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May / June 2013

Small Groups, Deep Connections May / June 2013
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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Small Group Ministry and Covenant Group
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • *Notice to the Membership from President Helen Zidowecki
  • *Key Success Factors - reprinted from Facilitator Training and Development, with one Revision
  • *UU SGM Institute -Participation Options and Enhancing Leadership Roles
  • 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 hope your small group ministry program is continuing to grow, adapt and meet your church's goals, as well as your own spiritual needs. Please send your stories, issues and questions to for publication in Covenant Group News.

If you're attending General Assembly, June 19 - 23, in Louisville, Kentucky, please visit the SGM Network Booth. It's Booth #419 in the Exhibit Hall. At the booth, you may purchase resources, share challenges and successes, speak with Network board members and sgm program leaders, and get answers to all your sgm and covenant group questions.

This issue focuses on the UU SGM Institute, July 22-26, at Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center in New Jersey, a Unitarian Universalist camp and conference site. The information and registration is on the website for the Network and for the Central Eastern Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA ( Registration is done on line and payment is by credit card or check In addition to the specific tracks, special focus sessions, and meetings for various groups, we are planning time for case conferences. Bring a situation that you would like to present for discussion and for suggestions toward resolution. Bring the great things that your congregation is doing to share with others. Come, join us and enrich our time together.

About six years ago, I put together a list of Key Success Factors for Small Group Ministry. Susan Hollister and I included that list in the publication, Facilitator Training and Development Manual, from the UU SGM Network I've reprinted the list below, with one addition. Last week, I had the opportunity to work with two leaders and the minister of another South Louisiana church, as they made plans for a new covenant group program. As I told the story of our mistakes and corrections here in Baton Rouge, it occurred to me that I left a very significant item off of that list of key success factors:

Continued communication and networking with program leaders from other churches, to learn how to adapt and enhance your sgm program.

Most of my own communications were with other UU SGM Network members and much of that networking took place at the previous UU SGM Institutes---especially the very first one - in 2005. So, come to the Institute in July and ask your leaders and your minister(s) to attend as well. If you can't be with us, you'll hear some of the new ideas in future CG News and Journal editions or posts to our social media (see Social Media below) and website.

We also have an article from Rev. Helen Zidowecki exploring how ministers, religious educators and program leaders will benefit from the Institute. There are many participation options, for those who live near the site, Murray Grove, Lanoka Harbor, NJ.

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is financially independent of the UUA. It depends upon membership and publications sales to cover its modest expenses. Check 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 SGM Journal by email or by mail.

The Spring/Summer issue of the SGM Journal went out to members of the UU SGM Network in late April. It included Expanding Small Group Ministry Beyond the Congregation, SGM Introductory Sessions at Main Line Unitarian Church (Devon, PA), Inviting People Into Small Groups, Celebrating Our Tenth Year of Covenant Groups (UU Church of Buffalo, NY), and Sticky Groups: Small Groups That Work. 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 Journal. See the News section below on some exciting enhancements to the Network website----an enhanced resource for starting, restarting, and enhancing your programs and a new Members Section.

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

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

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

Please see the Note to Members, June 7, 2013, on the website at
This note includes time-sensitive items, and we would like to hear from you by July 22.
Thank you. Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network President

Key Success Factors for Your Small Group Ministry Program

Reprinted from: Facilitator Training Manual, © UU Small Group Ministry Network, December 2008
Written by Diana Dorroh of the UU Small Group Ministry Network, 09/07
With one addition from 06/13

A clear ministry objective

A mission and purpose statement

A clear model that incorporates all the essential elements of Small Group Ministry.

Leaders who are carefully selected because they are:

o good listeners
o able to implement your small group ministry model
o willing to implement the model
o a non-anxious presence
o have a strong connection to the church
o willing to attend Facilitators Meetings and accept direction from the minister and program coordinator

Shared Leadership - Responsibility for the group belongs to everyone.

Session plans that challenge the groups and encourage sharing of the participants' lives.

Ongoing orientation for new facilitators

Coaching, support, and continuing training for facilitators

Support from the church leadership, especially the minister

A committed Coordinator to provide oversight and coordinate leadership, membership, content, and visibility

June 2013 addition:
Continued communication and networking with program leaders from other churches, to learn how to adapt and enhance your sgm program.

July 22-26, 2013, Murray Grove, Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey

Check out the 2013 Small Group Ministry Institute Flier or
To attend, Register online at The Early Registration Discount has been extended to June 30.

If you cannot attend for the entire Institute, check out these options: Evening Events and By the Day attendance.


The focus of the Evening Events is to share the wisdom of those involved over the years and to ponder the questions those starting programs in a way that enhances Small Group Ministry for all of us. Come for Social Time and Dinner at 5:30pm, and the session 7:00-9:00pm.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 Best Practices: What works and why. We will include discussion for all sizes of congregations. Please participate and share your successes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 Meetings for Ministers, Religious Educators, and Lay SGM Leaders. This is an opportunity for these professionals to meet with peers to discuss Small Group Ministry within the context of their role in the congregation. Participants who do not identify with one of these roles, will discuss the impact of these roles on Small Group Ministry in their congregations.

Thursday, July 25, 2013 Small Group Ministry as Congregational Outreach and Service. The opportunities are limitless. Here are a few that we hope to include in this discussion:

Small Group Ministry as a way to engage people with UUism in geographic areas. Some congregations have started with Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups.

