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June 2010

Small Groups, Deep Connections June 2010
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • New Resource: Sharing the Journey: Small Group Ministry with Youth
  • How to Handle Challenging Situations, Challenges 6, 7, 8 and 9, UU Church in Eugene, OR,
  • News and Events - Featuring Small Group Ministry Opportunities at GA and the UU Small Group Ministry Institute at deBenneville Pines, August 31 - September 3.
  • 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:

Individual and congregational memberships are our major source of revenue.
The Network is financially independent of the UUA.
Letter from the Editor

This is a somewhat abbreviated beginning-of-summer issue. The UU Small Group Ministry Network Board is in the process of reviewing the content and format of Covenant Group News. If you'd like to share you ideas about would be most valuable to you, send them to me at

We have a note from Rev. Helen Zidowecki on a new resource: Sharing the Journey: Small Group Ministry with Youth, by Jessica York and Helen Zidowecki, Judith A. Frediani, Susan Dana Lawrence, Editor.

From Richard Loescher at the UU Church in Eugene, OR, we have some additional excerpts from their Facilitator Training Manual. Again, we thank the Unitarian Society in Newton, MA, since their website contained the original version of these challenges.

As I mentioned last month, The UU Small Group Ministry Network has two new publications. Small Group Ministry 2010: Celebrating Congregations will include information on small group ministry programs at 150-200 churches. A second new publication, Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs, will also be available at GA 2010 and from the Network website. See more information on both publications below.

Under Events, below, there is a description of our programs and meetings at General Assembly, including the UUA General Assembly 2010 Planning Committee- sponsored workshop #2010, "Enhancing, Revitalizing, Restarting Your Small Group Ministry," Thursday June 24, at 4:30 in 101 H.

Also under Events, you will find information about the Small Group Ministry Institute 2010, August 31-September 3, Camp deBenneville Pines, Angelus Oaks, CA. Rev. Helen Zidowecki and I plan to be among the faculty there. I'd love to meet and work with people from your church. Sending your facilitators or steering team members to this annual Institute is the best way to maximize the benefits your congregation receives from your small group ministry program. Your team's attendance can give your program a boost, get you ready for a restart, or just make a successful program stronger and less at risk from program leadership changes. Download a flyer and registration form from the UU SGM Network, website

The Summer 2010 SGM Quarterly has been mailed to Network members. Every Quarterly is packed with articles by and for coordinators, ministers, and facilitators. If you are not a member, why not join now and receive this summer issue? We are financially independent of the UUA and depend upon membership and publications sales to cover our modest expenses. You can check on our website to see whether your congregation is a Network member. As an added incentive to membership, we offer a member discount of 40% off all our UU SGM Network publications.

The Network website,, contains information about the UU Small Group Ministry Network, articles by leaders in the small group ministry movement and an extensive selection of sessions that people have contributed, as well as a complete archive of Covenant Group News and the SGM Quarterly.

Please share your ideas, questions, and experiences with the other 1,342 Covenant Group News subscribers. Send them to me at Thanks to Anne Haynes, UU SGM Network Board member from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, IN, for proofing this edition. Our Quarterly Editor, Beth Tiewater, provided much needed assistance with solicitation and assembly of articles and Susan Hollister and Helen Zidowecki provided comments and content.

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

Diana Dorroh
Editor, Covenant Group News
Program Director, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge

New Resource: Sharing the Journey: Small Group Ministry with Youth,
by Jessica York and Helen Zidowecki, Judith A. Frediani, Susan Dana Lawrence, Editor.

See this Lifespan Faith Development Tapestry of Faith offering at The curriculum includes Exploring, Planning and Implementing Small Group Ministry With Youth; Facilitator Training; Sample Sessions; and uses in other areas of youth programming. I hope to provide a more in-depth review later this year, as well as notes from people who have used it.

How to Handle Challenging Situations:
Challenges Six, Seven, Eight and Nine
From the UU Church in Eugene, OR, Facilitator Training Manual
(adapted from First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts)

The final article in our series on challenges in the group process focuses on the most important part of groups: the people, and how they interact with each other. Below are some of the more common challenges you are likely to encounter, together with some suggestions on how to handle them.

Challenge 6: Tension or open conflict in the group arises: two participants lock horns and argue, or one participant gets angry and confronts another.
Suggested responses: If there is tension, address it directly. Remind participants that disagreement and conflict of ideas help to clarify one's thinking. Explain that for conflict to be productive, it must be focused upon the issue, and on the legitimately different ways of viewing it. It is acceptable to challenge someone's facts, but personal attacks and challenges to personal beliefs are not acceptable. You must interrupt personal attacks, name-calling, or put-downs as soon as they occur. You will be better able to do so because of the established covenant that prohibits such behaviors and encourages tolerance for all views. Don't hesitate to appeal to the group for help: if group members bought into the covenant, they will support you. You may also need to talk one-on-one with the person who engaged in the prohibited behavior.

