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September 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections September 2011
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Connecting Small Group Ministry with the Justice Focus of General Assembly 2012
  • Making Small Group Ministry Available - Series Wrap-up
  • Small Group Ministry Myths - Rethinking Program Design Choices - Introduction
  • Revisioning Workshop at UU Community Church, Augusta, ME, from Kathy Kellison Note on Fall Activities from Judy Ann Langston, Tennessee Valley UU, Knoxville, TN
  • Note from Rev. Wendy McNiven, Minister, UU Fellowship of Kamloops, BC
  • 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. The UU Small Group Ministry Institute at UU Camp deBenneville Pines was exhilarating, as it always is. This year, the faculty produced drafts of modules that will be made available to others who want to do training on how to run a successful small group ministry program. Our plan is to have them available in 2012. One new topic was Steering Committee selection, criteria, role, recommended training and the optimum working relationship between the Coordinator, Steering Committee, and Minister.

In this issue, we have a request from the UU Small Group Ministry Network Board to you to send sessions on social justice for use before, during and after the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix.

Also in this issue, we have notes from Judy Ann Langston, at Tennessee Valley UU in Knoxville, TN and Rev. Wendy McNiven, UU Fellowship of Kamloops, BC. We also have an article on a recent Revisioning Workshop by Kathy Kellison, Coordinator of the small group ministry (SGM) program at UU Community Church, Augusta, ME. I'd like to include more stories in the October and November issues of CG News about what congregations are doing in their SGM programs this fall. Please send me yours.

I've included a wrap-up article on Making Small Group Ministry Available, listing the subtopics and contributors. This has been a theme for the past year. I hope it has given you some ideas to make your group more welcoming and your program more inclusive.

Two series are planned for the upcoming year: Small Group Ministry Myths - Rethinking Program Design Choices and Evolution of UU Small Group Ministry. The SGM Myths topic was introduced in the fall 2011 issue of the UU SGM Quarterly. An introduction to this topic is included in this issue. Rev. Helen Zidowecki will lead us through the series on the topic Small Group Ministry Development and Evolution. Helen is currently President of the UU Small Group Ministry Network and has been developing this material over the course of several UU SGM Institutes. We'd like your input as well.

There are several exciting SGM training opportunities this fall--at the UU Church of Chattanooga, TN, First Unitarian Society of Newton, MA, the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, New York, U Bar U Conference Center, near San Antonio, TX, and the UU Fellowship of Winston Salem, NC. Details and registration information can be found on the Events Page of the UU Small Group Ministry Network website

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is financially independent of the UUA. It depends upon membership and publications sales to cover the 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 of the Quarterly was just sent to members. If you aren't currently a member, consider joining to receive this issue. In addition to the article that launched the CG News series on SGM Myths, this fall issue of the Quarterly featured:

* Show Instead of Tell From "Initial Facilitator Training" by Susan Hollister, SGM Institute, August 2011

* Covenant Groups as Community Pastoral Care by Reverend Heather Janules, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, Bethesda, Maryland and

* UU President Morales' Vision As Seen Through Small Group Ministries by Reverend Judy Tomlinson, Associate Minister, UU Congregation at Montclair, New Jersey

The Network website,, contains information about the UU Small Group Ministry Network, articles by leaders in the SGM 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 1,483 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

Connecting Small Group Ministry with the Social Justice Focus
Preparing for General Assembly 2012

Are you or have you created session plans for Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups around Social Justice? Share them with the larger UU community through the UU Small Group Ministry Network.

Send Session Plans that:
Engage and prepare people to do Social Justice work.
Prepare people to attend General Assembly, especially in 2012 (
Provide reflection after action is taken.
Bring General Assembly experience back to the congregation.
Please focus Social Justice Session plans on:
Social Justice as part of living our UU faith
Specific Justice issues such as Immigration and Migration, and Racial and Economic Justice.
Submit sessions by November 1, and ongoing.
Session Plans will be reviewed for application to the GA themes mentioned above to be placed in the Special Social Justice section.
We will publicize the availability of session plans to congregations and GA planners.

We look forward to receiving your session plans.

Making Small Group Ministry Available
Series Wrap-up

For the last year, we've been focusing on making small group ministry available to more people by considering nine specific categories of individuals who might be underserved. What I've learned over this year is to be attentive to the needs of individuals in my congregation and to ask the questions: Are there barriers to participation in our small group ministry program? Can those barriers be overcome with a modification, like providing childcare or scheduling meetings at the church? Are there modifications leaders can make in individual groups to be more welcoming to people with disabilities and people who need extra care? In case you'd like to refer to one of the individual topics, here's a list of the individual articles and the main contributors, by month. All issues of CG News, back to Rev. Bob Hill's first issue in November 1998, are available on the UU SGM Network website.

