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August / September 2012

Small Groups, Deep Connections August / September 2012
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Membership in the UU Small Group Ministry Network, Susan Hollister, Treasurer, UU SGM Network
  • Evolution of Small Group Ministry, Part 4 Networking, Rev. Helen Zidowecki
  • Reproductive Justice Focus for SGM - Jessica Halperin, UUA and Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU SGM Network
  • Implementing SGM, UU SGM Network Board
  • June/July Question and One Answer
  • 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


I know many of you are restarting or recharging your covenant group programs this fall. I hope that process goes well for you and your church community. Please share your successes, challenges, plans and stories

In this issue we have a report on membership in the UU Small Group Ministry Network from Susan Hollister, Treasurer. Susan lists member privileges. Your membership and your church's membership allow us to share successes, problems, and solutions with each other. In particular, Covenant Group News is made possible by your membership support.

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 email or by mail.

The important role of the UU SGM Network continues, as we complete the series Evolution of Small Group Ministry, by Rev. Helen Zidowecki, with Part 4 Networking. This series began in October 2011 and continued in November 2011 and February 2012.

The UU Small Group Ministry Network partnered with the UU Women's Federation and the UUA Witness Ministries team to present the "Circles of Reflection: Engaging Women in Justice Work" workshop at GA 2012. We have a full report on this workshop from Jessica Halperin, Women's Issues Program Associate, UUA, and Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU SGM Network.

Implementing SGM, from the UU SGM Network Board, introduces a very valuable resource that program leaders can use to design, redesign, or enhance the small group ministry programs.

And, finally, I received one response to the June/July query about your summer small group ministry activities. The question and the first answer in included as our last article.

The Summer issue of the SGM Quarterly journal went out to members of the UU SGM Network in June. It included the third and last part the Deep Sharing article; Facilitators as Artists by Margaret Edwards of Piedmont UU Church, Charlotte, NC; Transition and Growth as a Facilitator by Cindy Evans of the UU Church of Sarasota, FL; and Weathering Change Through Small Group Ministry by the Rev. Robin Tanner, minister of Piedmont UU Church in Charlotte, NC. If you aren't currently a member, consider joining the Network to receive this and future issues.

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.

We have recently asked CG News subscribers to reaffirm their subscriptions. If you know someone who is no longer receiving CG News, they can subscribe via a link on the UU SGM Network website or directly:

If you are a coordinator and would like all the facilitators in your program to receive Covenant Group News, just send me the church name, city and state and facilitator names and emails and we'll add them to the email list. They will need to confirm when they receive the confirmation email.

Please share your ideas, questions, and experiences with the other 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

Membership in the UU Small Group Ministry Network
Susan Hollister, Membership Chair, UU SGM Network Board

This spring and summer we welcomed the following congregations as supporting members of the UU SGM Network:

Rogue Valley UU Fellowship, Ashland, OR
UU Society of Black Hawk County, Cedar Falls, IA
UU Fellowship of Vero Beach, FL
UU Church of Muncie, IN
South Church UU, Portsmouth, NH
First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, UT
Countryside UU Church, Palatine, IL
First Unitarian Church of Victoria, BC, Canada
Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL
First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, MO
Olympic UU Fellowship, Port Angeles, WA
UU Village Church, Hot Springs AR
All Souls UU Church, Colorado Springs, CO
UU Fellowship of the Peninsula, Newport News, VA
UUs of Southern Delaware, Lewes, DE
UU Church of Reading, MA
UU Church of Worcester, MA

The Network is currently supported by 145 member congregations and individuals in the U.S. and Canada. Our members make it possible for us to provide workshops for professional and lay leaders, help launch and sustain small group ministry programs, produce new resources and guidebooks, publish Covenant Group News and the SGM Quarterly, sponsor workshops and a consultation booth at General Assembly, maintain an informative and up-to-date website, and sponsor SGM Summer Institutes.

Our members receive the SGM Quarterly as it is published, three to four months before it is posted on our website. This publication includes a wide range of articles by ministers, program coordinators, and group facilitators, as well as information about upcoming events and publications. Receiving the Quarterly and Covenant Group News allows directors and group facilitators to feel a part of this large and exciting small group ministry movement, and stay connected to other participants across the U. S. and Canada.

Experienced Network leaders consult with member congregations about starting or invigorating small group ministry programs. A substantial discount on all books and CDs published by the Network is extended to members as well. At General Assembly, SGM participants from member congregations talk with and offer support to clergy and lay leaders of hundreds of SGM programs. Join the Network to benefit your own congregation and small group ministry across the denomination!

Evolution of Small Group Ministry
Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President UU SGM Network

Part 4 Networking

In previous articles, I have described the evolution of Small Group Ministry from evangelical Christian to Unitarian Universalist approach, from small groups to the impact on the congregations, and from adult-focused to all ages and focuses. The fourth evolution is going on now and involves everyone who is interested and involved in Small Group/Covenant Group ministry. This is an evolution from having founders and early leaders developing most of the resources to active involvement of many individuals and congregations.

