Implementing - Programming
(comments at end of section)


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.

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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

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