for groups to consider, such as related to time of year, social justice focus, etc.
Variety and Diversity in Session Plans
*The questions, the intensity and activities around the topics will vary from session to session.
*Sessions will be received differently from group to group, and by the participants of a group.
*Plan in such a way that topics give a mixture of levels of intensity. For example, use a lighter topic such as Humor or Music interspersed with a more intense topic of Life Changes or Facing Difficulties.
*Groups relate to the topic based on the level of group development, or topics may be selected to match the developmental level.
Participant preparation suggested.
Material is given to participants prior to the session for reflection and personal preparation.
*May lead to deeper reflection and commitment. However, the amount of preparation may vary with participants.
*Preparation may give appearance of educational versus ministry focus.
*No preparation is suggested. Participants may or may not know the session topic prior to arrival at the session, unless they need to bring something, like a song or poem.
*Presents spontaneous responses.
*Allows people to participate who may not have preparation time.
Usability: Keep it simple. Groups meet for two hours, at most, and a good part of that time goes, appropriately, to checking in and connecting. Therefore, topics need to be focused enough to allow depth. The balance is to name the topic specifically enough to focus without directing. Usability: Facilitator friendly. This includes minimal preparation on the part of the facilitator. Occasionally the group needs to be alerted to specific plans, like bringing poetry. The facilitator guides the group process and is not in the role of the 'expert' during the session.
The Questions: How We Frame Questions.
Questions open into discussion rather than direct attention towards a particular conclusion or telescope an answer. Can you imagine discussion going in at least a couple of directions?
Questions elicit responses of the heart and spirit. Questions that ask for opinions, comparisons, and what we think are eliciting responses from the mind, which is the expectation in discussion groups. Sessions calls us to respond from beyond or deeper than the rational. This is where sharing from the soul occurs, where deeper understanding of each of us as individuals occurs, where we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of each person.
The Questions: Limit the Number.
*Three questions at most are suggested, and two may be plenty. This depends somewhat on the questions themselves. Too many questions prevent responding in any depth in a meeting. *Generally plan the session for one meeting. It is difficult to return to where a group has left off when a session is carried over.
*Some sessions may be planned with the expectation of taking more than one session, such as Spiritual Timelines that allows time for each member to explore and present as an introduction of group members to each other.
Opening and Closing Words and Readings Reflect Unitarian Universalist Values. Materials do not need to be written by Unitarian Universalists but need to be consistent with commonly held values, such as those expressed in the Affirmations and Sources (also called The Principles and Purposes). These are found in the hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition (1993) but the latest version, with the addition of a tradition, is in Singing the Journey (2005). *Opening and Closing Words and Readings Credited.
*Participants are welcome to develop readings as they develop a session plan.
*Readings are used in compliance with copyright considerations. The sources of materials needs to be noted, including original materials from the creator of a session plan.
Inclusivity: Differing Perspectives
*Expect that people in the group and the congregation hold differing views on almost any topic. Ask questions that honor the individual, the group as a whole, and diversity. *The session plan provides an openness and an invitation to sharing.
*The question to consider is who might be excluded by the session plan and, if someone is excluded, how can the session plan be inclusive, or whether it should be used.
Inclusivity: The Words We Use
We develop our views of the world precisely to live and even survive in it. In doing so, we develop language that may be alienating.
*Communicate as simply as possible.
*Consider adjectives of judgment: a "good' way to do this" can become "a way to do this". What is a good way for one person may not be a good way for another person. The valuative word causes a pause, even if slightly, and disrupts the flow of meaning.

Online Resources: Topic
Session Plan Guidelines and Critique, Helen Zidowecki, Small Group, Ministry With All Ages, UU SGM Network, 2011

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Implementing - Implementing - Service


The possibilities are endless; the benefits everlasting.
Service to the congregation and larger world is a basic agreement between Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups and the congregation noted in "Basic Elements of Small Group Ministry". The role of service in a specific congregation's program needs to be considered as the program is developed.
*Service differs from the traditional Social Action, although that may be a type of service.
*Groups and programs vary in incorporating service.

Service selection considerations
*How can involvement be inclusive? Consider members resources (time, money, transportation) in order to participate?
*Does the service activity engage the interests of the Small Group members?
*How does the service activity enhance the spiritual development of the group members and/or the development of the group itself?
*Is the service activity practical?

