Transforming our churches with small group ministry


The details as we know them



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The details as we know them
A group of UUCC members, including Calvin Dame (the minister), met regularly since last fall to decide whether Small Group Ministry was a good idea for our church. After unanimously deciding that it was, and that it could help fulfill people’s need for deeper community and spiritual growth, we had the difficult task of filling in the details. What we came up with is listed below. We recognize that some or many of the details may change after we get some experience with Small Group Ministry. We see a need to be flexible with the details. That said, we ask people to give the following details a try. We have put much thought into them. There are reasons for all of them (which we’d be glad to explain)/ Undoubtedly, we have not thought of some important details, so please be patient with this new concept.
General details
Groups of 7-10 people meet regularly (1-4 times per month) to deepen their relationships with each other and to grow spiritually. The more you can meet the better, however, we recognize that people have other commitments.
These group meetings do not replace Sunday morning worship services. The two are intended to complement one another.
Each group has a leader (facilitator) and assistant leader. Facilitator is a better term than leader since the intent of the groups is to promote active discussion and caring, not to arrive at a conclusion at the end of each meeting. It is important that all group members (not just the leaders) help with maintaining the group. The leaders meet regularly with Calvin (the minister) to discuss how the groups are doing, how they can be improved, etc.

The groups generally meet in members’ homes, recognizing that not every member can provide a place for 7-10 people to meet.

The groups are intended to promote reflective adult conversation. Each group will be best able to decide how to care for children and babies during the meetings. A couple of ideas include having individual baby sitters, or having a group member take care of children in an adjoining room.

While it is hoped that group members will be “on the front lines” of providing support to each other in times of need, the groups are not organized as therapy groups.
Groups can be formed as affinity groups, in which the members of the group will have a characteristic in common (as opposed to an interest) such as Christianity, paganism, Buddhism, parents of teenagers, parents of young children with babies, gay and lesbians, people of non-European descent, etc.
Groups can also be formed as diverse groups, in which members do not share any particular characteristic, other than being interested in meeting in a thoughtful UU environment.
Couples can be in the same group or different groups.
You do not have to be a church member or attendee to be a member of one of these small groups. In fact, inviting non-members to these groups is encouraged.
A very important part of Small Group Ministry is that every group is always open to new members. This means that after groups reach 10-12 members, they need to birth a new group. The assistant leader becomes the leader of one of the two new groups. We realize that this will be hard after being involved intimately with other people’s lives and ideas. We ask you to think of this as an opportunity to build relationships with new people (and to provide the opportunity for others to develop new relationships with you). Since new group members will have different spiritual experiences and ideas, this will also provide the opportunity for more spiritual growth.

What does an individual meeting look like?

1 - About 10 minutes of greetings and getting situated

2 - A chalice lighting and a short reading

3 - About 45 minutes of sharing what is going on in your life.

- To allow everyone an opportunity to speak, this starts with everyone

speaking for up to 4 minutes, without interruption.

- This is then followed by 15-20 minutes of follow-up conversation.

4 - A spiritual topic will be introduced by the leader. The group then discusses

this topic for about an hour. For the first several meetings, the topic

will be given to the groups. Depending on how this goes, and what the

groups would like to do, subjects will be given to the groups or the groups

will pick their own.

5 - A quick list is made of what people liked about the meeting and what they wish it could have been (no discussion of ideas).

6 - Closing words.

Concluding Remarks
We invite you to join us with this exciting new concept. If you have questions about Small Group Ministry feel free to talk with the Minister and the ad hoc committee responsible to developing the concept (names included).
SAMPLE SMALL GROUP SESSIONS

What follows are some samples of small group sessions. Most of these have been developed by the Rev. Calvin Dame, often as requested, by the small groups in his congregation. To give proper credit, I’ve noted Calvin’s sessions by indicating UUCCA (UU Community Church, Augusta)


No. 1


Community

Leader____________

Date______________
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan


Opening Words:

Each of us brings a separate truth here,

We bring the truth of our own life, our own story.

We don’t come as empty vessels...

But rather we come as full people -- people who have our own story

and our own truth. We seek to add to our truths and add to our

stories.

This room is rich with truth, rich with experience.

All manner of people are here:

needy...joyful...frightened...anxious...bored...

We all bring our truth with us.

May we all recognize the truth and the story in everyone’s life.

And may we hear and honor the truths that we all bring as

we gather together..

Together we have truths.

Together we have a story.

Together we are a community.

Penny Hackett-Evans


Check-in/Sharing
Topic:

A community is made up of people who enjoy and are ready to

participate in mutual helpfulness. Not that they are busybodies

always prying into one another’s affairs. They are not conscious

“do-gooders,” but they know how to be helpful without making a

big thing of it.”

