Implementing - Overview
(comments at end of section)


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.

Back to Main page

comments powered by Disqus

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