Service Part of Small Group Ministry.
*Service moves the group beyond discussion to action, and provides a different way or relating with each other and the congregation.
*The service varies from within the congregation to the broader community and world, and from ongoing smaller projects to a major focus.
*Service varies from greeting in a Sunday service to intensive projects, depending on the interest of the group. Group sessions on service and numerous suggestions are in the UU SGM Network publications and web.
*The service is determined by the group, rather than a presumed function, unless that is a clear part of the congregational structure, such as groups doing Greeting and Hospitality.
Service Not Part of Small Group Ministry.
*Groups meeting for short time frames, such as 8 weeks, may not feel that there is time to incorporate service into this time frame.
*Service is not part of the congregation's vision of small group ministry.
*Service may be presumed as complex, beyond the structure and energy of a group, and may be interpreted as a Social Action project. Service is all levels of complexity.
Scope of Service: Within the Congregation
* Service that benefits the congregation and its members is the tangible and relational aspect of 'doing church".
Session plan topics include service topics.
*Service activities range from ongoing functions (serving at Fellowship Hour, greeting at Sunday service) to specific requests (painting a room, providing meals for a family).
Scope of Service: Beyond the Congregation
Local Community
*Service may be done by a congregation as a designated part of a larger project, such as serving a meal per week at a Food Pantry.
*Service may be done jointly with an interfaith group.
*Support social justice initiatives locally

Broader community and World
*Opportunities through the UU Service Committee
*Relief efforts for disasters.
*Support social justice initiatives.
Who Benefits: Congregation as a whole
*The Small Group members themselves --bonding within the group
*Congregants as they benefit from the service provided.
*New energy within the congregation as this commitment to the congregation becomes visible.
Who Benefits: Beyond the Congregation
Congregants and others
*Anyone who uses the building
*Interfaith community

Ever larger community, near and far
*Unitarian Universalism and its place in the global community
Level of Involvement
Indirect involvement, lower commitment, "Spectator" service.
*Writing checks
*Contribute to fundraisers, such as bake sales
*Bring food for food pantry
Level of Involvement
More active involvement, increased use of resources
*Organize a fundraiser
*Make phone calls
*Drive people to appointments
*Contribute blood

Direct involvement, high commitment, hands-on
*Join a building project
*Witness for a cause - marches, stand in protest

Online Resources: Topic
Service Opportunities/Reflections for Small Group Ministry

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Implementing - Implementing - Visibility for Vitality


Visibility for vitality. Invites participation in groups, encourages congregational support (including funding and personnel), and keeps Small Group Ministry in the forefront of congregational opportunities. It must be clear how a person can join a group

Internal visibility.
*Brochures about the program, in public or new member racks
*Follow-up letters to visitors, such as including a brochure
*Regular Newsletter articles about the program and featuring groups, contributions, activities
*Regular reports to Board and congregation (e.g. Annual Reports)
*Recognition of leadership (Coordinator, Group Leaders/Facilitators, Committee) including Dedication/Installation
*Worship service at least annually, and mentioned from the pulpit regularly
*Regular and ongoing events to introduce people to Small Group Ministry, such as space at Fellowship Hour, sign up times,
*Small Group Ministry as part of Newcomer events and classes.
*Chair of Committee as part of church leadership
*An event to honor Group Leaders or have an event for all Small Group Ministry participants
*SGM meetings listed on the church calendar.
External visibility. *All of the internal items that reach beyond the congregation
*Notices in local media, like as part of the Sunday ad in local Religion Page and special articles
*Bulletin Board with notations -this is seen by people who are in the building for a variety of meetings.
Web Location and importance
*List Small Group Ministry in a visible place.
*Indicate who to contact to become involved.
*Explain Small Group Ministry and the importance of Small Group Ministry in the congregation.
Web content
*Include testimonials from enthusiastic participants
*Explain the meeting format and how Groups are organized.
*Consider using a Question & Answer format.
*Give examples of discussion topics and a session plan. Or include session plans on the website.


Online Resources Topic
Visibility VISIBILITY FOR VITALITY: Brochures: Content Guidelines and How to Share

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Introduction and Index | Overview of Small Group Ministry | Programming: Starting, Rejuvenating and Restarting Small Group Ministry | Oversight | Group Leadership and Facilitation | Groups | Sessions | Service | Visibility for Vitality

Compiled Version | Web Map | Back to Small Group Ministry Network