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May 2009

Small Groups, Deep Connections May 2009
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
is an interactive
Small Group Ministry and Covenant Group
newsletter read by 1300 forward-looking
Unitarian Universalists.
CGNews is distributed
by the UU Small Group Ministry Network.
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Questions of the Month
  • Note from Manatee UU
  • "Website Update"
  • Full Circle - April Questions and Responses
  • News and Events
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

Join the Network
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 facilitates networking among SGM practitioners and makes current, practical information and resources available to ministers, program coordinators, and facilitators. Your membership funding will enable us to continue this important work. Download a Membership form: Membership%20Form.pdf.

Individual and congregational memberships are our major source of revenue.
The Network does not receive financial support from the UUA.

Letter from the Editor

In this issue we have a note from Grace Hirsh, one of the participants at The Mountain Institute last year. We also have some answers to last month's question about when it is wise to use small groups to accomplish church business, such as planning. I would love to hear from some of you. Please share your questions and experiences with the other 1300 subscribers. Send them to me at

I know that many of our churches are experiencing budget cuts, particularly cuts to training and travel. However, because small group ministry is shared ministry, it's a bargain. And doing it well makes it an even bigger bargain. Therefore, sending people from your church to The Mountain Small Group Ministry Institute (August 16-21, 2009) is actually a "good deal," because it can have a big impact on your program's success and on your church's growth. The reviews from last year's Institute were glowing and we've heard many success stories about benefits to the home church's programs. You might also consider paying your own way and thus making a significant contribution to your church, while learning and enjoying the wonderful scenery, hiking and food at The Mountain. Much of the learning occurs through interaction and sharing of the participants. We are not planning to have this type of conference every year, so we look forward to seeing you THIS year.

We realize that the early registration deadline is July 1, but we are working on the programming now. Please let us know that you are planning to come, and specific things you would like to have included. A flier and registration form are available on the Events Page of the UU Small Group Ministry Network website.

If you're attending GA, please stop by the Network booth in the Exhibit Hall. For the 6th year, we'll be presenting a workshop sponsored by the Planning Committee. It's at 6:45 on Friday night. Facilitator Training: The Key to Small Group Ministry Success with Diana Dorroh, Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, Rev. Dr. Justin Osterman, and Rev. Bret Lortie.

The Summer Quarterly journal goes out the first week of June. Join the Network or renew your membership now to receive your copy. Members receive the current issue several months before it's posted on the web. We depend on memberships and publication sales. We are not financially supported by the UUA. You can check our website to see whether your congregation is a Network member.

I hope that practicing the spiritual discipline of truly listening to the other members of your group is feeding your soul and allowing you to grow and to lead a more rewarding and fulfilling life.

In faith that we're making this a better world,

Diana Dorroh
President, UU Small Group Ministry Network
Editor, Covenant Group News
Program Coordinator, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge

From Grace Hirsh, Program Coordinator, Manatee UU Fellowship, Bradenton, Florida

Just wanted you to know that Manatee UU has established SGM which we call Chalice Circles and have had 2 groups since Jan. 2009. One group is disbanding for the summer due to not enough folks being in town during the summer. It has been so rewarding to facilitate a group and to coordinate the program. We plan to reconvene in Sept. or when we have enough people back to make a group of 5 or 6 or maybe more. The other group is planning to continue during the summer.

Thanks to all of you who instructed us at the Small Group Ministry workshop last summer at The Mountain.

With gratitude and thanks, Grace

Website Update

We hope that you have been visiting the web site regularly. We try to do an update every two weeks. The changes are noted on the Home Page.
*Session plans are received on a regular basis. Has your congregation contributed any?
*Check out the Join the UU Small Group Ministry Network section for a listing of Congregations that are members. We will be adding more information about Congregational members and congregations who may have individual members. Send information about your program to for inclusion in the Covenant Group News, the Quarterly or on the web site.
*The archives for CGN have been re-organized. We now have all of earlier editions from Bob Hill onto the Network website.
*The Quarterly for Winter 2009 is now on the site.

Your comments and suggestions for the site are welcome. You can contact me through I look forward to hearing from you. Helen Zidowecki

Question of the Month

Question One (a repeat request): Facilitators, what are your questions? Please send them and we'll get answers. You are UU's. I know you have questions. Just send me one at

Question Two: What is the minister's role in small group ministry? If you are a minister, what part do you play in your church's program? If you are a facilitator or program coordinator, what part do you need for your minister to play? If you are a participant in a group, what role do you see your minster playing? If you don't have a minister, how have you compensated?