Harry Meserve

Questions: How do we want to be in community? How do we

want others to be? What do we experience as helpful?

What do you need to know about me; and what do I need

to know about you?

Likes and Wishes
Closing Words:
And now we take our leave.
Before we gather here again -

may each of us bring happiness into another’s life;

may we each be surprised by the gifts that surround us;

may we each be enlivened by constant curiosity;

and may we remain together in spirit

‘til the hour we meet again.


Barbara Cheatham

Number 2


Learning from Failure

Leader________________

Date__________________

SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan

Opening Words:

We gather to affirm the potential we all share:

for building community, for undertaking constructive change,

for engaging in mature growth,

for achieving greater humanity than we have known.

May our meeting together be a time of reflection on

possibilities untried.

May it help us on our perilous ways during the week ahead.

adapted from Harold Babcock
Check-in/Sharing
Topic: “Whether or not we soften the sense of “sinners” to what Eugene Kennedy calls “mistake makers”, the fact remains we are not and never can be perfect. This is not to say we are condemned to making the same mistakes over and over. If we learn from past mistakes, we shall have the joy and sorrow of making some entirely new ones and learning from them as well. That is learning. That is growth. That is what being alive is all about.” - Glenn Turner
Possible Questions: What have we learned from our mistakes or our

failures? How do we make imperfection a wise teacher?


Likes and Wishes
Closing Words:

We receive fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity, brief

moments of insight. Let us gather them up for the precious gifts

that they are, and, renewed by their grace, move boldly into the

unknown.


Sara Campbell

Number 3


Timelines

UUCCA


Leader____________

Date___________


SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan


Opening Words:
from the UU Hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, use selection

646 by Wendell Berry


Check-in/Sharing
Topic/Activity: Create a religious time line. Divide a line into sections, one for each of your decades of life, plus the decades you expect to live. Draw pictures for each decade representing how you understood God or felt about religion during each of those periods, plus how you hope to experience your religious life in the decades to come (20 minutes). Then share. (Materials: appropriate paper & crayons or colored pencils)
Likes and Wishes
Closing Words:
“Take courage friends.

The way is often hard, the path is never clear,

and the stakes are high.

Take courage.

For deep down, there is another truth.

You are not alone.”

Wayne Arnason

Number 4


Worship

Leader___________

Date_______

UUCCA
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan

Opening Words:

“Ancient as the home is the temple. Ancient as the workbench is the altar.

Ancient as the soldier is the priest. Older than written language is spoken prayer; older than painting is the thought of a nameless one. Religion is first and last -- the universal language of the human heart. Differing words describe the outward appearance of things; diverse symbols represent that which stands beyond and within. Yet each person’s hunger is the same, and heart communicates with heart. Ever the vision leads on with many gods or with one, with a holy land washed by ocean waters, or a holy land within the heart. In temperament we differ, yet we are dedicated to one august destiny; creeds divide us, but we share a common destiny. Because we are human, we shall ever build our altars; because each has a holy yearning, we offer everywhere our prayers and anthems. For an eternal verity abides beneath diversities; we are children of one great love, united in our one eternal family.” W. Waldemar W. Argow

Check-in/Sharing
Discussion: This session is on the experience of worship. These are questions you might use:

What kinds of worship can you think of? (newsprint might be helpful)

What is worship for?

Share an experience of memorable or moving worship.

What makes worship meaningful for you?

How do you prepare yourself for worship?


Likes & Wishes
Closing Words:

“Take courage friends.

The way is often hard, the path is never clear,

and the stakes are high.

Take courage.

For deep down, there is another truth.

You are not alone.”

Wayne B. Arnason

Number 5

Living Through Loss

Leader___________

Date________

UUCCA
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan
Opening Words:

From the UU Hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, use selection

614 by Black Elk
Check-in/Sharing
Discussion: Ask the members of your group to share an experience of loss that has been a significant part of their life journey.
Some questions to ask:

Was your journey a meandering route or a straight line?

Where were the dark places?

Where were you lonely?

Where did you have a companion?

How has it shaped you? Your faith?

What strength has it given you?
Likes and wishes
Closing words:

“Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.”

Nancy Wood


Number 6

Forgiveness

Leader_________

Date______

SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan
Opening Words:

If you knew how I felt inside, you would not act that way outside.


But most likely,

If I knew how you felt inside

I would not mind so much the way you act outside.

Why don’t we try

turning ourselves

inside out!”

Edward T. Atkinson

Check-in/Sharing
Discussion:

“We cannot let the world’s wounds destroy our spirits. We cannot let our

hurts and betrayals destroy our capacity for growth and caring. That there

will be judgment and, perhaps, justice, is necessary. That the violence be

confronted and, if possible, contained is essential. But, most important is

our capacity to nurture a loving heart, to affirm and not to curse, to forgive

even when we cannot completely forget.” - Glenn H. Turner
Some Questions to ask:

How do you respond when you are wounded?

