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March / April 2014

Small Groups, Deep Connections March / April 2014
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
is an interactive Small Group Ministry and Covenant Group newsletter distributed by the UU Small Group Ministry Network.
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SGM Network Publications Team
Alan Backler, UU Church of Bloomington, IN
Susan Coe, UU Church of Belfast, ME
Diana Dorroh, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA
Marilyn Eanet, First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI
Anne Gero, UUs of the Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, PA
Anne Haynes, UU Church of Bloomington, IN
Jennifer Harvilak, Cedarhurst UU, MD
Susan Hollister, Eno River UU Fellowship, NC

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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Creating a SGM Brochure
  • Broadening the Reach of Small Group Ministry
  • Book Review
  • SGM Notes from Congregations
  • Upcoming Events
  • Web News
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

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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. The Network is financially independent of the UUA.Your membership funding enables us to continue this important work. Download a Membership form or join online:

Member benefits include a 40% discount on Network publications, subscription to the SGM Journal, and consultation with experienced Network leaders.
Letter from the Editor


As the church year draws to a close, how will you mark another successful year of small group ministry? Perhaps you'll honor all group facilitators by recognizing them during a Sunday service. Or maybe you're organizing a celebration dinner for all group leaders and participants. Is this the time of year when you evaluate your program by inviting feedback from all participants? We'll publish your year-end events in the next issue of Covenant Group News. Tell us all about it at

We're pleased to announce that the Publications Team has expanded to 8 members! Small group ministry leaders from across the country will bring news and articles to both CG News and the SGM Journal. See the list of team members and their congregations in the left sidebar.

General Assembly 2014 in Providence, RI, marks the UU SGM Network's 10 year anniversary! Stop by Booth # 723 in the Exhibit Hall to visit, talk with other small group ministry leaders and participants, and share news from your congregation's program.

In this issue we have two articles. One tells the story of the new SGM brochure at UU Fellowship of Vero Beach, FL. Next we hear about taking small group ministry beyond the congregation to a retirement community in Indiana. Susan Coe of the UU Church of Belfast, ME, reviews Bob Hill's book, The Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry. In SGM Notes we have program news from UUs of the Cumberland Valley in Boiling Springs, PA.

See the SGM Network's new Brochures section at Learn what to include and how to use brochures to promote your congregation's program. We invite you to share your brochure with fellow SGM leaders. Send in .pdf format to for posting on the Network website.

What's going on in your SGM program? What workshops are happening in your district or region? Share your events, successes, challenges, and questions at

Susan Hollister, Guest Editor
Eno River UU Fellowship, Durham, NC

Creating a SGM Brochure
Contributed by Pete Kersey, Small Group Ministry Co-chair
UU Fellowship of Vero Beach, Florida

We created our brochure when we realized that everything we wanted to pass on to the congregation about Covenant Groups/Small Group Ministry was too much to swallow in a letter or flyer format. The brochure allowed us to include pictures, graphics and text in a format that was a page turner, easy to look at, and full of timely and relevant information: what the movement was about, when we were recruiting members, and how to join. We have found it to be an effective piece.

During our November and December recruitment period, copies of the brochure were laid out on a table just outside the sanctuary entrance and displayed at coffee hour after Sunday Service. A committee member was there to answer questions for anyone wanting to pursue the subject further. It also allowed those not wishing to stop and talk to take information with them to peruse at a later time. Copies of our sign-up sheet were on the tables as well. At other times of the year, the brochures reside in a general information rack just inside the main entrance to our Fellowship.

Click here to view UUFVB's brochure on the UU SGM Network website.

Broadening the Reach of Small Group Ministry
Contributed by Alan Backler, Chalice Circles Executive Team
UU Church of Bloomington, Indiana

Over the last several years the Small Group Ministry Program at the UU Church of Bloomington, IN, which we call Chalice Circles, has tried to make the program more accessible to congregants. One way we do this is by forming Chalice Circles at retirement communities in the Bloomington area. Currently we have three such Circles.

These Circles typically include both retirement home residents and other members of our congregation. The residents enjoy the convenience of meeting in their own facility without having to travel at night to the church or someone's home. The non-residents enjoy interacting with the residents, many of whom no longer attend Sunday service, but were involved in the early days of the church. It is always exciting to share the experiences of people of different ages as they grapple with a particular Chalice Circle topic. In the future, we hope to encourage an even wider age range to participate in Chalice Circles at retirement communities.

At one retirement community, the activities director asked us to broaden the membership of the Circle to include a co-facilitator from another religion who was interested in establishing something similar to small group ministry, and to include residents in our Circle who were not Unitarian Universalist. Eventually this experiment worked quite well.

One Circle, called the "Deep Listening Group" in the retirement community newsletter, has two facilitators, one Catholic and one UU. The group includes UU church members who do not live at the retirement community plus several residents, some who are UUs and some who are not. We have written a covenant to guide our Circle. Everyone seems to relate to the UU session plan topics. For example, hearing everyone, "young" and old, UU and not, share the themes they would develop for a commencement address (from "Words of Wisdom"), was priceless.

One issue that we have not completely solved with retirement home Chalice Circles has to do with social service activities. Each of our Chalice Circles conducts an activity for the church and another one for the community. This has the effect of bringing the Circle members together in a different way. Social service activities are difficult when so many members of the Circle have difficulty getting around. We are thinking that next year we could bring groups to the retirement community so that Chalice Circle members can more easily interact with them. For example, children from the local Boys and Girls Club and Chalice Circle members could work together on joint art projects or write intergenerational stories together.