This evolution appeared within the UU Small Group Ministry Network, as we increasingly included the input beyond the original organizers. It has been made possible by development of the Basic Elements of Small Group Ministry and understanding that there are many ways to implement the program within those elements. The series of "Myths About Small Group Ministry" in recent CGN issues show the flexibility in designing Small Group/Covenant Group Ministry for the specific situation.

The Network is moving the evolution from a clearing house to a more encompassing networking focus by making networking among congregations more accessible. In the next six months, we are planning on:

1.Putting the 100 pages of Implementing Small Group Ministry in its own section of the Network website, with opportunity for feedback and additional suggestions on the respective sections, and linking this to workshops for congregations and regional conferences.
2.Creating a section where members can share information about their programs and communicate with each other. There will also be designated sections for ministers, religious educators, lay Small Group/Covenant Group leaders and staff with resources and interactive capabilities.
3.Increasing the use of Facebook and development of a blog to increase awareness of Small Group Ministry work being done by all of us.

We look forward to increased interaction with all of you, and to having you as active members of the Network. The membership is so critical to the sustainability of the networking evolution that is under way. Join our networking now, join the Network now!

Reproductive Justice Focus For Small Group Ministry
Jessica Halperin, Women's Issues Program Associate, Unitarian Universalist Association
Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President, UU Small Group Ministry Network

Note: The June/July issue of CGN had a brief description of the GA workshop. This article is focused on the Reproductive Justice part of that workshop.

Commitment to Social Justice calls us to three equally-important phases of social justice work: 1) we prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually; 2) we act with others and those we would help to understand the spiritual implications and the outcomes of our actions. and 3) we reflect on the action that we take, or do not take. The intimacy (or relationships) and ultimacy (or the focus on meaning and significance) of Small Group Ministry is precisely what is needed for undertaking Social Justice work at a deeper level.

To do just that, the UU Small Group Ministry Network partnered with the UU Women's Federation and the UUA Witness Ministries team to present the "Circles of Reflection: Engaging Women in Justice Work" workshop at GA 2012. Understanding the power of Small Group Ministry, we had the total group of about 60 participants divide into smaller groups to experience session plans, including those on Reproductive Justice that were created by Jessica Halperin. The reaction to the experience was overwhelmingly positive.

The packet for the workshop is available from Network website and from the UUA site given below. Small group ministry can

*Offer a series of sessions around issues related to women, such as during March, Women's Month. There needs to be opportunity for men to engage in the sessions as well as women.
*Offer open or short-term, specific sessions to engage the congregation in Social Justice work, including congregational gatherings in which groups of 5-10 participants (including facilitator) experience the session plans.
*Be a designated part of an education/information meeting. It is critical that the Small Group Ministry session be separate from the other parts of the meeting, following the usual format and ways of interacting (personal, from the heart versus opinions from the mind). This can also be part of work with other congregations and community and interfaith groups, such as in "house meetings."

With a concern such as Reproductive Justice, it is important to include youth as well as adults. This can be done as age-specific sessions or mixed-aged sessions. Both are important, but mixed ages can give a broader perspective of the issues.

The three Reproductive Justice sessions featured in the GA workshop covered various sub-topics, including reproductive choice and loss, anti-oppression/multiculturalism, and raising children. Purposefully created for people of varying ages and experiences, they seek to introduce some of the issues related to reproductive justice in order to ground and deepen the social justice actions of the congregation in spiritual relationships. Working for reproductive justice can be challenging because of the politically- and emotionally-charged nature of the issues, as well as the call to multiculturalism and anti-oppression within the framework.

Reproductive justice, differentiated from the frameworks of reproductive "health" or "rights/choice," is a movement towards the full autonomy and wholeness of each person's reproductive and sexual life. Broader than 'reproductive rights,', which is characterized by a legislative battle for privacy, and deeper than 'reproductive health', which is often thought of as provision of services to individuals, reproductive justice is a framework created in the 1990s by coalitions of women of color left out of previous frameworks. Because of our historic commitment to reproductive choice and our calling to become an anti-racist and multicultural religious tradition, Unitarian Universalists are uniquely capable of deep public witness and impact for reproductive justice.

Indeed, at the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, delegates chose Reproductive Justice to be the next Congregational Study/Action Issue, which means that for the next four years, this topic will be the subject of denomination-wide education and witness. The Small Group Ministry Sessions discussed here are a great way for your congregation to start learning about these issues. They can be found within the Congregational Resource Packet for Reproductive Justice, which is available free-of-charge on

For more information about Small Group Ministry, contact Helen Zidowecki at Discussion of the phases of Social Justice work and accompanying session plans are in the new publication, Social Justice Work: Preparation, Action and Reflection Through Small Group Ministry. And look for more Small Group Ministry resources as they are developed by the Network and by others and made available to the Network.

