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August 2, 2001

CGNews #37

An occasional newsletter about a new/old way of organizing your church read by 725 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.

Want on/off this list? Go to:, and look for the "Rev. Bob Hill" section.

The Southwest Unitarian Universalist Conference, has authorized me to spend time this summer finishing a book on the subject which we plan to publish on CDs, compact disks.*

Below is the outline from which I am currently working. Please look over it and, if you wish, send me your email commentary. What am I leaving out that needs to be addressed? What do you want said about any of the topics mentioned? Do you have stories to illustrate any of the points?

I'm drawing heavily from three years of Covenant Group News contributors and from writing freely published by Calvin Dame, Glenn Turner, Thandeka, and others as well as from things you readers have already sent me. I have lots of material to share (and lots of attributions to give), but I want this to be the broadest and richest handbook possible for the important work of opening our saving message to those who need us. So, I ask you, once again, for help.

If you respond to this request, please include in your email the following:

  • Your name and the name and city of the church of which you're a member, friend, or staff member (specify).
  • How I can best reach you if I need clarification.
  • And a statement saying you give me permission to use what you're sending me.

It will help me a lot if you'll start the Subject line of your response with the word "book." I'll be looking for emails that begin "Book:" (Without the quotation marks, of course.) I thank you in advance. Together, perhaps we can produce something useful to all our congregations.



Small Group Ministry for Unitarian Universalists

Chapter 1. Small Group Ministries - Success Through Service: Their many names (Covenant Groups, Chalice Circles, etc.) What they are and how they differ from other small-group programs. Why our congregations need small group ministries. Why they work wonders. Their track record so far in our churches. (Note: SGMs = Small Group Ministries in this outline.)

2. The Roots of Small Group Ministry -- Historical, theological, and cultural: With contributions from Thandeka (theology), John Morgan (Universalist history), Jim Robinson (the legacy of Dana McLain Greeley's observations), Brent Smith (an early success story), Glenn Turner, and others.

3. The Right Idea at the Right Time: Why now? How other denominations succeed with small groups. How SGMs can let us serve the Cultural Creatives (Paul H. Ray), our current members, and our children, as we live out our visions of involved, equitable, non-racist, sustainable lives. How SGMs can keep our diversity from shaking our congregations apart as we deal with tough issues.

4. What to Do Before You Start - Necessary Pre-requisites: A check-list to complete before your first group meets. Thoroughness in planning, introduction (Turner, Calvin Dame, Michael McGee). Some mistakes to avoid. Getting started: differences in approach for ministered churches and lay-led groups.

5. Choosing, Appointing, and Training Facilitators - Pre-training: Continuing education. Planning ahead for growth. Dealing with "special care" people.

6. The Covenants and How They Keep SGMs Vibrant - Covenanting with each other: With the congregation. With the larger community, humankind, the earth.

7. Expanding the Circles - The Issues of Welcoming New Friends: Why people resist birthing new groups and how respond to that resistance.

8. The Varieties of Small Group Experience -- Affinity groups: Membership-assigned groups. Hybrid groups. Do-it-yourself programming materials. Church/minister-prepared programming materials (Calvin Dame and others). The threads that unite the many varieties of SGMs. Resources for your preferred style.

9. Off Limits: Church Politics. Why congregational problems or tensions are inappropriate for SGMs and how they can wreck what small groups seek to build: mutual trust.

10. For Ministers Only - Don't Think You Won't Have to Change: The dynamics of truly shared ministry.

11. Issues for Further Consideration: Questions not yet answered satisfactorily. Practices needing improvement.

12. Looking Ahead to (Finally) Fulfilling Our Promise, and Just in the Nick of Time: Saving the world, ten at a time, while helping each other get through today. Indications of a new era. The imperatives of ushering in a Golden Age of Unitarian Universalism.

-- Bob Hill

*Any profits from this book-on-CDs will further our work for Unitarian Universalism, not accrue to me. Having foolishly forgotten to charge for this newsletter, I might as well continue this as a labor of love, right?

Know someone who might be interested in this topic? Feel free to forward Covenant Group News to others. Unitarian Universalists may feel free to use this material in any manner consistent with the growth of our liberal religion. Otherwise, all rights are reserved.

The Rev. Robert. L. Hill,
District Executive for the SW District, UUA,
713 660-7164