Young Adult and Campus Ministry using Small Group Ministry, including Young adults within our congregations as well as campus ministry/congregational connection.

Small Group Ministry with specific populations, such as the continuum of assisted living/long term care setting, and correctional facilities and programs.

Areas of outreach and service that you or your congregation may use or are interested in pursuing.


If you are considering coming for an evening, come for the day! The topics for a day are connected with the Evening Event topic. This includes the opening session at 9:00am, a focused session 10:00am to noon, Small Group Ministry Session, and Case Presentations 4:00pm, followed by the Evening Events described above.

For example, Wednesday, July 24, could be considered SMALL GROUP MINISTRY LEADERSHIP DAY. Programming on Wednesday addresses Ministers, Religious Educators, and Lay Small Group Ministry Leaders, from the placement of Small Group Ministry in the congregational structure to case presentations around working relations among Ministers, Religious Educators, and Lay Small Group Ministry Leaders at 4:00pm. Evening Events includes on specific meetings for Ministers, Religious Educators, and Lay Small Group Ministry Leaders. There is also consideration of how these roles are perceived within the congregation, specifically related to Small Group Ministry.

MINISTERS: "As a minister with experience in congregations large and small, I can readily affirm that Small Group Ministry, more than any other facet of congregational life, deepens religious community, illumines the reality that we are all connected, offers sacred space for listening and sharing what matters most, and ensures a sense of belonging for participants who might otherwise resist - consciously or unconsciously - congregational growth. In small group ministry, the pastoral and prophetic, the religious and the spiritual, are in concert." Rev. Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden, CT

How does Small Group Ministry influence your ministry? What are your successes and challenges - and questions - with Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups?

RELIGIOUS EDUCATORS: In a number of congregations, the coordination of Small Group Ministry is becoming part of the function of the Religious Educator. There is also increasing use Small Group Ministry with all ages, deepening the Educational Ministry of the congregation. What is your role with Small Group Ministry? How is it similar and how does it differ from educational programs? Join us. Share your experiences, your questions and concerns. Explore different structures involving Small Group Ministry and Religious Education.

LAY SMALL GROUP MINISTRY LEADERS: Small Group Ministry Leaders, often called Coordinators or Directors, may be volunteer or paid positions. Small Group Ministry is evolving as a key part of congregational life. The understanding, commitment and skills of the Leader/Coordinator is significant in the success and enrichment of the program. Explore the functions of this role, including variations with congregation and program size. Share your challenges and successes, and ways to strengthen your program.

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

Website Updates

Check out the new section of the Network website! "Implementing Small Group Ministry For Starting, Restarting, and Enhancing Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups" is now ON LINE. Check out the link at the top right of the Home page! There is more complete article in the Spring SGM Journal.

We are in the process of establishing two new areas on the website that are specifically for Network members. The first is a Members Section. Invitations have been sent to all current members inviting information and updates on their programs. We are hoping to have this section developed by May. The second is the Specific Focus Sections for Ministers, Small Group Ministry Lay Leaders, and Religious Educators. We are looking forward to working with these groups in capturing their present involvement with Small Group Ministry, identifying their specific challenges and developing resources. This will be a focus of the Small Group Ministry Institute "Meetings for Ministers, Religious Educators and Lay SGM Leaders" on July 24, 2013, at Murray Grove. Join us for Social time and dinner at 5:30pm, followed by the meetings 7-9pm. Join us at the Institute or send your comments to These sections will be developed over the summer 2013.

Comments and ideas are welcome through
Helen Zidowecki

News & Events

General Assembly <> June 19-23 <> Louisville, Kentucky

BOOTH # 419 - Exhibit Hall

Open Wednesday through Sunday

See full schedule in the GA Program or online at

Revitalize, Strengthen, or Grow your Small Group Ministry

» Purchase resources: facilitation, program management, sessions
» Share SGM/Covenant Group challenges and successes
» Speak with Network board members and SGM program leaders
» Get answers to all your SGM & Covenant Group questions
Booth Volunteers Welcome

See you in Louisville!

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 Journal.

For information on training opportunities see the Event Announcements

UU SGM Network Publications

Order forms available from

Social Justice Work Through Small Group Ministry Features 34 covenant group sessions for preparation, action and reflection on topics of multiculturalism, radical hospitality, immigration, racism, marriage equality, and earth justice.
BOOK Network Members: $15 plus $6 S&H Non-members: $25 plus $6 S&H
CD Network Members: $15 plus $2 S&H Non-members: $20 plus $2 S&H

Small Group Ministry with All Ages Implementation strategies, leader training, session development, and session plans for children through elders.
BOOK Network Members: $20 plus $6 S&H Non-members: $30 plus $6 S&H
CD Network Members: $15 plus $2 S&H Non-members: $20 plus $2 S&H

Soul to Soul: Fourteen Gathering for Reflection and Sharing Topics such as addiction, aging and personal resilience offer new opportunities to explore life issues with others.
Skinner House Books, $14.

ALSO AVAILABLE See our website for details.
Facilitator Training and Development Manual. A guide for training and support plus a handbook on CD to customize for group leaders and facilitators.

Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs
Sessions on Spiritual Journeying, Personal Beliefs and Values, Spiritual Challenges, Just for Fun, Being Human, Holidays, and Special Use subjects for life events.

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

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.

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 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

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