Covenant Group News

UU SGM Network Home | Subscribe

April 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections April 2011
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
is an interactive
Small Group Ministry and Covenant Group
newsletter read by more than 1420 forward-looking
Unitarian Universalists.
CGNews is distributed
by the UU Small Group Ministry Network.
Visit us online at

You may automatically unsubscribe from this list at any time by visiting the following URL:

In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Making Small Group Ministry Available - Part 6 - Youth, Children, and Multigenerational Groups - by Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU SGM Network
  • Note from Wilma Wake, Church of the Larger Fellowship
  • Note from Brynda McCoy, First Unitarian Church, Alton, IL
  • Repeat of Question from Dick Loescher, UU Church in Eugene, Eugene, OR
  • Answer from Anne Haynes, UU Church of Bloomington, IN
  • 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:

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

Greetings. Here at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, we are looking forward to a weekend with Rev. Helen Zidowecki on May 21 and 22. She will conduct an advanced workshop for all of our leaders, as well as a workshop and consultation on small group ministry for children and youth. See her article in this issue on Making SGM Available to Children and Youth. This is the subject matter of the book she is writing, to be published by the UU Small Group Ministry Network in time for General Assembly. It will also be addressed in our Planning-Committee-sponsored GA workshop, "Small Group Ministry Across Generations" See a full description and the time and place under News and Events below.

How is your own program progressing? Please send me stories about your successes, issues, and challenges.

In May, I'm hoping to offer a note or two from people with experience in making small group ministry available to children, youth, and multigenerational groups. If you have had such experience, please send me a note.

The remaining subtopics in the Making Small Group Ministry Available series are:
May- Youth, children, multigenerational groups
June - New members and graduates of the newcomers class
July - "Extra care required" members and long term members

In this issue, we also have an answer from Anne Haynes, at the UU Church of Bloomington, IN, to the question posed by Dick Loescher, from the UU Church in Eugene, Eugene, OR.

The UU SGM Institute returns to Camp deBenneville Pines, Angeles Oaks, CA, August 30 - September 2. See a full description of the Institute and how it can benefit you and your program under News and Events, below. I hope to see you there this year. If you need to fly to get there, there will be assistance with local transportation between Ontario, CA and Camp deBenneville Pines.

The Spring 2011 SGM Quarterly was mailed in March. The SGM Quarterly - Summer 2011 issue will contain:
"Connections" by Steve Becker, Westside UU Congregation, Seattle, WA
"Learning as Spiritual Practice" by Rev. Dr. Brent Smith, Grand Rapids, MI
Personal Credos by Bill Mahony, Eno River UUF, Durham, NC
Membership & SGM by Laura House-Kelly, Main Line Unitarian Church, Devon, PA
"SGM Program at the UU Church in Eugene" by Dick Loescher, Eugene, OR
Intergenerational Covenant Groups by Christine Gresser, Thomas Jefferson
Memorial Church UU, Charlottesville, VA

Why not join the UU Small Group Ministry Network now and receive both issues.

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 and $25 off of Institute registrations.

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 1,431 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 6 -
Youth, Children, and Multigenerational Groups
by Rev. Helen Zidowecki,
President, UU SGM Network

In working on a new Network publication for General Assembly, I am appreciative of how much has been done, and is being done, to make Small Group Ministry available for all ages. Congregations have completely changed their programming for children and youth; there is awareness of needs of parents and families; and we are becoming more intentional about sharing between the age groups. It is also very pertinent to recognize the writings and conferences that have given rise to Small Group Ministry in differing settings, including from religious educators. Small Group Ministry is a catalyst between ministry and religious education.

The new publication will give basic information, session plans, and stories that have been shared. There is still time to add your experiences of using Small Group Ministry with various age groupings, such as elders, young adults, youth, and younger children. I will be able to accommodate articles that I receive by May 31. Send them to me at

The title of the new publication? Probably Small Group Ministry With All Ages.

Note from Wilma Wake,
Church of the Larger Fellowship and Swedenborgian On-line Community

Thanks so much for Mary Heafy's article by on "Making Small Group Ministry Available for People with Disability" in the March issue. I am a fairly new participant in an on-line covenant group, and have come to realize how much my disability of "mild traumatic brain injury" can interfere with my following extended conversations that are completely in writing. Without vocal tones, facial gestures, and body language, I sometimes have to ask people to clarify the meaning behind their words. I can also get confused with the sequencing of topics, and sometimes have to ask for help in understanding which part of the sequence we are doing. I really appreciate the opportunity to be included in a covenant group and to be able to ask for help when I need it.

The group I am in is one of the covenant groups in the Church of the Larger Fellowship. I'm a member of the CLF. I'm also a Swedenborgian, and minister of the Swedenborgian on-line community. [] We don't have anything like covenant groups in our on-line community, and I'm really grateful to be part of the CLF covenant group program. I'm taking the on-line leadership training, and hope that eventually I can lead on-line covenant groups. On-line fellowship is so different, and so important as more and more people turn to on-line spiritual community.

