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Monday, January 26, 2009

CGNews #96

In this issue --- A question from Joyce Cable, Unitarian Universalist Church West, Brookfield, WI, an article on Preventing Facilitator Burnout, from Alicia Hawkins, First Unitarian Church, Albuquerque, NM, with contributions from Margaret Roseboom, Susan Bishop, Alex Lukacs, Liz Ladd, Judy Bennett and Chris Clothier and, announcement of the Small Group Ministry Institute at The Mountain, Highlands, NC, August 16 - 21.

Covenant Group News is a free electronic newsletter on Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups read by 1300 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists. CGNews is distributed by the UU Small Group Ministry Network. Visit us online at http://www.smallgroupministry.net.

Friends,
Many of us are evaluating our programs and facilitators are evaluating their groups and their own energy levels. How can we organize more support for facilitators and make our groups and our programs stronger, more resilient, and more connected to our individual churches? How can facilitators share the responsibility with their groups and get more support for their work? This issue contains some of the questions and some of the answers.

Please consider sharing some of your own questions and the answers you've found. The UU Small Group Ministry Network exists to facilitate sharing and to support small group ministry work in our congregations. Send us your sessions and your ideas. Please send your submissions to diana_dorroh@hotmail.com.

If you are not already a member, please join the Network and make sure your congregation is a member. The UU Small Group Ministry Network does not receive financial support from the UUA; individual and congregational memberships are our major source of revenue.

The Winter 2009 Quarterly has been mailed. Current members should have already received it. You'll also get it if you send in your membership now http://www.smallgroupministry.net/pdf/Membership%20Form.pdf.

The UU Small Group Ministry Network website resource page is regularly updated to include new articles and sessions. The next update date is January 31. See the ten new sessions by Glenn Turner and a session on Congregational Change from Augusta Maine. http://www.smallgroupministry.net/public/sessions/index.html.

In faith that we're making this a better world,
Diana Diana Dorroh,
President, UU Small Group Ministry Network
Editor, CG News
diana_dorroh@hotmail.com
225-766-2764


CONTENTS
* QUESTION ABOUT KEEPING OR INCREASING PARTICIPATION OVER TIME FROM JOYCE CABLE AT UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH WEST, BROOKFIELD WI
* PREVENTING FACILITATOR BURNOUT, FROM ALICIA HAWKINS, 1ST UNITARIAN CHURCH, ALBUQUERQUE, NM, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM MARGARET ROSEBOOM, SUSAN BISHOP, ALEX LUKACS, LIZ LADD, JUDY BENNETT AND CHRIS CLOTHIER
* SMALL GROUP MINISTRY INSTITUTE AT THE MOUNTAIN, HIGHLANDS, NC, AUGUST 16 - 21, 2009
* A REMINDER THAT THE NEW FACILITATOR TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT MANUAL IS NOW AVAILABLE


* QUESTION ABOUT KEEPING OR INCREASING PARTICIPATION OVER TIME FROM JOYCE CABLE AT UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH WEST, BROOKFIELD WI

Our Church, UUCW, Brookfield, WI, has been doing small group ministry for four years.  It has been a time of learning for the coordinating team: publicizing, training facilitators and forming groups, which we call UUnity Circles.  We have had 10 circles each year, with 8-10 members in each circle.  Our church membership has been growing in the past couple years since we went to having two Sunday services, and we felt we needed this program to help people feel connected as we became too large for every body to know every body.  We're over 465 members now.

Now we have gotten to the point where we have some questions; I have been reading in The UU Small Group Ministry Network website, but have not found any information concerning the program over a longer period of time.  We're wondering if the program is cyclical in nature, if there is a fall off in participation after a few years, and its effect on church membership retention.  Statistics.

Of course, we are having a team meeting on Wed. evening, yes, this week, and I hope you can give me some insight into these questions before then.

Joyce Cable
UUnity Circles Coordinating Team

Note: Please send your answers to Joyce's questions to diana_dorroh@hotmail.com for inclusion in next month's CG News.


PREVENTING FACILITATOR BURNOUT, FROM ALICIA HAWKINS, FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH, ALBUQUERQUE, NM, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM MARGARET ROSEBOOM, SUSAN BISHOP, ALEX LUKACS, LIZ LADD, JUDY BENNETT AND CHRIS CLOTHIER

Facilitators are the at the core of our small group ministry programs. Without these steadfast and skilled persons our programs would wane. No one wants to lose a facilitator due to burn out. We have asked several small group ministry programs over the country how they prevent facilitator burn out. Listen to their words of wisdom. You may want to send along some of your own.