Full Circle
Share your small group ministry experiences with others.

Last month's questions:

Question One: Several congregations have "used" their small groups to help with planning. Others have decided that this is an abuse of the small group ministry program. Rev. Helen Zidowecki says that it's not small group ministry if anyone is taking notes and reporting back. Has your group participated in creating a plan or a vision for your church? How did you experience it?

Answer from Clare Winter, SGM Coordinator for UU Church of the Desert, Rancho Mirage, CA:

I was very interested in the issue raised about using Small Groups to take care of church work.

My experience has been that small groups are full of members (or prospective members) who are involved or ready to be involved in the work of the church. I do not find it useful to try to get the group to take on a church project as a group.

SGM in my view exists to help individuals achieve a deeper spiritual understanding of their own lives and the lives of other members in the group. The resulting spiritual growth has naturally spilled over into the congregational community. My sense is to let it remain that way.

Of course a lot depends on the size of the church and the makeup of the groups. In our small church our group has had two former presidents, two former treasurers, and for those able, members active in church work. SGM then provides a respite from those obligations. I let it be.

Answer from Diana Dorroh, CG News Editor and Program Coordinator, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA:

At my congregation, we have considered using our small groups to do the first step in our strategic plan. They would be answering questions posed by the Southwest District Executive Rev. Susan Smith: "If you were a better UU in a year, how would you know it? " and "If a group in our area were doing a program involving one of our core values, would they contact us?" These could be part of a complete session, and since we have 18 groups, we could reach about half of our congregation quickly and easily. However, our leadership is leaning toward using cottage meetings hosted by our covenant groups and facilitated by members of the Planning Committee. The leaders believe members would miss the opportunities their regular monthly covenant group meeting provides for sharing and ministering to each other. So we'll probably be asking the groups to hold their regular monthly meetings and, in addition, to host a cottage meeting as a service to the church.

Question Two: Facilitators, what are your questions? Please send them to us and we'll get some answers.

We have not yet received any questions. Please send me one of yours. At GA, I'll be spending some time in the UU Small Group Ministry Network booth and I'll write down some of the questions we get and send them to you in July.

News & Events

The Art & Skill of Facilitation For Small Group Ministry

Saturday, June 6, 2009, 9AM to 4:15PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, NH. Workshop leader is Rev. Dr. M'ellen Kennedy, a Small Group Ministry Consultant and co-founder of the SGM Network. For more info, contact Rev. Kennedy at or 802-453-5469.

Small Group Ministry Institute, August 16 - 21, 2009
The Mountain Retreat & Learning Centers, The Highlands, NC

Join us in the majestic Appalachian Mountains for a week-long immersion in small group ministry! The Institute offers general and in-depth sessions to match every program, and features daily small group experiences plus a take-home plan. Emerging resources and developments included. Discounts for early registration and UU SGM Network membership. Flier and registration form available on the Events Page of the UU Small Group Ministry Network website.

Share Your Experience - Join a Network Committee!

Much of our work takes place in subcommittees - Membership, Publications, Education/Conferences, Financial, and Grants. They communicate by email and meet about monthly via phone conference. The time commitment is minimal, yet the work is vital to furthering the Network's outreach. Come join us in an area that appeals to you. Communicate your interest to

Small Group TUBE!

Peter Bowden, co-founder of our Network, has launched a new small group ministry video series, making the content of his consulting and trainings available to all our congregations, a boon to church budgets. Find the new videos and subscribe to the video channel on Youtube™ at

The Network at General Assembly!

WORKSHOP # 3020 - Facilitator Training: The Key to Small Group Ministry Success
Sponsored by the GA Planning Committee
Friday 6:45 - 8:00 PM             Salt Palace - 151 BC

      Small Group Ministry facilitators must be chosen wisely, trained well, and supported in their ministry. We will provide a concrete plan for designing and implementing a comprehensive in-house SGM facilitator training and development program. The minister's role in sharing and blessing this ministry will be a special focus.

