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June 2016

Small Groups, Deep Connections June 2016
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
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
Susan Hollister, Eno River UU Fellowship, Durham, NC

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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • General Assembly 2016
  • Knoxville SGM Institute: Truly a Partnership!
  • Implementing Small Group Ministry Expands
  • Web News
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

Join the Network
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


The UU Small Group Ministry Network Board and many of its members look forward to GA every year, because we know we will share with each other at the Network Exhibit Hall Booth (#807 this year). You are invited to drop by every day and to volunteer to help host the booth. See the first article below.

Please also consider serving on the UU SGM Network Board. It fills a real need within our religious movement, as the Network is currently the main support for UU congregations' SGM programs. As far as I know, there is no UUA office with responsibility for Small Group Ministry, although regional staffs are beginning to offer support. If you are a Regional Staff member, please contact us to see how that can be facilitated. Is there something the Network Board can do to help you?

Also, we're happy to report that the UU SGM Institute held in Knoxville at the Tennessee Valley UU Church was very successful. The Network held at least 7 Institutes between 2005 and 2013, all at UU conference sites, which provided a retreat-like setting but required considerable travel for most participants. Each one was powerful, gave full support to people starting or enhancing programs, but the last ones had about 10 -12 attendees and we'd been looking for a way to have a more viable attendance. The invitation to come to Knoxville was an opportunity to try out a different model. It worked. See Rev. Helen Zidowecki's recap below. Think about inviting us to your church and inviting area churches as well as the rest of us.

The last article contains some new material added to the publication Implementing Small Group Ministry. Rev. Helen Zidowecki has been working on various iterations of this publication for about five years. It is truly a living document.

We would love to hear from you about your experiences with small group ministry and your thoughts about better ways to do it. We learn from each other. Send them to

Diana Dorroh
Guest Editor
Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA

General Assembly 2016
MEET US IN Columbus, Ohio - JUNE 22-26
UU Small Group Ministry Network Booth in the Exhibit Hall # 807

Are you going to General Assembly? Look for the UU Small Group Ministry Network booth #807 in the Exhibit Hall. The Hall is open from Wednesday thru Sunday. Also, let people who plan to attend GA know about the booth. You could forward this copy of CG News to them with a note. We'd be glad to talk to people directing programs, participating in a group or just wondering what the experience would be like.

Meet, Greet, and Share The GA Booth is a great place for conversation and for meeting others interested in and involved with Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups. You are key to providing opportunities and enhancing SGM/CG in congregations and throughout Unitarian Universalism!
Resources from the Network will be on display and can be ordered at the Booth.

GA Booth Volunteers assist at the Booth in blocks of 1-2 hours, are Small/Covenant Group members, dedicated to the SGM model, and knowledgeable about the UU SGM Network.
Booth Assistants work with the Booth Coordinator, a member of the UU SGM Network Board. It is fun and rewarding. You learn a great deal from talking to other people about their programs. It's called Networking and this is the central purpose of the UU SGM Network

Ready to Make a Significant Contribution?
Join the UU SGM Network Board!

You can Join a great team of folks and:

  • Welcome new Network members
  • Present & facilitate workshops and conferences
  • Guide & support leaders
  • Create & develop publications
  • Strengthen & grow the Network's outreach

Job Qualifications:

  • Experience in SGM/Covenant Group Ministry
  • Energy & Enthusiasm!
  • Member of the UU SGM Network

Ready to volunteer? Have questions?

Knoxville SGM Institute: Truly a Partnership!
By Rev. Helen Zidowecki, UU SGM Network

Thanks to Tennessee Valley UU Church for hosting the UU Small Group Ministry Institute 2016, April 1-3, in Knoxville, TN. Thirty people from nine congregations participated. The richness came from the wealth of wisdom and experience that was evident. The Institute was a partnership between the TVUUC and the SGM Network that we would like to see replicated. The Institute occurred at TVUUC's request, with their assistance, and the vision of a program for the area.

There were numerous benefits in a partnership between the local area and the UUSGM Network:
  • We were able to include the interests and needs of the area.
  • Participants co-led workshops along with the Network leaders.
  • Area congregations were included, leading to further support and collaboration in the region.
  • Institute participants gained energy, enthusiasm, and ideas from each other.

Creating a conference of any type takes work. Collaboration and sharing the functions made it possible. This sharing included space, people, and financial resources. Please see the SGM Journal Sp/Su 2016 that was just sent to members for the TVUUC article, "The Making of a Homegrown Small Group Ministry Institute," for the process of holding an Institute and the benefits to the hosting congregation. Hopefully, you or your congregation is a member of the Network and you've received a copy. Please contact the Network with your interest in having a program for your congregation or area.

Thanks again, Tennessee Valley.

By Rev. Helen Zidowecki, UU SGM Network

We are working to make a revised version of Implementing Small Group Ministry available at General Assembly. This includes revision and additions to the website edition (accessed on the upper right of the Network Home Page and adding several new sections. We are including two new sections in this edition of CGN:
1) Small Group Ministry Within The Congregational Structure (section on Oversight)
2) Meeting Electronically (section on Groups, Meeting Logistics)
Comments are always welcome at

Implementing Small Group Ministry: Oversight

Note: In trying to explain how SGM fits into the congregation structurally, I realized the impact that SGM has on distinct parts of the congregation, and how those parts influence SGM. This section developed from that realization. HZ

Small Group Ministry influences and is influenced by connection with all areas of congregational life. Strong Small Group Ministry strengthens the congregation in a collaborative connection as described in several distinct areas described here.