October 2010 - Introduction - Diana Dorroh
November 2010 - Members Challenged by Distance - Sandy Lubert, Sue Majors, Rev. and Rev. Lynn Ungar
December 2010 - Parents of Young Children - Diana Dorroh
January 2011 - Elders - Dottie Kelly, and Jan Bowden
February 2011 - Elders - Rev. Helen Zidowecki
March 2011 - People with Disabilities - Mary Heafy
April and May 2011 - Youth, Children, and Multigenerational Groups - Rev. Helen Zidowecki
June 2011 - New Members and Newcomers Class Graduates - Diana Dorroh
August 2011 - People Who Need Extra Care and Current Members - Susan Hollister, and Grace Hirsh and Diana Dorroh

Small Group Ministry Myths --
Rethinking Program Design Choices -- Introduction

This topic was launched in the fall issue of the UU SGM Quarterly, with an exploration of the myth that groups must dissolve after one church year. Actually, whether groups are time limited, ongoing, or a mix of the two is one of the many choices that congregations must make. After endorsing the basics of small group ministry, there are many other program decisions to be made, e.g., the number of meetings per month, the length of time for the groups, one or two facilitators, and whether verbal interaction is allowed or not during the topic part of the meeting. Often these choices are based on the goals the church has for its small group ministry program. At the UU SGM Network GA booth, we heard repeated sharings about problems resulting from one of these choices. Often, the church's program leaders had forgotten that it was a choice and thought their program decision was one of the basic elements and could not be changed. Our advice was to review the choice, keeping in mind the congregations mission and goals for small group ministry. I am just beginning to understand the role that congregational goals play. I hope we can explore this together over the coming months. Some of the possible topics, from the Fall Quarterly:

  1. Groups Must Dissolve After One Year.
  2. Only ministers can direct Small Group Ministry programs.
  3. Facilitators Meetings are covenant groups for the facilitators/Facilitators Meetings don't work.
  4. Groups grow larger than 10 members, then split.
  5. Groups meet once a month/Groups meet twice a month.
  6. Group meetings are cancelled when the facilitator is unable to attend.
  7. If you can't arrive on time, don't attend the SGM meeting.
  8. If you don't have anything to say or share, you don't belong in SGM.
  9. No response to comments during topic sharing.
  10. Significant changes to the program cannot be made without a complete restart.
  11. Food is prohibited.
  12. A service project doesn't count if there is not 100% participation.

Revisioning Workshop at UU Community Church, Augusta, ME
Kathy Kellison, Small Group Ministry Coordinator

Small Group Ministry started at UUCC 12 years ago. We felt the need to consider anew the role of Small Group Ministry within our congregation, including changes over the years in the congregation and in the Small Group Ministry model itself.

On Saturday September 17, 28 people gathered to explore Small Group Ministry at our church. With the help of expert facilitation provided by Peg and Tom Herbert of the Concord, New Hampshire Unitarian Universalist Church, we began by looking at what having this ministry provides to us individually and to our congregation. We created a broad vision. From there we looked at the basic elements that define Small Group Ministry. What makes it different from other aspects of church life?

Group participants, both current and past, had an opportunity to describe how their groups work and hear how each group is similar to other groups and yet unique. We all thought about how important small group ministry has been over the last 12 years and what we need and want for its future. Members of the Small Group Ministry Committee listened closely and will explore the information more fully as we move ahead with our task of enhancing the vibrancy of small group ministry. The food provided by two of our groups was the pinnacle of a very satisfying day.

Many of the contributions to our vision of Small Group Ministry focused on relationships and how they are 'broadened', strengthened' and 'deepened' by participation. We reflected that qualities of Small Group Ministry have permeated our church culture, most notably an increase in civility at committee and membership meetings since we began this practice. We noted that unlikely friendships have developed through group participation. We have become clearer about what being a Unitarian Universalist means to us and have learned to speak up about it in many settings. The opportunity to minister to one another through group participation is a gift for both giver and receiver. We are grateful for the ability and willingness of groups to welcome and integrate those who are new to our community. In a very brief time we identified a wealth of gifts available through Small Group Ministry.

After reviewing the basic elements of Small Group Ministry, we talked about how we might reinvigorate our practice. We looked at creating more connection between groups, encouraging groups to become involved in more service projects, offering group leaders opportunities to expand their vision and skill as they work with their groups and making Small Group Ministry even more available and accessible to those who are interested in participating. It is in these areas that the committee will be focusing in coming weeks.

We plan to recruit some new leaders for this ministry, and expect to begin some new groups. We will be offering training to group leaders in October. Our plan is to meet with all current leaders and those who want to join the leadership ranks. We will be launching new groups in January. The Small Group Ministry Committee and I look to the future with hope and enthusiasm.

