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Late July 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections Late July 2011
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • To Connect or To Isolate - Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU SGM Network
  • 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. I hope your summer has been restful and you've thought of ways to make your group more meaningful to you and the other participants or that you've developed some ideas that will make your program stronger and more available to members of your congregation. In either case, please consider sharing your thoughts, successes and challenges.

The remaining subtopic in the Making Small Group Ministry Available series is Extra Care Required Members and Long-Term Members. Please send me your experiences with making small group ministry available to members who require extra care and long-term members. We'll wrap up this series in August and begin a new series in the fall.

The UU SGM Network Institute returns to Camp deBenneville Pines, Angeles Oaks, CA, August 30 - September 2. This late July issue focuses on the Institute and its benefits to you, your congregation, and the small group ministry movement.

If you're starting a new program or restarting a program that's drifted or needs redefinition, sending a team to the Institute will ensure the success of your effort. In fact, this happens every year. Dozens of programs have been successfully started, restarted and redefined by teams of Institute graduates.

My own congregation will be sending 3 or 4 participants to the UU SGM Institute at Camp deBenneville Pines. We send participants every year to strengthen and institutionalize our program. Our small group ministry program is a critical part of our church and sending people to the Institute is specifically mentioned in our strategic plan. Each one of these participants has had a significant and enriching experience and has identified interactions with other participants and faculty as the most important part of that experience. As a result, five more leaders at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge understand the programmatic issues and know what needs to be done to support the leaders and keep the program vital. These Institute graduates have joined our steering team and taken on projects to improve our program. It makes all the difference.

See a full description of the Institute and how it can benefit you and your program under News and Events, below. The Network has received a grant from the UUA Fund for Unitarian Universalism that allows us to decrease the registration fee to $300 with a discount of $25 for Network members. For those who need to fly, this same grant also allows us to offer free local transportation between Ontario, CA and Camp deBenneville Pines.

In this issue, an article by Rev. Helen Zidowecki on the upcoming Institute, To Connect or To Isolate. Helen has organized and led the last three Institutes and she is playing that role this again this year. Susan Hollister and I are planning to be part of the faculty. I always learn a great deal, as we explore the newest issues and challenges together. Helen, Susan and I hope to see you or a team from your congregation.

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. As a member, you will receive the Quarterly journal by mail or by email. The fall issue is shaping up nicely. If you aren't currently a member, consider joining to receive this issue.

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

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

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

To Connect or To Isolate
By Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President
UU SGM Network

We expect groups to be actively connected with the congregation. In fact, one of the frequently heard concerns is that groups will become isolated. As that happens, we are likely to hear phrases like, "My group is just perfect. We don't need to meet with others. Everything is fine."

Now look at the programmatic level. One of the most frequently heard questions or concerns at the GA booth and in general communications between the Network and congregations is how to keep programs going long term--how to keep the energy. And we also hear congregational representatives say that things are going just fine, and there are no problems, there is no need to connect with others. Maybe both of these perspectives are indications of isolation.

Small Group Ministry is about connections - deeper connections within a small group AND broader connections with the larger community. The broader connections, the engaging with someone or a group beyond ourselves, keeps the group and the program fresh. This is also part of the imagery of the empty chair used by Bob Hill - there is someone, something beyond the present setting waiting to participate. Engage the broader connection.

I am pleased with the efforts going on within many districts to bring training in small group ministry to congregations and to facilitate sharing between congregations. Let us hear about efforts in your district.

The Small Group Ministry Institute is another wonderful place to broaden perspectives and celebrate what is going well; it is also a place to shape this UU ministry. The Institute is for all levels of involvement and experience with small group ministry. Sharing diverse perspectives, options, practices, successes, challenges and issues has allowed for the evolution of small group ministry in a truly Unitarian Universalist fashion. This year at the Institute, we will also begin to discuss how we can all work with our own districts and regions to provide support to congregations doing small group ministry and enhance opportunities for sharing.

Bring YOUR voice, YOUR experiences, YOUR successes, and YOUR challenges to the Institute this Summer. There is still time to register. Join others who have already registered from California, Oregon, Indiana, Louisiana, and Maine.

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.

August 30-September 2, 2011
Camp deBenneville Pines, Angelus Oaks, CA

Flier and Registration Information

We want to share new information about the Small Group Ministry Institute at deBenneville Pines August 30-Sept.2.

The UU Small Group Ministry Network received a grant from the Fund for Unitarian Universalism that allows us to lower the basic registration from $350 as originally publicized to $300, with discounts for
1. Early registration, and we have extended the date from July 1 to July 22;
2. Network membership either individually or through your congregation.

The Flier and Registration Forms reflect these changes. (If you have already registered, adjustment will be made.)

We are offering new focuses this year, in addition to the ongoing basic and evolving Small Group Ministry workshop and group sessions and facilitator training:
--Field Testing of modules on many aspects of Small Group Ministry programming that can be taken back to congregations or used in clusters and regions.
--Consideration of Small Group Ministry With All Ages, including using the new publication by that same name from the Network.
--Discussion of what is needed in Small Group Ministry to enhance the Justice GA planned for Phoenix 2012.

We would like to have congregations from all stages of using Small Group Ministry: considering and exploring, having a program, needing to re-envision a program, having let a program go. We rely so much on all 'voices'.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the Institute.

Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Institute Coordinator

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.

NOW ON CD! 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.

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.

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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