Margaret Roseboom, a facilitator of a covenant group at the First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City states that she has avoided burn out by passing on much of the responsibility of the group to its members. Members take turns hosting the group and contributing refreshments, along with sharing the role of facilitating. When group members have a role in the group, it heightens their sense of belonging.

Also from Oklahoma Susan Bishop, who co-facilitators the Spiritual Journey covenant group, highlights the importance of the facilitator meetings to share issues and problems, ideas and solutions. She also recommends utilizing strengths and weaknesses when teaming co-facilitators. For instance, a computer savvy person fits well with someone who may shy away from the computer, but has great group process skills.

Alex Lukacs and Liz Ladd, Co-chairs of the SGM Steering Committee at the Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania asked about facilitator burn-out at their monthly Facilitators Meeting. The group came up with these suggestions:

  1. Good session plans that are written and provided to the facilitators by a separate group of people,
  2. Strong ministerial support of the program,
  3. Having a "co-facilitator" setup for the groups,
  4. Facilitator meetings every month or two months
  5. Training sessions for new facilitators
  6. Having a clear process in place for working with groups members who have difficulty fitting into a group,
  7. Taking the summer off,
  8. Conducting all intra- and inter-group communications by e-mail.

Finally, Judy Bennett and Chris Clothier co-chair the executive team for the small group ministry program at the UU Church of Bloomington, Indiana. Although their program is only three years old, they are doing lots of right things in order to support and honor their facilitators. Here are a few:

We dissolve the groups at the end of May (giving facilitators a well deserved rest), and new groups are formed again in September.

Each August, there is a one day interactive training for all facilitators, in which the ministers play a prime role. This shows the facilitators the importance of their position as lay ministers in SGM. We give each facilitator a binder with guidelines, session plans, and examples of problem solving techniques such as how to handle "difficult people". Knowledge is empowering, and the well-trained facilitator is less likely to feel over-whelmed and, ultimately, suffer from burn-out.

Monthly facilitator meetings led by a minister shows their commitment to the program and keeps them aware of what is going on. Clergy can also help problem solve for the facilitators. The Facilitator Circle is conducted as any other Chalice Circle, but is less rigid about prohibiting the offering of advice as far as problems in the groups are concerned. Facilitators get much needed support, validation and suggestions from this gathering and usually leave refreshed and invigorated about their mission.

Finally, this year we are instituting a Facilitator recognition dinner. The facilitators will be invited to a catered dinner at the end of our SGM year, and will be recognized for their service.

I am so impressed with the "caring and feeding" of facilitators described in the four churches above. In summary we find that facilitators respond positively to:

  1. Delegation when appropriate
  2. Having some time off
  3. Having quality session plans
  4. Noting strengths and weaknesses when teaming co-facilitators
  5. Quality training, and ongoing support with monthly/bimonthly facilitators' meetings
  6. Ministerial support and presence at trainings and facilitators' meetings
  7. Recognition of facilitators

What are some other ways to avoid burn-out of our facilitators who are at the heart of our small group ministry programs? Our RE teachers are recognized once a year in church...as I put this article together it occurs to me that recognizing our facilitators in church would be a great way to honor them.

Many thanks to the contributors to this article: Margaret Roseboom, Susan Bishop, Alex Lukacs, Liz Ladd, Judy Bennett and Chris Clothier. We are blessed to have so many committed, impassioned coordinators, co-chairs, and facilitators in our family of small group ministry.

Alicia Hawkins


SMALL GROUP MINISTRY INSTITUTE AT THE MOUNTAIN, HIGHLANDS, NC, AUGUST 16 - 21, 2009

Sunday, August 16 to Friday, August 21, 2009, at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center, Highlands, NC UU Small Group Ministry Institute 2009 The 2009 Institute incorporates the varied ways that Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups enhance our congregations and Unitarian Universalism. There will be basic and general information and in depth sessions around special focuses (Example: facilitation or program coordination). We will include ever-emerging resources and developments. Discounts for early registration and UU Small Group Ministry Network membership.

Flier and Registration Blank available on the Events Page of the UU Small Group Ministry Network website.
http://www.smallgroupministry.net/events.html.

Other training opportunities are also available and listed on the above page.


FACILITATOR TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT MANUAL
UU Small Group Ministry Network's Facilitator Training Manual
By Diana Dorroh and Susan Hollister with a Preface by Calvin Dame

SGM Program Ministers and Coordinators: This guide for implementing an in-house training and development program covers facilitator selection, initial training, on-going facilitator support. Included in the manual is the Facilitator's Guide, a training module to customize for your program, use in your training sessions and distribute to all group leaders. The manual will help ensure the growth and health of your Small Group Ministry program as you prepare facilitators and support them in successful group leadership. To order: http://www.smallgroupministry.net/forsale.html.