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November 2010

Small Groups, Deep Connections November 2010
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Making Small Group Ministry Available - Part 2
  • Using Skype, from Sandy Lubert, First UU Church of Hamilton, ON, Canada
  • Description of A Robust Program with Daytime and Childcare Groups, Sue Majors, High Plains UU Church, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Online Groups by Rev. Lynn Ungar, Church of the Larger Fellowship, Boston, MA
  • News and Events
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

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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:

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Letter from the Editor

I hope your own covenant group has been a source of support and personal growth for you this fall. The amount of shared ministry that happens as a result of a healthy small group ministry program continues to amaze me. I'd like to hear your personal stories about your own group.

Rev. Helen Zidowecki, UU SGM Network Board President, Rev. Steve Crump, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, and I led a training track for the Southwest UU Conference (SWUUC)'s Fall Leadership Conference. Sixteen participants from twelve churches participated. We were asked to focus on strategies and resources to use to implement covenant groups for all ages and effective program management. We discovered that the covenant group programs that Rev. Bob Hill, former SWUUC District Executive, introduced at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one are still alive. They were "well planted". Our work was to help program leaders find ways to restart, renew and enhance these programs. Many of them include special interest or affinity groups. Some of the leaders felt that random groups based on a standard session plan would be more successful and increase participation. We'll be hearing from some of these program leaders in December and during 2011.

In Making Small Group Ministry Available - Part 2, there is a list of topics by month for the next 8 months. I hope you will consider contributing to this exploration by sending your stories or ideas to me. The December CG News focus is "Parents of Young Children." If you have groups with childcare, I'd like to hear about your challenges, successes, and issues. One of the articles in this issue begins our exploration.

The focus for this November issue is "Members Challenged by Distance." Several contributors wrote comments or articles to help us explore this topic. Sandy Lubert, First UU Church of Hamilton, ON, Canada sent a note about using Skype computer software to involve someone who couldn't travel to a meeting. Sue Majors, High Plains UU Church, Colorado Springs, CO, contributed a "Description of A Robust Program with Daytime and Childcare Groups." Finally, we have a description of online groups by Rev. Lynn Ungar, Church of the Larger Fellowship, Boston, MA.

The Winter 2010/2011 SGM Quarterly will be mailed or emailed to Network members in December. Every Quarterly contains articles by and for coordinators, ministers, and facilitators. If you are not a member, why not join now and receive this winter 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 1,410 Covenant Group News subscribers. Send them to me at Thanks to Anne Haynes, from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, IN, for proofing this edition.

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

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

Making Small Group Ministry Available
Part 2 - Introduction
By Diana Dorroh

In the process of soliciting articles for Covenant Group News on the subject of Making Small Group Ministry Available, I have established and shared the following schedule for discussion of the topics identified in the October Covenant Group News. None on the issues will be exclusively dedicated to the topic for that month, but I plan to include at least two articles on the subject each month. To fulfill that promise, I need your help. Please send me your ideas, challenges, and successes,

November - Members challenged by distance
December - Parents with young children
January - the Elderly
February - Handicapped and non-driving members
March - Youth, children, multigenerational groups
April - Youth, children, multigenerational groups
May - New members and graduates of the newcomers class
June - "Extra care required" members and long term members

In my own church, the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, we have about sixteen groups with randomly chosen participants. However, we are now experimenting with special purpose groups to allow more people to participate. We have two groups established to make small group ministry more available to people who live 30-45 miles away from the church. The group in St. Francisville, north of Baton Rouge, has been operating very successfully for about two years. The group has two enthusiastic leaders and about 6 members, total. About a year ago, we opened a group "across the Mississippi river" which calls itself "Westside". This group has four very faithful members, including the two leaders. When we have a new congregation member who lives in either area, we put the new member in touch with the leaders.

Another way to serve church members who live 30-45 miles from your church but attend church on Sunday morning would be to offer a group that meets at church right after the church service(s) or after lunch. Of course, you'd need to consider your worship schedule and available space. This could also be an intermediate step, collecting people who live in different directions and "spinning off" groups, as you have enough people who can meet together in homes to form a group. Are you already doing this? If so, please drop me a note

Making Small Group Ministry Available with Skype,
from Sandy Lubert,
First UU Church of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

I am a facilitator at First Hamilton (mine is currently the only active group, unfortunately). We have, in the past, had very active SGM. I am quite passionate about it.

One interesting thing I can share with you is that last Wed night, I SKYPED* someone in to our SGM meeting! She is a friend who is living in Illinois and has not found a congregation yet. So we both set up our laptops with webcams, and she participated fully -- and virtually! It was a great experience and I believe it has tons of potential applications for all kinds of ministry and congregants who might not be able to "physically" participate in SGM but are otherwise keen.