Challenge 7: One member engages in ax-grinding, telling negative stories about a third party of group who is not in the room.
Suggested responses: As a facilitator, it is your responsibility to contain and guide members who forget the SGM covenant and engage in questionable behaviors. You must intervene by saying something like, "I am not comfortable hearing this in this SGM setting. It sounds like something between you and someone who is not here to present their side of the story. I'm not clear how it relates to the SGM topic we are considering. If it is related, could you perhaps tell us how it is related to the topic without naming names?"

Challenge 8: People start offering unsolicited advice and trying to problem solve for a group member.
Suggested responses: As a facilitator, it is your responsibility to contain and guide members who forget the SGM covenant. You must intervene, but you must also use caution here. You may choose to say something like, "Please let me remind the group that our covenant prohibits offering unsolicited advice. Pat, if you want the group's input, let us know and you can chat with folks after the group session ends." If the issue is a cataclysmic one, the group may choose to abandon its topic time and minister to its members. Usually, however, the ministry of the group is focused on witnessing each other's spiritual growth.

Challenge 9: A member uses categorical language or engages in slurs presenting some category of people in a stereotypical way; often this can be presented under the guise of humor.
Suggested response: As facilitator, it is your responsibility to contain and guide members who engage in questionable behaviors. You must intervene by saying something like, "I am not comfortable with this sort of language (or humor). It seems to be that it is stereotyping certain people in a negative way that really is not funny to me or them. I hope you will not use it again."

Editor's Note: I agree that it is important to respond in some way to all three of these situations. My response is to call a moment of silence followed by an "I statement" from me. During the moment of silence, I try to think of something to say that is loving but calls attention to the violation of the covenant. I also like to acknowledge, implicitly or explicitly, that we all violate the covenant at some point. The main point is to give these situations some thought before they occur and to be prepared to address them.

News & Events

Small Group Ministry at General Assembly
June 23-27, 2009 Minneapolis, Minnesota

We Look forward to seeing you!

WORKSHOP # 2010 - Enhancing, Revitalizing, Restarting Your Small Group Ministry
Thursday 4:30 - 5:45 PM Minneapolis Convention Center - 101 H
Sponsored by the GA Planning Committee

Presenting strategies used by congregations to sustain and enhance vibrant ministries, and to rejuvenate and restart programs that have decreased in vitality. Starting with the rationale for restructuring a covenant group program, the workshop features two congregations that underwent extensive rejuvenation and re-launch of their small group ministries within the last two years, doubling participation as a result. Presenters:
Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Moderator, member of the Northern New England District Small Group Ministry Committee and Vice-President of the UU Small Group Ministry Network
Rev. Peg Morgan, Minister of the Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Seattle, WA
Steve Becker, Small Group Ministry Program Coordinator at Westside UU Congregation and President of the UU Small Group Ministry Network
Rev. Peter Friedrichs, Lead Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania
Joyce McKee, Small Group Ministry Program Co-coordinator at UU Church of Delaware County


Saturday, June 26, 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM, Hilton Minneapolis Hotel, Marquette I.
All are welcome to participate in further discussion after our Thursday workshop. Panelists from the presentation will be on hand to answer questions and exchange views about issues relating to Small Group Ministry programs. Join us!

BOOTH # 733 - The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Exhibit Hall, Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC)
Wednesday 12:30 to 7:00 PM         Thursday through Saturday 11:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

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 - Friday, June 25, 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM, in the dining area near Booth # 733. Bring a lunch and join the Network Board of Directors for an opportunity to connect with other Covenant Group Ministry enthusiasts, learn more about the SGM Network, and get involved in Network activities. Meeting location and final agenda will be available at the Booth.

Proposed Agenda
1.Welcome, Introductions, Opening Words
2.Minutes of the 2009 Annual Meeting
3.President's Report: SGM Network status and activities
4.Financial Report
5.Bylaw Revision (See proposed revision)
6.Election of Board Members & Officers (See Nominations)
7.Open Discussion: SGM Network programs & projects

General Assembly, June 23-27 -- Minneapolis, Minnesota

Attention Network Members! Here's your opportunity to meet GA participants from every UUA district and talk about a topic dear to all our hearts-Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups! Facilitators, ministers, and coordinators from more than 6 member congregations have already volunteered. Join us at the booth! Sign up at

Small Group Ministry Discussion Group - Join the UUA List Serve
The SGM Discussion Group is the list serve from the Unitarian Universalist Association website, listed there as Covenant_Group_Ministry. The list provides an opportunity to share experiences, questions, comments, and problems with other individuals and congregations engaged in small group and covenant group ministry. Subscribe to the mailing list on the Network's website,

Networking Opportunities
Network with other congregations in your district, share best practices in small group ministry, and consider hosting a joint facilitator training or enrichment workshop. To view a complete list, visit our website and click on Who We Are: Our Members.

