Implementing - Introduction
(comments at end of section)


For Starting, Restarting, and Enhancing Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups
The Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network


Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups emerged in the late 1990's. As Small Group Ministry evolved, a basic model articulated the model in "Basic Elements of Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry" became more apparent. There is flexibility within the Basic Elements to design a program to meet the needs of a congregation.

"Small Group Ministry" and "Covenant Groups" are terms that have been used since the beginning of the Unitarian Universalist movement. "Small Group Ministry" focuses on the structure and mission. "Covenant" states that the groups work in an intentionally relational manner. Both the ministry and the covenant are essential. The Network uses Small Group Ministry to delineate the overall program. Congregations use various names for their groups, such as Small Group Ministry, Covenant Groups, Chalice Circles, etc.

Suggestions for implementation come from congregations, the Small Group Ministry Institutes and workshops, Network publications (Covenant Group News, the SGM Journal), and the electronic media (UU Small Group Ministry Facebook, UUA e-list Covenant Group Ministry), and various other communications. Small Group Ministry varies from setting to setting. When Small Group Ministry comes up for discussion, let the conversation be "How does that work?" rather than "It has to be done this or that way." Small Group Ministry is a dynamic concept that can influence the entirety of congregational life and Unitarian Universalism.

Implementing is organized around broad areas of consideration:

Overview of Small Group Ministry
Programming: Starting, Rejuvenating and Restarting Small Group Ministry
Group Leadership and Facilitation
Visibility for Vitality
Expanding Small Group Ministry

Each of these sections have subsections with

General comments and guidelines.
Various things to consider, and options

The things to consider and options are presented in a two column format. Choices can be made from either column or both and the columns may or may not be mutually exclusive. The options are presented with notations of impact, sometimes pro and sometimes with caution. The presentation is of choices: the decisions rest with the user. See the Web Map for Implementing Small Group Ministry for detailed information about what is covered in each section.

In addition to the content of the respective sections, there may be material that elaborates on the content. This material may be accessed via a link on the website edition, and in a composite file, Implementing Small Group Ministry: Background Resources. The location of additional material is noted at the end of each section, including the Network website On Line Resources Directory, by Topic.

Transforming Congregations
The Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry is a viable, living, organic way of "doing church". The core and power of Small Group Ministry arises from its implementation within a congregation, basically within the intentional groups that meet over time. These groups provide the relationships and ability to address deep issues in a small group that then is part of larger congregational interactions.

Congregational Vision
*Each congregation defines how the groups are integrated as part of the total congregational life.
*The congregation defines why it wants or has Small Group Ministry, and celebrates the program and activities.
Ministry goals
Goals may be defined in broad areas of Connection, Expanding the professional ministry, Congregational Growth, Strengthening and Enriching the church, and Transforming the World.
See: "Ministry Goals or Objectives of Small Group Ministry" Summary Article, Diana Dorroh, Covenant Group News, May 2010

Implementing can be used in designing, assessing and revitalizing Small Group Ministry. The focus of the material is on the traditional groups within a congregation as the basis for Small Group Ministry. However, there are also notations on expanding Small Group Ministry as an integral part of congregational life, the wider area of Unitarian Universalism, and outreach beyond the congregation.

Implementing provides content for workshops around Small Group Ministry. The Network has developed a series of Modules, or 1-2 hour sessions that can be used within congregations, with a group of congregations, and with the Small Group Ministry Institutes. Implementing Small Group Ministry Modules are available for printing, along with recommended sections of Implementing and Background Resources.

Implementing is designed to be printed by sections of materials noted above, or by the entire document. A file of the Implementing Small Group Ministry: Background Resources may also be printed.

We want to continue the evolution of Implementing Small Group Ministry through interaction with people using the materials. Please share your insight and ideas with e-mail to (, ongoing articles for Covenant Group News and the SGM Journal, and on UU Small Group Ministry Facebook. We will add comments to the Implementing Feedback Section, and later incorporating into the text of the document to This will ensure that Small Group Ministry will continue to evolve.


Small Group Ministry is intentional lay-led small groups that deepen and expand the ministry of a congregation.
"Small" means a group with a maximum of 8-10 people, including facilitator. Groups of this size provide an opportunity to relate on a more intentional level.
"Group" is a gathering of individuals, sometimes selected at random, sometimes selected for a specific interest or characteristic, that meet over a period of time.
"Ministry" is the process or act of caring or being present with another. This relates to the spiritual as well as the physical and emotional well-being of the group participants.

The Power and Promise of SGM are Intimacy, Ultimacy and Growth.
Intimacy is increased depth of relationship that comes from meeting over time, willingness and ability to listen without comment or advice, to learn from others, and to share from the soul, beyond the surface.
Ultimacy focuses on meaning and significance, rather than details, information or outcome.
Growth: Small Group Ministry provides opportunities to grow leaders and the potential to grow churches in numbers, and in generosity, cooperation, and sense of well-being. This growth occurs when people are connected.

Three agreements between the groups and the congregation as a whole are suggested:
*To abide by a set of relationship ground rules, frequently call a covenant. This includes ways to listen and to be heard.
*To welcome new members to the group or to the program overall, keeping the groups open to new people and new ideas.
*To engage in service to the congregation and larger world. This helps the group deepen its internal relationships, increases the connection with the congregation, and gives from the abundance of the group experience.

Leadership has two functions which can be done by one person or shared: The Group Leaders are chosen and trained by the minister(s) and/or designated lay leadership as shared ministry. Group Leaders meet with the minister/lay leadership for spiritual support, enhancing group development, and awareness of new resources. The Session Facilitator leads a meeting of the group, using basic facilitation skills, and assists with upholding the model during the meeting. This can be done by one person or rotated within the group.

The Session plan is a guide and a springboard for discussion. The Standard Format includes:
*An opening that introduces but does not guide the topic.
*A check-in during which each person briefly shares about such questions as, "What's most on your mind today?" or "How is it with your spirit today?"
*A time for the focus or theme of the meeting with sharing from personal stories, and learning from listening to others, rather than wanting others to agree with a perspective.
*The check-out/likes and wishes gives opportunity for each participant to say how the session was for him/her.
*A closing reading.

Implementing Small Group Ministry presents guidelines and options for establishing, assessing and revitalizing small group ministry. Congregations individualize the program within the perimeters of the Basic Elements.

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Introduction and Index | Overview of Small Group Ministry | Programming: Starting, Rejuvenating and Restarting Small Group Ministry | Oversight | Group Leadership and Facilitation | Groups | Sessions | Service | Visibility for Vitality

Compiled Version | Web Map | Back to Small Group Ministry Network