Book Review

The Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry: Saving the World Ten At A Time
By Robert L. Hill Published by Skinner House Books, Boston

Contributed by Susan Coe, UU Church of Belfast, Maine

"Of what value are the religious scriptures, scrolls, tapestries...houses of worship... sermons... if they do not produce useful reactions of individuals to individuals?" asks Allan Ward in his introductory statements at the beginning of Robert L. Hill's Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry. This handbook is all you will need to begin Small Group Ministry with your congregation or community and to begin cultivating community through inspired thinking and personal sharing in a safe and respectful space. It is a bare bones guidebook, leading a minister, a program coordinator, or a group facilitator through the stages of development, production, and evaluation of your program.

Hill's book provides a path for a rewarding experience as it envisions an alternative way to gather followers of the UU faith who prefer a different type of ministry. It serves as an objective tool for new program development through maintenance and adaptability to future planning and reformative measures when a congregation begins to outgrow its initial program. Topic and theme generation, session planning and critique, goals, benefits, and results are all laid out with clarity and insight, giving new and seasoned leaders useful tips and wise lessons.

If you are considering new programming for your growing congregation, or if you are seeking new ways to broaden your reach to the community, Hill illustrates how small group ministry lends itself to our faith, experience and spiritual growth. It works, he goes on to explain, because of its emphasis on personal interaction, leading to an open-heartedness where our diversity is our strength. This 130-page guide is easy to read and digest and is a definitive source and a must-read for those whose need is to implement effective and flourishing small group ministry for their congregation.

SGM Notes From Congregations

Small Group Ministry at UUs of the Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, PA
Contributed by Anne Gero, SGM Coordinating Team Chair

Drawing of UUCV by Carolyn Hocker,
congregation member

Spring is finally here. UUCV has a wonderful new minister, Rev. Aija Simpson, who is a champion of small group ministry. We have a recently chosen Coordinating Team that includes a chair, a publicity person, a recorder, and a session writer.

With this new energy and new structure we have an ambitious agenda. A committee fair is planned where we, along with all other committees, will provide information to the congregation after the service on two Sundays. Our needs are for facilitators and new members.

Concurrently, we're developing a new brochure, constructing our SGM web site, and planning short-term, theme-oriented groups that will begin in the Fall to complement our 9 open-ended groups.

I have recently been invited to be a part of the SGM Network's Publications Team. We will be encouraging program leaders to read and use the wide range of resources produced by our national sponsor, including Covenant Group News, the SGM Journal, Facebook, a Blog and several other publications.

In closing, I will share this quote from Rachel Naomi Remen that a member of our coordinating team found and circulated to all our facilitators: "Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person." I invite you to send this to all those who make your programs possible.


Saturday, May 3, 2014 9:30am - 3:00pm
Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, 120 Park Street, Bangor, ME

Congregations are invited to bring teams from various committees and parts of the congregation.
Celebrate the groups in our congregations and their vital roles.
Explore how groups include and exclude people who come to our congregations.
Consider the relationship between Small Group Ministry and other groups.

*The vital roles of groups -- Board and Committees (Membership, Worship, Music/Choir, Religious Education, Buildings and Grounds, Small Group Ministry, Social Justice, Social Activities, Finance and others) and groups (Buddhist meditation or Goddess groups, men's or women's groups) will be identified and celebrated.
*How groups include or exclude visitors, newcomers and ongoing members will be explored.
*What we derive from the church experience is influenced by involvement in a group or groups.

Many congregations find that Small Group Ministry enhances the life of the congregation, including committees and groups. This workshop explores the collaboration of the groups within the congregation and Small Group Ministry. There will be handouts for participants and a resource packet for each congregation.

COST: $55 per congregation (may be less if more than 5 congregations participate), regardless of the number of participants from a congregation. Teams of 3-5 are suggested, representing various groups within the church and those interested in Small Group Ministry. Congregations will be billed by the NNED after the Workshop.

FOOD: Coffee will be available on arrival. Bring your own LUNCH. Microwave and refrigerator are available.

Registration is by the Northern New England District, by sending this form to:
NNED/UUA, 10 Ferry Street #318, Concord, NH 03301, or on the website at
Registration is due by April 28, 2014.

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Implementing Small Group Ministry, an evolving resource for starting, restarting, and enhancing programs, is based on input from congregations and program leaders, as well as workshops, SGM Institutes, and Network publications and electronic media. Implementing addresses these broad areas:

Small Group Ministry Overview
Starting, Rejuvenating and Restarting Small Group Ministry
Program Oversight    •     Visibility for Vitality    •     Group Leadership
Group Formation    •     Topics & Sessions    •     Service Activities

Each section presents general information and guidelines plus options to consider.
Comments and contributions welcome at

Two new members-only areas will soon appear on our website. A Members Section will feature Small Group Ministry activities in member congregations with the opportunity to communicate and add comments or questions. Specific Focus Sections for Ministers, Small Group Ministry Lay Leaders, and Religious Educators invite exchanges of present Small Group Ministry involvement and challenges. Based on these interchanges, new SGM resource materials will be developed to address congregations' present-day needs.

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UU SGM Network Publications

UU SGM NETWORK PUBLICATIONS - Order online or by mail
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Social Justice Work Through Small Group Ministry - Thirty-four sessions for preparation, action and reflection on topics of multiculturalism, radical hospitality, immigration, racism, marriage equality, and earth justice.

Small Group Ministry with All Ages - Implementation strategies, leader training, session development, and session plans for children through elders.

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.

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
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