The source for session plans, networking opportunities, Small Group Ministry resources, news of events and workshops, membership renewal forms, and back issues of Covenant Group News and the SGM Quarterly. The Fall 2009 Quarterly is now posted on the site.


Summer Institute Goes to De Benneville Pines, Angelus Oaks, CA
Tuesday, August 31 to Friday, September 3, 2010

Registration Information at

Don't miss the fifth Small Group Ministry Summer Institute! The Institute began as a way of introducing congregations to SGM and providing resources for program development. Small Group Ministry is in various stages within congregations, from just an idea to a program. Within established programs there are also phases, and we are learning together as we move into the second decade of UU SGM. Congregations have found that sending several people to the Institute allows for congregational assessment and planning, as well as having people able to attend consecutive sessions.

The Institutes are designed on the premise that we all have things to share and are willing to gain knowledge and understanding. This is what we expect in our Small Group/Covenant Group Sessions - why not at the Institute?

Sessions planned include:
• Developing and maintaining sound groups, and group dynamics
• Starting, restarting and growing Small Group Ministry
• Developing and evaluating sessions
• Assessing your own program and building on your strengths
• Multigenerational Small Group Ministry - a "cutting edge" topic this year

Cost: Lodging and Program Fee: $350
$25 discount for registration before July 1
$25 discount for UU SGM Network members

Contact Helen Zidowecki at
or 207-582-5308 with questions and comments.

Camp de Benneville Pines is a retreat and conference center located in the Barton Flats area of the San Bernardino National Forest, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. At an elevation of 6,800 feet, the camp is surrounded by a forest of towering pines, cedars, and oaks and is affiliated with the Pacific Southwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Facilities include a swimming pool, a hot tub, children's playground, an archery range, and opportunities for many outdoor sports. Cabins are all equipped with modern bathrooms and hot showers, and offer comfortable sleeping quarters. Meals are prepared by kitchen staff and served in the main lodge. Visit for more information.

Read what others have to say about the Summer Institute:
Great practical ideas to take home. The times for sharing beyond the presentations were a fantastic opportunity! Lots of information. Really worthwhile experience.

The conference really reinforced for me the power of the small group ministry process. Three things about the experience made it memorable: the things I learned, the people I met, and the idyllic setting.

In addition to what was "taught," the most enriching aspect was being able to hear and dialogue about what others were doing in their SGM programs and why.

The program was well-planned; the variety of presentation styles kept interest high, as did the continuing movement in and out of different groups and places.

For more details and events see the Event Announcements

UU SGM Network Publications

Order forms available from

NEW! Small Group Ministry 2010: Celebrating Congregations

The 2010 compilation acknowledges and celebrates the work of over 80 congregations that have contributed to the UU Small Group Ministry movement since 2004. Now all in one place, this collection features articles published in Covenant Group News, the SGM Quarterly Journal, and the UUA e-list in the last year. Each article is introduced by a profile of the contributing congregation, including when and how their program started, how many groups and participants, and their unique challenges and success stories. The vitality of covenant group ministry programs across the denomination is clearly demonstrated in this compilation, the only one of its kind. Available at General Assembly and for mail order in June 2010. Advance orders welcome.

Network Members: $15 plus $5 shipping     Non-members: $25 plus $5 shipping

NEW! Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs
Looking for fresh, inspiring topics for your small group ministry program? This exciting new book offers a wide range of original, ready-to-use sessions covering Getting Started in a Group, the UU Seven Principles, Spiritual Journeying, Attitude Adjustment, Personal Beliefs and Values, Spiritual Challenges, Holidays, Just for Fun, Being Human, and Special Use subjects for events and national tragedies that affect our lives. Themes are drawn from art, literature, UU liturgy and hymnals, current events, and religious scriptures. Available at General Assembly and for mail order in June 2010.

Network Members: $20 plus $5 shipping     Non-members: $30 plus $5 shipping

  To order any of the above publications or to get a list of all our publications:

Small Groups, Deep Connections

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

Steve Becker, President (
Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Vice President (
Diana Dorroh, Secretary and Past President (
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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