*Small Group Ministry increases relationships within the worshipping experience. People who know each other on a deeper level worship with a deepening connection precisely because of the opening of the heart that occurs in groups and carries over into other parts of our lives.
*The common worship experience continues the common bond as groups meet.
*A more specific connection between worship and Small Group Ministry can occur with the use of common themes for the church community, such as a theme for a month that is used throughout the congregation. Session plans can be prepared to accompany themes, and groups can create their sessions around the topics for at least one of their meeting per month.

Pastoral Care:
*Group members engage in a ministry of caring that arises from the intimacy that occurs within the group. Groups vary on how and to what degree they do that.
*The group alone is not responsible for this. Group members are encouraged to access the congregation's Pastoral Care network, usually through the minister, even as the group itself continues to provide support.
*There needs to be a balance between providing care and engaging with spiritual journey topics in order to prevent burnout.
*Sessions around helping and requesting help can be beneficial in this endeavor.

Religious Education/Exploration:
*Small Group Ministry combines learning from the heart with the messages and information that we wish to impart into the educational ministry of the church for all ages. This is evident in the way that we ask the question to open responses and exploring rather than yes/no or opinions.
*The ways of being together - listening and not needing to respond, while respecting, encouraging, and learning from each other - are critical practices from Small Group Ministry that increase an openness in learning along our spiritual journey.
*Small Group Ministry is a model for children in how to be active Unitarian Universalists, how to be in relationships with other people and within the congregational dynamics (Intimacy), and how to approach life with openness (Ultimacy).

Service and Social Justice:
*Small Group Ministry provides opportunities for individuals and groups engage in service for the congregation and for the broader community.
*Small Group Ministry session plans provide a way to explore the concepts of social justice, to create a personal connection with specific issues, beyond the facts and publicity, and to reflect on actions planned and taken.

Congregational Functions:
*Small Group Ministry gives practice to taking time to check in to see how people are doing, and to listening and sharing in such a way that others can hear what we say and know that they have been heard. This carries over into committees and other groups, and to congregational meetings.
*Service to congregational life is part of the Basic Elements and reflects gratitude and living out our faith.
*Small Group Ministry is a way for newcomers to experience how we are together (intimacy) and the topics that can be part of our discussions (ultimacy). This may lead to continuing and deepening connections to the congregation.

Location will differ from congregation to congregation, depending on overall congregational structure. The integrity of Small Group Ministry needs to be maintained, regardless of location. This includes understanding of the unique offering of Small Group Ministry as well as collaboration with others. Factors to consider:

*Location may influence the role of the coordinator (volunteer or paid), visibility, program oversight, resources available, and recognition within the congregation.
*Resources are available and identified for Small Group Ministry.
*Location in some congregations:
Separate entity or program, with volunteer or paid staff, under the minister.
Separate entity or program, with volunteer or paid staff under the direction of the Small Group Ministry Committee.
Under Pastoral Care
With Adult Programming or Lifespan Faith Development (Religious Education/Exploration)

Implementing Small Group Ministry: Groups, Meeting Logistics

Note: There is increasing discussion about using electronic methods for SGM meetings. Some of the thoughts here are from such a discussion at the Institute in Knoxville. HZ

Technology allows visual and auditory interactions with increasing clarity and sense of presence. Careful consideration should be given to holding a meeting through technology or in person. It also does not have to be one or the other: meetings can sometimes be in person, sometimes with technology.
In person:
*Using all of the senses increases intimacy. This includes experiencing non-verbal communication.
*The content and process of a Small Group Ministry session is based on engaging from the heart and on ministry. These are not as easily transmitted electronically as meetings and presentations that have a more specific focus and outcome.
*The need to physically get to a meeting or to host a meeting might be difficult for a member.
*The degree of technology will determine the depth possible in connecting during the session.
*Participants must have specific equipment in order to participate. This takes planning and possibly fiscal resources.
*This may allow people to participate when distance, transportation or other factors prevent joining.
*Suggest periodically meeting in person, if possible. This enriches the connection that can be energized through the meeting held with technology.

For Starting, Enhancing and Restarting Small Group Ministry

Rev. Helen Zidowecki for the Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network, June 2016

Implementing started several years ago to capture the ideas as Small Group Ministry continues to evolve. It has been on the Network website and is revised with new sections and resources.
*Suggestions from the experiences of individuals and congregations give options for creating Small Group Ministry for your congregation or setting.
*Each Section includes general background and considerations, resources, and articles.
*The sections are: Overview, Life Cycle, Oversight/Direction and Coordination, Leadership, Group Formation and Process, Sessions, Service, Visibility, Expanding Small Group Ministry.

Available in PDF sent via e-mail or print copy, 75 pages.
To order, give the following information or visit the Resources page:

NAME __________________________

PHONE __________________________






Implementing (PDF via e-mail): $15____ Member $10___

Implementing (print): #copies____ $20___ Members $15

Make checks payable to "UUSGM Network" and send to Treasurer, 4303 Swarthmore Rd., Durham, NC 27707


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Complete archives of Covenant Group News and the SGM Journal
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UU SGM Network Publications

UU SGM NETWORK PUBLICATIONS - Order online or by mail
See for pricing & ordering information

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
c/o Treasurer
4303 Swarthmore Rd.
Durham, NC 27707

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