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August 2004

CGNews #66

* Start as you wish to continue
* Are you guilty of being a Unitarian Universalist?
* New Augusta, ME Session Book
* We want to hear from you
* Join the UU Small Group Ministry Network
* Share

Don't miss the upcoming fall issue of the SGM Quarterly, the new journal of the UU Small Group Ministry Network. This issue will feature an article by the Rev. Calvin Dame on recruiting new members as well as facilitator tips from Mellen Kennedy, retaining the UU's we raise through lifespan SGM by Peter Bowden, information on organizing regional SGM conferences and more.

Get the Quarterly mailed to your home. Join the UU SGM Network


With the start of the church year there are many opportunities. One of them is to gather your small group leaders together and to affirm the vision for your church and its ministry. Don't let the year start with facilitators wondering when groups will be formed, when to expect session resources and if there will be a September facilitator meeting. Explain your startup plans by early September. Letting these questions go unanswered can produce anxiety and a sense that facilitators are either not valued or are taken for granted.

Remember, how you start the year can set the tone for the coming months. If you want to have strong group enrollment make small group ministry part of your in-gathering plans. Include an invitation to join a small group in your spoken and written announcements. Have a staffed registration table for small group ministry next to your religious education registration table.

Do you have ideas for starting up the church year right?

Send your ideas to


In his book, Growing a Beloved Community (Skinner House, 2004), the Rev. Tom Owen-Towle offers the following question:

"If you were on trial for being a Unitarian Universalist, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

The above question came to mind recently while I was on the phone with one of our ministers. She shared the following common problems with her congregation's small group ministry.

  1. Groups tend to become closed.
  2. Groups do not want to do service projects.
  3. Group leaders say they do not have time to meet with minister.
  4. There are not enough leaders to form groups for newcomers.

Many of these problems have roots in Rev. Owen-Towle's question. Your groups are greatly impacted by the vision you uphold, leaders you select, and the content/quality of your ongoing facilitator sessions. It takes a clear vision, committed UU's and consistent effort to engage in the ministry of sharing our faith. If your small group ministry is facing some of the problems mentioned above you may want to stop and reflect. How committed are you and your fellow group leaders to your vision? Do you have one? Are the groups being created to meet the needs of existing members of your community or is there a larger goal? In the book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren suggests your congregation's mission and vision need to be communicated in some way at least every 28 days.

VISION: Make sure you know the purpose of your small group ministry. Then be sure to communicate it regularly to the full ministry team, staff, lay leadership, members and friends.

LEADERSHIP: In order to fulfill the mission of your ministry your group leaders need to be willing and interested in participating. Reluctant UU's tend to have groups that are reluctant to welcome newcomers, encourage participants to go to church on Sunday, and to engage in service projects. Choose your leaders carefully.

If you are looking to grow your small group ministry try identifying leaders willing to follow the following recipe for being convicted of being a UU:

  1. Lead a small ministry group that intentionally welcomes newcomers on a regular schedule.
  2. Regularly go to church, inviting group members to attend with you.
  3. Engage in service projects as a group both within the congregation and the larger community.
  4. Participate in a monthly small group for leaders led by the minister for ongoing training, support and spiritual renewal.
  5. Actively mentor new UU small group ministry leaders from within your group.

By Peter Bowden. Copyright 2004

Peter is one of the coordinators of the UU Small Group Ministry Network and works as an independent UU ministry & growth consultant and children's television producer.


Compilations of small group sessions are available through the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, ME. We ran out of copies of the most recent book at our GA table.

Visit the UUCC website to order


Do you have a great resource, story, testimonial, sermon, session plan, or news item related to covenant groups or small group ministry? With over 1030 subscribers we know some of you do. We want to hear from you!

Some submission ideas:

  • Creative ways you have promoted small group ministry in your congregation.
  • Text from "Messages for All Ages" on small group ministry that you have used.
  • Testimonials on how small group ministry is transforming your congregation.
  • Issues your facilitators have raised and your response.

Send your submissions to
Submissions due the 5th of the month for that months CGNews.


In June the UU Small Group Ministry Network launched a membership program to support the development of new small group resources. Through membership fees and generous donations we are actively developing resources, training materials and a new quarterly journal. These resources will be shared with our members through our website (starting September 1st) and via our new quarterly journal , the SGM Quarterly.

Individual membership fee for one year is $35.
Congregation memberships fee (includes six copies of the SGM Quarterly) is $60.

Eventually we expect to publish these resources in book form. Why wait to get these resources? Join the UU Small Group Ministry Network now. Support our small group movement and get great new resources as they are developed!

We invite you to learn more at
Print forms to mail are also available through this site.

Individual: $35 US per year billed annually.

Congregation: $60 US per year billed annually.


Know someone who might be interested in this topic? Feel free to forward Covenant Group News to them. 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.