A Note on Fall Activities from Judy Ann Langston, Tennessee Valley UU Church, Knoxville, TN

Dear SGM Network Board members,

We've LIKED and appreciated every contact with you. We WISH UU's from TVUUC had been able to participate in the SGM Institute with you in California-and had brought new SGM members and facilitators. We'll be working on that for the future. Sunday, August 21st, at TVUUC, we hosted a Small Group Ministry Introductory Group- a large gathering, then three break-out groups. During the preceding weeks, we staffed a SGM Information Table, kicked off by a July 14th SGM service led by Jerry Bone's Tuesday morning SGM group.

Long term members and new or not-yet members of the church. signed up for the Intro groups. As a result we're beginning a new group with a pair of fine facilitators and replenishing standing groups. The signees are people with whom we talked at the Information Table and who have experienced an introductory session. Larkie Gildersleeve gave an excellent presentation using Susan Hollister's materials at the outset of the meeting.

The 2009 SGM Institute at The Mountain, Susan's gift of a weekend training here in the spring of 2010, and the SGM excitement at the 2011 GA have kept our batteries charged. Adhering to the model works. We've done that at TVUUC and the program is healthy. It sagged in the time after the shooting. The current SGM Committee members are a bunch of worker bees with a lively sense of humor and a keen appreciation of SGM.

The SGM committee, comprised of Larkie, Toni Powell, Linda Randolph, and me, will be in beautiful Belfast, Maine Wednesday, August 31st to Wednesday, September 7th as Linda's guests.

With fond memories, affection, and appreciation.

Note from Rev. Wendy McNiven, Minister,
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Kamloops, BC

Hi Diana,

In Kamloops, a tiny congregation, we have two Sundays a month for a modified, and open, "chalice circle" format rather than a regular worship service.

The topics are often related to the service of the week before. We never know how many people will show up, but it's usually between 10 and 18, compared with maybe 25 to 35 on service Sundays. Whoever is there gets divided into groups of 5 to 7 people, with pre-chosen facilitators.

They begin with a whole-group welcome and chalice lighting; they finish with a whole-group closing, including a brief sharing of particular insights (anonymous) if any.

This has been happening for two church years now, and people seem to appreciate the time together. In a way that is less labour-intensive for them than regular services. It is rare to have a "new" person come to those Sundays, but it does happen.

I am the 1/4-time minister, and I live in a different city, so I'm almost never there for the CC's. I usually create or co-create the questions and assemble the readings etc.

Thanks for your good work!

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

News & Events

Unitarian Universalist
Congregation at Shelter Rock
Small Group Ministry Workshop

Saturday, October 8, 2011
8:30 am to 4:30 pm

- Current SGM facilitators (especially those who have been doing this for years)
- Anyone thinking about becoming a facilitator
- Anyone who wants to learn how SGM helps us grow spiritually while deepening our connections to others

Flier and Registration form

UU Small Group Ministry Retreat:
Program Development & Renewal with Peter Bowden
Friday - Sunday, October 14 - 16, 2011
U Bar U Retreat & Conference Center, San Antolnio

First UU San Antonio is proud to offer a weekend Small Group Ministry training with Peter Bowden, Unitarian Universalist Growth Consultant and co-founder of the UU Small Group Ministry Network. This training has been designed for clergy and lay leaders seeking to strengthen congregation-wide small group ministry programs. This program will cover the following core areas, as well as opportunities for worship, networking and hands on small group experience. See Events.

Small Groups, Big Returns

Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Leader
Enrich (or start) their Adult and Teen Small Group Ministry Programs.

WHEN:October 15th, Saturday, 2011 from 9:30am-4:30pm
WHERE:the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, for directions
WHO:any person ages 13 yrs-100 yrs who is interested in strengthening their ministry for adults and youth utilizing the Small Group Ministry model
Register at and/or contact the SGM Co-Coordinators at for more information

Healing and Transformation in Small Groups
Saturday, October 29, 2011
9 AM to 4:30 PM
Registration, coffee and light breakfast starting at 8:30
Hosted by the First Unitarian Society of Newton
1326 Washington Street, West Newton, MA 02465
Rev. Dr. M'ellen Kennedy, Leader

WORKSHOP PURPOSE: In the past decade many congregations have adopted Small Group Ministry or Covenant Groups to address the needs of friendship and spiritual growth in our congregations. This workshop is aimed at facilitators who are eager to take the group experience to a higher level. The focus of our day will be exploring the question, "What leads to healing and transformation in small groups?"

WHO SHOULD ATTEND: The workshop is aimed primarily at facilitators who have some experience (preferably at least a year). It works very well to have in the mix a few inexperienced people (such as new facilitators or board members) who can learn from and be carried along by the more experienced members. So, a few inexperienced folks are welcome to participate with a prior okay from Rev. Kennedy.

See Events for more information and registration.

See Events for all events, more details and registration information.

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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