*Skype is software that can be used to contact two computers for a conversation. If both have cameras, they can each see images of the other.

Description of A Robust Program with Daytime and Childcare Groups
from Sue Majors,
High Plains UU, Colorado Springs, CO

We are doing well. Jack (Majors) and I have headed up the facilitators for our small group ministry program for a year now. We call them U and I groups (Ultimacy and Intimacy). Our church has had U and I groups for 10 of our 13 years in existence. We presently have 10 groups with 2 new groups ready to start in the next few months. We are holding a Facilitator training next month and have 11 people attending, either to become facilitators for a potential new group or to take over their existing group (as their facilitator takes a break after 2 years or more of facilitating). We have 160 members at High Plains and have 91 in U and I groups, with 7 more waiting to join a group. Our church has experienced significant growth in membership, as well as in U and I participation. This year we will have an Interim Minister and Jack and I will be doing the U and I facilitator training (which the minister has done in the past) and chair the U and I Facilitator meetings (which we have shared with the minister).

I also wanted to share about two new groups we started this fall.
One is a daytime group that meets at 10am on Thursday. It is mostly older, retired members. They sometimes go out for lunch with each other after the group. They meet as a standard U and I group with regular topics and a trained facilitator.

We also started a parent/childcare group. Because parents need flexibility, we offer the group on Friday night at the church and the attendance varies. We have two trained facilitators who also come. If there are enough people for 2 groups, the facilitators divide the group into two smaller ones and they all discuss the same topics in different rooms. We have a childcare provider who has blocked out these Fridays for us and she has back up if needed. We do ask parents to let us know if they will be coming or not the day before but allow for emergencies of course. The topics this fall have been child centered. Two have been "Emotional Intelligence" and "Is parenthood a competitive sport?" At some point in the future, some of the participants may want to switch to personal spiritual growth topics. There is also the option of having 2 groups, one for child centered topics and one for more usual U and I topics.

So far, both groups are working well.

Editor's Note: Sue describes a program that includes more than 50% of the church's membership, program growth, and membership growth. I believe that there is a relationship between program growth to 50% of membership or more and church membership growth. Does your church have a similar story?

Making Small Group Ministry Available with Online Groups
by Rev. Lynn Ungar,
Church of the Larger Fellowship Minister for Lifespan Learning,
CLG Worldwide office is in Boston, MA

Online covenant groups allow members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship to have deep and lasting relationships with a small group of people who may live literally on opposite sides of the world. Rather than having meetings in person which last for an hour or two, CLF covenant group sessions last 3-4 weeks. Over that time the facilitator sends out an opening reading and invites members to check in. A few days are allowed for members to check in via email, and then the group moves to considering questions on spiritual topics posed by the facilitator. Again, responses are given via the internet, and people have a week or two to post their responses, and to respond to the posts of others. A few days are allotted for closing and evaluation, and then most groups take a week for open "back porch chat" or "tea time."

This online format makes it possible for people who are geographically isolated to have close relationships, and permits those who are unavailable Sunday mornings or weekday evenings to interact on their own time frame. It also means that people who are shy, quiet, or take their time in processing can relate on terms that are comfortable for them. While online groups sacrifice the pleasure of sitting in compassionate silence, they offer distinct advantages, and some of our groups have been meeting continuously for more than five years.

Share your insights, strategies and experiences.
Send your comments to Diana at
We'll print them in the next CGNews.

News & Events

The 2011 Small Group Ministry Summer Institute will be held
Tuesday, August 30 to Friday, September 2, 2011
UU Camp, deBenneville Pines, Angelus Oaks, California

In addition to basic information on Small Group Ministry, we are planning to have several sessions delegated to Small Group Ministry for specific groups, such as youth, elders and caretakers, and families. Additional information will be appearing throughout the year. Registration materials will be available by December 1.

Cost: Lodging and Program Fee: $350, with $25 discount for registration before July 1, and $25 discount for UU Small Group Ministry Network members (from a Member Congregation, and individual members)

Send your suggestions and questions to

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.

For information on training opportunities see the Event Announcements

UU SGM Network Publications

Order forms available from

NEW! Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs
This exciting new book offers a wide range of original, ready-to-use sessions covering Spiritual Journeying, Personal Beliefs and Values, Spiritual Challenges, Holidays, Just for Fun, Being Human, and Special Use subjects for events that affect our lives. Themes are drawn from art, literature, UU liturgy and hymnals, current events, and religious scriptures.

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

NEW! Small Group Ministry 2010: Celebrating Congregations
The 2010 compilation celebrates the work of over 100 congregations that have contributed to the UU Small Group Ministry movement since 2004. There are profiles of contributing congregations, including when and how their program started, how many groups and participants they have, and their unique challenges and success stories.

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

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

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