Note from Brynda McCoy,
First Unitarian Church, Alton, IL

We currently have 6 groups at the First Unitarian Church in Alton, Illinois. We call ours Chalice Circles. We have a 50+ Circle which I facilitate. We have a Renegade Women's Circle, a Parents Seeking Peace Circle, a Belleville Chalice Circle, a Men's Circle, and a GLBT Circle. We are an officially Welcoming Church and have a good number of members and friends who self identify as either gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. This chalice circle has just recently organized itself. All meet on a monthly basis. We have a coordinator of the chalice circles. He does this as part of the Member Services Committee.

Repeat of a Question from Dick Loescher,
UU church in Eugene, Eugene, OR

Each year several people in our SGM groups, including some of the facilitators, express a wish and request that they would prefer that there be a brief time for open discussion after each individual has completed his or her uninterrupted sharing, rather than waiting until all have shared before having open discussion. I would like to know if any of your SGM or Covenant Groups have tried having open discussion after each individual has shared, and if so, what are the trade-offs (what is gained and what is lost) by having discussion after each person has shared compared with having open discussion after completion of individual sharing by all. If you have not tried this, I wonder what your thoughts and speculations are about the trade-offs of trying this.

Answer from Anne Haynes,
UU Church of Bloomington, IN

I enjoyed reading Dick Loescher's article about how and when to incorporate open discussion in a covenant group meeting. The last year I was a Chalice Circles facilitator, I tried a different alternative. In my previous groups, I had felt there was not enough time for people to chat informally, so I tried something I had heard someone else describe. Our meetings followed the same format as Dick's group meetings, but instead of including back-and-forth discussion in the actual meeting (except for discussion about where to hold the next meeting or other logistics, which we did before closing the meeting), we agreed to end our two-hour meetings 15 minutes early, after check-out and extinguishing the flame. Then we felt free to ask each other questions about things that may have come up in the sharing or just chat to catch up on each other's lives. People seemed to enjoy this, and I would probably want to offer this model with the next group I facilitate.

Editor's Note: At the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, some of our groups have allowed open discussion after individual sharing during the discussion part of the session. It has allowed people to relate their own experiences to the ones being shared and the groups often reach some new insights. In group process, this is called synergy, of course. As long as each participant is fully listened to and each participant is given the opportunity to speak, I think it can work.

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

News & Events

See Events for Details and Registration Information.


WORKSHOP: "Small Group Ministry Across Generations" GA Schedule for June 23, 2011, 2:45-4:00pm, Convention Center 208 B

Small Group Ministry for multi- and inter-generational participants deepens the search for meaning and relationships within congregations. This workshop explores the lifespan covenant group experience and shares successes, challenges and models of implementing Small Group Ministry for all ages, with a focus on families and elders.
Presenters are:
*Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Litchfield, ME
*Gail Forsyth-Vail, Adult Programs Director, Ministries and Faith Development, UUA
*Jessica York, Youth Resources Director, Ministries and Faith Development, UUA
*Rev. Carie Johnsen, UUCC, Augusta, ME


We will have resources, including some new publications. There will be opportunity to speak with Network members about the successes and challenges of your Small Group/Covenant Ministry.


Meet other Network members. Share your ideas for the Network, including what you have found helpful and things you would like to have considered in the next year. Time and place to be announced.

August 30-September 2, 2011
Camp deBenneville Pines, Angelus Oaks, CA
Registration Information is on the Network website.

An Institute designed for:

  • Individuals & teams from congregations of all sizes
  • Youth and young adults
  • New and experienced program organizers, facilitators, ministers, religious educators, and other congregational leaders

As participants, you will:

  • Learn about and practice Small Group Ministry through hands-on workshops, presentations, daily group sessions, worship, and networking
  • Explore the impact of Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups in congregations
  • Learn to lead your congregation's Small Group Ministry/Covenant Group program
  • Build your facilitator skills, including problem resolution
  • Create and select effective sessions, including the use of art, music, and movement
  • Hone your capacity to build Small Group Ministry for target groups such as elders, armed services personnel, and multi-generational audiences
  • Take home a plan for Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups specific to your setting
  • Enjoy the facilities, including a swimming pool and other recreational features
    (see )

Institute leaders are directly involved in Small Group Ministry Programs.

Watch the web site under Events for additional notes as the planning progresses.
Leaders for workshops may be drawn from congregations and specific Small Group Ministry Programs. These will be announced here as the program develops. * If you or your program has a specific area in which you would like to present from your program, please contact Helen Zidowecki through

* Workshops are designed for new and experienced program organizers, facilitators, ministers, religious educators, and congregational leaders. The week includes presentations, hands-on workshops, daily small group ministry/covenant group sessions, sharing, networking, informal chats, worship.
* We will have basic information as well as multiple sessions to explore Small Group Ministry for multigenerational and other focus groupings.

Travel: There are various ways to get to deBenneville Pines. Last year, people who were flying, came in to Ontario Airport, all arriving between 3-5pm on Monday afternoon, and drove up together in rented cars. Lodging overnight Monday is free, and we bought groceries, as the first meal provided by the camp is Tuesday evening.

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)

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

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

Copyright © 2004-2011 the UU Small Group Ministry Network