How do you feel toward the person who has hurt you?

How long do you carry your anger and how does that re-sentment (feeling it

again and again) continue to hurt you?

Can you forgive and break the cycle? Can you understand the other?

What does forgiveness mean to you?
Likes & Wishes
Closing Words:
“May the Love which overcomes

all differences

which heals all wounds,

which puts to flight all fears,

which reconciles all who are

separated,

be in us and among us

now and always.”


Frederick E. Gillis

Number 7


Living Simply

Leader___________

Date________

UUCCA
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan

Opening Words: “Why should we live in such a hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. I wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. I wish to learn what life has to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I have not lived. I do not wish to life what is not life, living is so dear, nor do I wish to practice resignation, unless it is quite necessary. I wish to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. I want to cut a broad swath, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms. If it proves to be mean, then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or it is sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it.

Henry David Thoreau

Check-in/Sharing
Topic/Activity (materials: pen and paper) Many of us would like to live more simply, to simplify our lives. But not many of us are likely to follow Thoreau’s example and build a cabin in the woods. Take ten minutes to answer these questions: What are the demands in my life that keep me too busy? What needs or forces in me keep me busy? What do I push aside? What would I be willing to give up? Take time to share. Ending question: What one thing are you willing to try in the next weeks (until the group meets again) that will move your life closer to your goals for a simpler and more meaningful life?
Likes & Wishes
Closing Words:
“May the light around us guide our footsteps, and hold us fast to the best

and most righteous vision that we seek. May the darkness around us nurture

our dreams, and give us rest so that we may give ourselves to the work of the world. Let us seek to remember the wholeness of our lives, the weaving of

light and shadow in this great and astonishing dance in which we move.”

Kathleen McTigue

Number 8


What We Love

Leader__________

Date______

UUCCA


SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan


Opening Words:

From the UU Hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, use selection

490, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
Check-in/Sharing

Topic/Activity: Mary Oliver says, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” What do you love? Tell a story of when you first encountered one of your loves. How does it feel: doing or being with the thing you love? How do you feel when your are apart from it or unable to do it? Are you at peace with the things that you love to do or be? What would you have to do to “let” yourself love what you love? How could we help each other achieve that?

Likes & Wishes
Closing Words “As we leave this community of the spirit, may we remember the difficult lesson that each day offers more things than we can do. May we do what needs to be done, postpone what does not, and be at peace with what we can be and do. Therefore, may we learn to separate that which matters most from that which matters least of all.” Richard S. Gilbert

Number 9


The Sense of Gratitude

Leader_____________

Date_________
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan


Opening Words:
“Who can make an accounting of gratitude?
For the universe we give thanks, an expanse of life to stretch

us with wonder...


For the earth we give thanks, fragment of the stars that is our home...
For life we give thanks, the burning of stars ordered and tempered here

allowing us life and breath...


For growth we give thanks, for the heritage of the spirit, for all the forces

past our knowing, power past our control...


For the ages which follow us, for the eternity of days, in which life is

ever renewed and fulfilled, we give thanks.”


adapted from Kennneth Patton,

Hymns for the Celebration of Life
Check-in/Sharing
Topic: There are things in life that just sort of hang there: like free floating guilt

and angst. But, what about a sense of gratitude? Doesn’t that well up at times and

demand expression? A blessing, a song of praise, a shout, a loud HURRAH! I’m

talking about a sense of gratitude that goes beyond just what another person does for you. I’m talking about the fiery sunset, the smell of the rose, the very existence of the artichoke and the giraffe. It should take our breath away. And our breath, oxygen - yes, thank you!

Questions we should answer:

How do you cultivate a thankful heart?

How do we stay aware of that in Life which is sheer blessing?

Likes and Wishes
Closing Words:
“God,

may our ears be open to little birds who are the secret of living,

may we take time to see flowers and people for the beauty they are,

may be make room in our lives for one another.”


Richard F. Boeke

Number 10



Preparing for Christmas

Leader____________

Date_________
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Group Session Plan


Opening Words:

From the UU Hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, use selection 615,

“The Work of Christmas,” by Howard Thurman
Check-in/Sharing
Topic: (use following selection as a responsive reading)
The relatives have gone. The harvest season passed with Thanksgiving. Even as

we bought our turkey, the Salvation Army bells jangled our nerves toward Christmas.


