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March 11, 2004

CGNews #62

An occasional newsletter about Covenant Group Ministry read by 748 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.


Go to by March 20, and you can still get a place at the table of the hottest Covenant Group conference of the spring: "Spiritual Growth Through Small Group Ministry." Place, Arlington, VA. Theme speaker: Thandeka. Attendees: your friends, present and future.


Make your vision service-oriented, says John P. Kotter, author of a fine book on leadership entitled The Heart of Change. A Waco, TX, Covenant Group put its service-oriented vision into action recently in a creative way: they held a Great Frog Auction.

The results surprised and pleased a local social service agency that was having trouble raising money. The Waco folk didn't auction live frogs, but they had nearly every other kind. The church's minister, the Rev. Nathan Stone, explained in a newsletter column that a folk song about a "Big Blue Phrog" had become the church's theme song and blue frogs a sort of mascot.

Looking for a project to do as a service to the community at large, a Covenant Group that calls itself "The Other Movie Group" decided to gather and auction off blue frogs to raise money for the Talitha Koum Institute, an innovative nurturing program for children and families in South Waco.

Stone wrote, "Well -- just in case you missed it -- this was NOT a success. It was a roaring success! Ingrid Martine, co-facilitator of "The Other Movie Group," and I would have been happy if we'd raised $300 or $400. Instead, we raised $1,700!"

About 65 people from the church showed up to bid on "50 or so of the zaniest blue frogs I have ever seen," Stone said, adding, "The Talitha Koum people who attended the auction were blown away. So was I. Most of all -- we had a ball doing it. Everyone went away happy."

Stone's assessment is exactly in line with what John P. Kotter would expect. He says: "The cynics are wrong: Most of us get a great feeling from helping other people. So you make the vision service-oriented, something with which people can identify.... This idea can work in manufacturing businesses, high-tech firms, financial services - nearly anywhere." (Pp., 72-73, Heart of Change.)

It can even work among Unitarian Universalists, which is one reason why service to one's church and to one's community are key elements of the Small Group Ministry plan.


Small Group Ministry seems to be helping our Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA, retain its members. "Branches" members stay around.

For several years, the church has removed from its rolls about the same number of adults that it has added, reports Diana Dorroh, but not this past year. The church has had a net gain of 10 new members in recent months, reporting 320 members to the UUA for this year's certification.

Dorroh looked at people who had been taken off the church's rolls during the last couple of years for reasons other than moving or death. What she learned was this: "If a person is in a Branches group, we almost never lose them unless they move or die. I think only one or two have drifted away. So, Small Group Ministry is helping us retain new members."


A group on Meadville/Lombard students in the Modified Residency Program are trying out a "phone conference Covenant Group," reports Rosemarie Newberry. She writes, "We meet at M/L each January and then we are back to our homes all over the country. We gather for a phone conference Covenant Group meeting once a month. We have now been doing this for two years and it is just great."

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Archived back issues and a sign-up link are available at the Southwest District web site: Look for the "Newsletters" section.

The Rev. Robert L. Hill, District Executive,
SW District, UUA,
405 701-2917