SMALL GROUP MINISTRY—LET ME COUNT THE WAYS………
First, is the engaging of people in community for enhancement of spiritual journey through ministry in a group that is small enough for sharing and caring. I cherish my time in a small group in my own congregation. Small groups change lives and congregations!
And there are several subsets of the usual Small Group Ministry activities.
process provides a minimal but consistent structure within which
youth have time for discernment and for sharing, for developing
leadership and relational skills, and for learning from others and
realizing that they have so much to offer others.
- Small Group
Ministry with religious education for children has been an
ongoing and developing area.
- Small Group
Ministry for Youth, Helen Zidowecki, June 2005, is available
from the Small Group Ministry Network at
Universalist Principles/Parenting: Small Group Ministry is
available on this site.
- Small Group
Ministry and older adults is being developed in Spring 2006.
Second, Small Group
Ministry adds a relational dimension to groups that do not fully
follow the guidelines for a Small Group Ministry or covenant group.
For example, Small Group Ministry adds the ‘relational’
component to ‘religious education for lifespan faith
development’. ‘Relational’ includes:
- how we group
participants (for example; having 3 groups of grades 1-3 versus a
group for each grade, allowing for more diversity in meeting needs
of participants), keeping groups to 8-10 each, including the
facilitators/leaders, and focusing on the importance of each person
to the group and to each other.
- taking attendance
as ‘attending to’ who is present, and being aware of who
is not present.
- asking questions
that engage participants from the ‘importance’ level.
That is, asking questions that allow the participants to talk from
their experience, their lives, and their stories rather than
focusing on information.
Third, Small Group
Ministry is an effective tool for focusing on an issue or topic
within the context of a larger educational program or meeting. For
example, Small Group Ministry can be used in as part of Teacher
Development or ongoing Religious Education Committee meetings. Taking
time for a session on feeling safe and contributing to a safe
environment brings the discussion around safe congregation policies
to a depth beyond the requirements for ‘two adults with
children or windows in doors’. Or focusing on gifts and giving
and receiving enhances how people work together from their respective
strengths, from religious education to committee work. Or discussing
leading and following may change perceptions of dynamics and
But in all of these
uses of Small Group Ministry, the underlying principles must be
- Small groups –
allow space to welcome others, but keep the groups to the 8-10.
- Focus on ministry,
or the caring and sharing—focus on engagement and stories
rather than information.
- The methodology is
dialog rather than discussion—expect to share and expect to
‘learn’ from others. Notes or reports are not generated
from sessions, when addressing the topic that requires decisions
after the session.
Small Group Ministry is
a dynamic process that enriches our lives, our congregations and out
denomination at a variety of levels. We have not even begun to
realize its impact on Unitarian Universalism.