For more information about Reproductive Justice and how your congregation can get involved, contact Jessica Halperin (

Implementing Small Group Ministry
UU Small Group Ministry Network Board
We have been talking about the resource, Implementing Small Group Ministry. An older version is on the free resource section of the Network website, but the document has grown to over 100 pages, with suggestions from congregations and discussions at conferences. Following is an example of how this works, applied to a question of where groups meet that was raised on the UUA e-list. The format for Implementing is to give the guidelines for making a decision, followed by a chart format that presents a variety of options. The decision of the options used will depend on the situation. This is adapted from the 2011 Small Group Ministry Institute edition, under the section, Groups Galore!

Where: The meeting space must be free from disruption and distraction, readily accessible, and comfortable.
*The space can be arranged with or without a table.
*Geographic area may also be a consideration.
*There can be variation in meeting location, sometimes in homes, sometimes at church or other settings. The above guidelines are part of determining any meeting location.

Meet in homes. This helps the group members understand and appreciate home setting of the members and adds to group bonding. However, offering a home for a meeting is an option rather than a requirement. Meeting in a home might be inconvenient or a burden for a group member. Meet at the church. The space at the church needs to be available to the group at the designated time (on the church calendar), and the group use of the space is a priority (versus other groups or rentals). Meeting at church may be more convenient for group members. The church may be seen as a more 'neutral' area.

We are looking forward to getting Implementing onto the Network website as soon as possible. We plan to include a way for you to contribute your ideas, comments, and experiences so that this is an evolving document.

June/July Question and One Answer
How is Small Group Ministry part of your Summer Spirituality?

The intimacy that we have and the need for the relationships continue even as the seasons change. But the way we carry out Small Group Ministry has wide variation. Here are some things that we have heard or experienced in our own congregations:

  • SGM continues throughout the summer the same as throughout the rest of the year
  • Groups may meet less frequently. This is usually going from twice a month to monthly or once or twice during the summer.
  • Groups take 'field trips', like visiting at summer places of members, with informal activities (possibly even swimming!)
  • There may be specific summer SGM, especially in areas that have an influx of people during the summer.
  • Suspend SGM for the summer.

There are undoubtedly other variations. Whatever you do in SGM, I hope that your summer is refreshing, renewing and enjoyable.

Response from Claude VanderVeen, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee

My group meets during the summer, and we alternate serious topics with "fun" things, like seeing and discussing The Invention of Lying, and a potluck dinner. We still do check in and check out,

Other responses are still welcome.

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 all events, more details and registration information.

Small Group Ministry & Covenant Group
Introduction& Facilitator Training

Saturday, September 22, 2012, 9-4:30
Hosted by the First Church in Barre -- Universalist, 19 Church Street, Barre, VT

Facilitator: Rev. M'ellen Kennedy at mellenken@aol.comor 802-479-0114.
Flier/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 Social Justice Work: Preparation, Action, Reflection Through Small Group Ministry
The publication includes
--The Process of Social Justice work, with distinct phases of preparation, action, and reflection.
--Background and use of Small Group Ministry, and
--34 session plans for Social Justice work
Book $25/$15 for members CD $20/$15 for members
Order form is on line

Small Group Ministry with All Ages
Explores multigenerational covenant groups and their integration into congregations. Implementation strategies, leader training, session development, and session plans for children through elders are included. June 2011
BOOK Network Members: $20 plus $6 shipping Non-members: $30 plus $6 shipping
CD Network Members: $15 plus $2 shipping Non-members: $20 plus $2 shipping

Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs
Sessions on Spiritual Journeying, Personal Beliefs and Values, Spiritual Challenges, Holidays, and more. Themes drawn from art, literature, UU liturgy and hymnals, current events, and religious scriptures. June 2010.
CD Network Members: $15 plus $2 shipping Non-members: $20 plus $2 shipping

Small Group Ministry 2010: Celebrating Congregations. Over 100 congregations relate their SGM program origins, challenges and success stories.

Small Group Ministry for Youth. Twenty-five sessions for middle and high school youth.

Implementing Small Group Ministry. Download from Online Resources.

Facilitator Training and Development Manual. A guide for training and support plus a handbook on CD to customize for group leaders and facilitators.

Small Groups, Deep Connections

Social Media

In keeping up with the newest technologies, we are working to help others keep up with our activities and join the conversations by expanding to social media.

We have added some new pages to Facebook. First is the Small Group Ministry Network group, in which people are encouraged to post their own thoughts and comments. We will also be posting some events and announcements there as well.

Another group is the UU Small Group Ministry Lab, which is general discussion area to exchange ideas, resources and session content.

If you are not yet a member of Facebook, joining is completely free to everyone.

We have also started a blog, entitled Small Groups, Deep Connections, to help share older materials to a larger public as well as new articles and announcements. It is still being developed, and can be found here

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 (
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 © 2004-2012 the UU Small Group Ministry Network