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May 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections May 2011
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 6 - Youth, Children, and Multigenerational Groups - Report on a Trip to Baton Rouge, LA - by Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU SGM Network
  • Note and a Question from Loretta Carmickle, Co-Coordinator, UU Church of Amado/Green Valley, AZ
  • Two Answers
  • 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 were pleased to have the Rev. Helen Zidowecki visit for a weekend on May 21 and 22. See Helen's article in this issue about her experience. Four teens attended the workshop on small group ministry for youth. They were somewhat reticent when we began, but by afternoon were offering reasons that covenant groups would be great for our church's youth and wondering how we can sell it to them. Some of the questions we need to answer: What will the role of adults be in the groups? Will they meet on Sunday morning, Sunday night, or some other time? How often will they meet? Can the groups meet at private homes, as our other groups do? It is exciting work.

Later in the year, I hope to be able to include articles on direct experiences with small group ministry for youth. If you have implemented covenant groups for children or youth, please send me your story.

On a related note: See the information under Publications below about Rev. Helen Zidowecki's new book Small Group Ministry with All Ages, available June 2011. See the note under Publications below for more information and to find out how to order a copy.

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

Please send me your experiences with making small group ministry available to new members and newcomers class graduates.

In this issue, we have a note and a question from Loretta Carmickle, Co-Coordinator of the covenant group program at the UU Church of Amado/Green Valley, A.Z. I offer one answer, but I'd like to hear yours.

If you're attending General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, please drop by the UU SGM Network booth. If you have some time to serve in the booth, you can sign up then. We talk to people about their programs and discuss issues and problems with them.

Also consider attending our workshop, sponsored again by the GA Planning Committee: "Small Group Ministry Across Generations" June 23, 2011, 2:45-4:00pm, Convention Center 208 B. See more explanation under News and Events below.

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. Several of the leaders from our program in Baton Rouge attended the Institute in 2009 and 2010. Since then, they have served on our sgm steering team and our program is stronger because of the broad understanding they received and the deep experiences they shared with other participants. If you need to fly to get there, there will be assistance with local transportation between Ontario, CA and Camp deBenneville Pines.

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

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 -
Report on a Trip to Baton Rouge, LA -
by Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU SGM Network Network

I appreciated the opportunity to be at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge May 21-22 to lead a workshop on Small Group Ministry With Youth. Transformation occurred with the session plans on "Youth-Adult Relations" and "Being a Facilitator." The youth are ready to take this on! They will be working with the incoming DRE, SGM Coordinator and youth coordinator on the logistics.

It was an honor to work with Rev. Steve Crump on the Sunday Service, where I described the movement toward Small Group Ministry for all ages as being in a swimming pool.

"Now think of a large swimming pool and the water is Small Group Ministry. The adults were the first into the water. They found small group ministry to be a great experience. But if it were such a wonderful thing, why should it be for adults only? If we want our children and youth to understand the culture of the congregation and to stay in the congregation, why not introduce them to small group ministry? If small group ministry is going to change our congregations, and our children and youth are our future leaders, we had better involve them in this new way of "doing church."

Small Group Ministry/Covenant Group materials became available for Young Adults, youth, and children initially between 2003 and 2005. So other ages have been exposed the Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups. But the pool is still filled primarily with adults.

But in order to swim in a pool with all ages, we have to move all around the pool. What happens when we have small group ministry with mixed ages? Or with families? This could get pretty interesting with lots of splashing. Maybe we need to have a some lanes set aside for swimming laps, like being with our own age groups. And then we have some open water so that ages can mix. And maybe people can move between the lanes and the open area! How much fun! How much energy! How much possibility!"

My visit was capped with an afternoon with their group leaders and members. In addition to an overview of their program, they field-tested a session plan critique sheet that will be on the Network website. This is a tool for reviewing the numerous session plans that are available as well as a guide for developing session plans.

Thanks, Baton Rouge, for your contributions to Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups.
Helen Zidowecki

Note and a Question from
Loretta Carmickle, Co-Coordinator
Small Group Ministry/Covenant Circles
UUC Amado/Green Valley

Hello Diana --- Since my attendance at the SGM Institute last August, we have been able to start four Covenant Circles based on the SGM model here at our 150-member UU congregation in Amado - near Green Valley, AZ. We will be completing our first cycle at the end of April, when many members leave for points north, but plan to have at least two Covenant Circles meet through the summer and early fall months.

While things seem to be going well in general, we do seem to have a problem with at least one group resisting the "too much structuring" of the model and feel that it hinders rather than promotes intimacy. They would like to take time in the Checking-In time to respond to personal needs expressed, feeling that this is a way to minister to one another.

How should I respond to this? I have tried to emphasize the importance of staying within the boundaries of the model, but there is continued resistance to this.

Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!

Two Answers -
from Diana Dorroh and Rev. Helen Zidowecki

From Diana Dorroh:
I'm so glad to hear about your success. And, of course people are challenging the model.

Challenges to the model are common, often creative and must be handled. During check-in, we listen to each other and don't respond. This is a profound kind of listening that many people may not have experienced. It is respectful and supportive. Most people do not want solutions to their problems...they want somebody to listen and honor their struggle. Can you imagine everyone chiming in with their take on a participants divorce? Yikes. It's fine to talk with him or her over refreshments or outside the group, especially if you have some specific information that may be useful.

One way to respond to challenges is to say that this model has worked well in your church. It provides a safe container, within which people can share and grow. Within that model, there is a great deal of freedom, but it's important to keep the container intact.

In our training sessions at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, I tell our leaders to remember that they are authorized to implement our church's model, but not authorized to change it, so they don't have to persuade members to accept it. When the model is challenged, I suggest that they say: "If you'd like to be part of another type of group, I'm sure our Adult Program Chair would consider letting you implement it, but I'm not authorized to change the basic model for our covenant group."

From Rev. Helen Zidowecki
I am involved with a long time group that has a pattern of responding during check-in. Since our in depth discussion at the Summer Institute 2010, we have become more intentional in listening. Our responses have been more along the line of "we hear you" and less offering suggestions. In fact, we have really started self-monitoring quite well. And there is the understanding that we can -- and do -- communicate outside of the session. I personally feel that the sessions are freer, because I am not expected to respond. But it takes practice as it is a new way of being with each other, and against cultural expectations."


Editor's Note: Please submit your answer to Loretta's question. We'll publish them in Covenant Group News.

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

Flier and Registration Information
Learn about Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups
Share your experiences <><> Make a difference

1. Field Testing Modules for workshops in congregations and on regional basis
2. New resource on Small Group Ministry for All Ages
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! Small Group Ministry with All Ages, June 2011
Imagine a congregation where all ages are talking together. From its firm foundation in adult programming, Small Group Ministry is evolving to become an inclusive opportunity for all ages to connect, listen, reflect, and learn with each other. This publication explores small group ministry by age group and with mixed ages and presents ways for covenant groups to become an integral part of the momentum toward multigenerational congregations. Includes implementation strategies, session plan development, and sessions for single and multi-age groups.

Network Members: $20 plus $6 shipping     Non-members: $30 plus $6 shipping

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 $6 shipping     Non-members: $30 plus $6 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 $6 shipping     Non-members: $25 plus $6 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

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