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August 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections August 2011
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Making Your SGM Program Available to Current Members, Susan Hollister, Treasurer, UU SGM Network
  • Note on Keeping Your Program Visible from Grace Hirsh, co-leader, SGM Program, Manatee UU Fellowship, FL
  • Including People who Require Extra Care in Your SGM Program
  • 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. Well, it's finally fall. It's a time for starting new groups, doing special small group ministry Sundays and leader and group recognition. Please share what your congregation is doing this fall with the other 1480 readers of Covenant Group News.

The UU SGM Network Institute returns to Camp deBenneville Pines, Angeles Oaks, CA, August 30 - September 2. In the September issue of Covenant Group News, I'll let you know what issues surfaced at this Institute.

The subject of this issue - Making SGM Available to Members who Require Extra Care and to Long-Term Members--is the last subtopic in this series on Making SGM Available. I'll include a wrapup article in the September Covenant Group News. However, if you have additional thoughts, please send them to me at anytime.

In this issue, we have two articles from UU SGM Network Board members on making small group ministry available to current members and I've included my own thoughts on making sgm available to people who require extra care. I lifted the article by Susan Hollister, our Board Treasurer and co-editor of the SGM Quarterly, with permission, from the training materials we will take to the Institute this week. Grace Hirsh, also a UU SGM Network Board member, graciously agreed to write a note on how they make their sgm program visible at Manatee UU Fellowship in Florida.

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is financially independent of the UUA. The Board depends 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 1,480 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 Your SGM Program Available to Current Members
From a training session by Susan Hollister, Treasurer, UU SGM Network

If your church members understand your small group ministry program, they'll be more likely to want to join a group.

So, how would you help your church members understand your small group ministry program and how to join a group?

* fliers,
* brochures,
* newsletter articles,
* pulpit announcements,
* a page on the church website,
* a bulletin board display,
* an information table during Coffee Hour.

Other ideas:
* a small group ministry Sunday with a sermon by the minister or testimonials from participants. Having the minister promote the program makes it exciting and credible. If the Minister thinks it's a good thing, people are more motivated to join.

* An installation service or a formal recognition of all the facilitators and group members during a Sunday service make the program welcoming.

Editor's Note: Providing openings throughout the year is important to making sgm available to everyone. This might require recruiting and training new facilitators when a new group is needed or having a few trained facilitators in reserve.

A Note on Keeping Your Program Visible
Grace Hirsh, co-leader, Small Group Ministry, Manatee UU Fellowship, FL and Board Member, UU SGM Network

At Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, we try all year to keep Small Group Ministry on everyone's mind. When we disbanded for the summer, we had 19 participants in three groups which we call Chalice Circles. Pretty good for our small congregation of 90 folks.

We have a new colorful poster up which was designed in the spring. As we regroup in September, we will have an article in our newsletter, the Update, at least every 2 months, telling what sort of service we give to the church and the community and something about the value of Chalice Circles. On the last Sunday of each month, we set up a table in the Social Room with information about Chalice Circles and one of the facilitators stays by the table to talk to anyone who stops by. There are always brochures and registration forms in the Social Room for people to pick up. A brochure is also in the New Member packet so new members become acquainted with Chalice Circles right from the start.

Including People Who Require Extra Care in Your Small Group Ministry Program - - by the Editor

An article I wrote for CG News, January 2010, contains most of my thoughts on this subject.

Four types of "extra care required" situations are covered in this article:

(a) people who are not able to be in right relationship and cannot seem to listen or share time fairly?
(b) people who continually challenge the model.
(c) people who challenge the boundaries, with sharing that would be more appropriate for a therapy group or that contains over-sexualized, racist or homophobic comments, etc.?
(d) all of us who have ever had a bad day or been through a life crisis.

Including people who require extra care can be a major accomplishment for the group. If the participant modifies his or her behavior enough so that the model and covenant of the group are maintained and, simultaneously, group members fully engage in the spiritual practices of acceptance and welcoming, something holy can occur. This is truly radical hospitality.

The keys to making small group ministry available to people who require extra care are:
(1) a strong congregational model and good training and support for the group leaders and
(2) group leaders who implement the model, including adopting a covenant and keeping it before the group, and seeking help and support from the coordinator or minister when people needing extra care join their groups.

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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