  • Identifying and Recruiting Facilitators - Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio
  • The Initial Training - Rev. Dr. Justin Osterman, senior minister of the Main Line Unitarian Church, Devon, Pennsylvania
  • Facilitators Meetings - Rev. Bret Lortie, minister of the First Church of San Antonio, Texas
  • Individual Facilitator Coaching - Diana Dorroh, SGM Program Director of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Leadership Recognition - All

BOOTH # 430 - Exhibit Hall, Salt Palace Convention Center
Your headquarters for:
Resources on facilitation and program management
Opportunities to share SGM challenges and successes
Answers to all your SGM & Covenant Group questions

ANNUAL MEETING - Saturday, June 27, 12:00 noon - 1:00 PM
Join the Network Board of Directors for an opportunity to connect with other Covenant Group enthusiasts, learn more about the SGM Network, and get involved in Network activities. Meeting location and final agenda will be available at the Booth. Bring your own lunch and join the Board for this meeting.

  1. Welcome, Introductions, Opening Words
  2. Minutes of the 2008 Annual Meeting
  3. President's Report: SGM Network status and activities
  4. Financial Report
  5. Nominating Committee report
  6. Election of Board Members
  7. Future Plans
  8. Open Discussion: SGM Network programs
  9. Opportunities with Network projects & activities
  10. Closing Words


The SGM Quarterly journal is distributed to members of the UU Small Group Ministry Network four times a year. Issues are added to the web site after the subsequent issue has been sent to members. The Quarterly features articles by ministers, program leaders and facilitators, as well as tips and other resources on Unitarian Universalist small group ministry and covenant groups. Join the Network to subscribe. Download a membership form from

Facilitator Training and Development Manual, UU SGM Network, December 2008
The guide to implementing in-house training programs. Covers facilitator selection, initial training, and on-going facilitator support. Includes the Facilitator's Guide to customize for your program, use in training sessions and distribute to all group leaders.

Network Members: $15 + $5 shipping     Non-member: $25 + $5 shipping

Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry, UU SGM Network, June 2008
A compilation of more than fifty articles from five years of the Network's website and newsletters. Arranged by topic: basic elements of SGM, program structure and design, starting and promoting your program, the minister's role in shared ministry, facilitation, group development, session plans, and the application of SGM principles in multiple aspects of congregational life.

Network Members: $15 + $5 shipping       Non-member: $25 + $5 shipping

To order:

HEART TO HEART: Fourteen Gatherings for Reflection and Sharing, April 2009
by Christine Robinson, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, NM, and Alicia Hawkins, SGM program director at First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque.

Resources for fourteen group conversations on topics such as forgiveness, loss, nature, money, and friendship. A reimagined model of small group ministry, Heart to Heart offers readings, journaling suggestions, and thought-provoking exercises to help participants prepare for the spiritual practice of sharing in community.

From Skinner House Books, UUA Bookstore,, April, 2009, $14

Coming Soon: Ten Years of UU Small Group Ministry. The Network's 5th anniversary compilation of SGM articles published throughout 2008-2009, plus rediscovered articles from the earliest years of Covenant Group News, beginning in 1999. Available late June 2009.

Who We Are

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is a grassroots organization of Unitarian Universalist congregations, ministers, small group ministry/covenant group leaders and participants.

Our mission is to help create healthy Unitarian Universalist congregations and a vital Unitarian Universalist movement by promoting and supporting Small Group Ministry.

The purpose of the Network is "to support small group ministry and related shared ministry models in Unitarian Universalist congregations through developing new resources, networking, and training opportunities."

In addition to the SGM Quarterly journal for members and the free, online Covenant Group News, we publish new resources for program coordinators and facilitators, sponsor a consultation booth and SGM workshops at General Assembly, offer a week-long SGM Summer Institute, help local leaders plan regional SGM conferences, and give workshops in congregations and districts across the nation.

The UU SGM Network is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supported solely by congregational and individual memberships, donations and publication sales revenue. Network Board members donate their time and personal resources to spread the good news of small group ministry.

Contact Information

Diana Dorroh, President (
Steve Becker, Vice President (
Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Secretary (
Susan Hollister, Treasurer (

The UU Small Group Ministry Network
The UU Small Group Ministry Network,

Write to us by email:, Attn: Rev. Helen Zidowecki

or by mail: UU Small Group Ministry Network
c/o Treasurer
4303 Swarthmore Rd.
Durham, NC 27707

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