THE DECORATIONS OF CHRISTMAS ARE HUNG IN OUR TOWNS AND CITIES. WE HAVE LEFT-OVER TURKEY SOUP AND ( ? ) MORE SHOPPING DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS.
This is the advent of peace and goodwill, songs to be sung, choirs to do their Messiahs. There will be Christmas Teas and office parties, Christmas Fairs, and hot rum toddies.
BY THIS WEEK WE SHOULD HAVE OUR CARDS IN THE MAIL, GREETINGS TO A HUNDRED FRIENDS ALL OVER THE WORLD, EACH WITH A LETTER TELLING ALL THAT WE DID FOR THE YEAR. LAST WEEK OUR PACKAGES SHOULD HAVE BEEN MAILED. WHEN IS THERE TIME TO GO SHOPPING?
Giving gifts takes more time than we have. Sitting in the endless traffic, hustling and bustling through the stores, lining up in the Post Office behind the man with six packages all going overseas, all to be insured, all to be registered.

SOON WE’LL BE EATING AND DRINKING MORE THAN WE SHOULD. ANXIOUS, UNEASY, WE MAY MISS THE SPIRIT WE SEEK. WE PAUSE, CENTER DOWN, AND REFLECT ON THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS.

What shall we celebrate? A closeness with family and friends, a warmth in the chill of winter, a birth - what shall we celebrate?
THE YULE LOG, THE FEASTING, THE GIFTS - THE CARDS, THE TREES,

AND THE WREATHS ALL POINT TO OUR FEELINGS OF CLOSENESS, DECLARE OUR NEED FOR A CARING COMMUNITY.


The winter is cold, the snow will lie on the ground, soon are the snowmen and skating, hot chocolate, skiing, and singing - all that this season is bringing.
THERE MUST BE SPACE FOR THE SINGING OF ANGELS, BRIGHT LIGHTS

OF BEAUTY AND MEANING. THERE MUST BE A PLACE UNDER THE

STARS TO CHART A COURSE THAT IS OURS TO OUR OWN

BETHLEHEMS.

- Glenn H. Turner
Some questions to ask:

What are you feeling as we move into another Christmas season?

What do you dread?

What do you look forward to?

What rituals keep you focused?

If your tradition is not Christian (i.e. being Jewish, Muslim....) how

do you experience this season?
Likes and Wishes
Closing Words:
“Give us a child’s heart, that we may be filled with wonder and delight.”

- Sara Moores Campbell

APPENDIX A
RESOURCES

I began my research into “small-group” ministry through some books, videos, and audio tapes of Carl George, director of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. He is a church consultant with an evangelical and Pentecostal background. The theological language, presumptions, and allusions are Christian and may put off UUs who are language sensitive. I think, however, when you realize what is behind saving souls for Christ, basically bringing people into community who are isolated and adrift, you may find you could have more in common with the orthodox than you realized. Persist. It will be rewarding. The essential materials are:

Prepare Your Church for the Future - Carl George $16.49 (Cnd.), $12.95 (U.S.)


The Coming Church Revolution - Carl George $16.49 (Cnd.), $12.95 (U.S.)

How to Break Growth Barriers - Carl George $16.49 (Cnd.), $12.95 (U.S.)

Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership -Carl George $17.95 (Cnd.), $13.50 (U.S.)

Growing Small Groups - Floyd Schwanz $16.50 (Cnd.), $12.50 (U.S.)

How to Build a Small Groups Ministry - Neal F. McBride - Navpress 1995
Share the Vision (five 60 minute videos) - Carl George and Jim Dethmer

$289.00 (Cnd.), $215.95 (U.S.)



Nine Facets of the Effective Small-Group Leader Series (nine 25 minute

segments on video) - Carl George $249 (Cnd.), $185.95 (U.S.)


The “Meta-Church Workshop Self Study Kit” (audio tapes and workbook) - Carl George $139 (order through CDLM 1 909 396-6845)
THE ABOVE BOOKS, VIDEOS, AND TAPES

CAN BE ORDERED BY CALLING

1-800-804-0777
Two UU books come to mind which, though not specifically addressing this model, lead toward the small-group organization of churches.

The Devotional Heart: Pietism and the Renewal of American Unitarian Universalism - John Morgan (Skinner House Books)

Transforming Liberal Congregations for the New Millennium - Roy Phillips $12.95

item 4183 UUA Bookstore

The Rev. Robert Hill, UUA Field Staff in the Southwest District is maintaining a web site on this concept. He refers to small-group ministry as “Covenant Groups.” What is important is how this kind of ministry works, not what we call it. We’ll each want to call it something we are comfortable with, although as this spreads through the denomination we shall learn what is the most accepted nomenclature and should probably go with that. To receive the Covenant Group News, subscribe or unsubscribe at www.swuuc.org in the “Rev. Bob Hill” section. Problems? E-mail: bob@bobhill.com. There were 11 News articles as of 1/00. This is an excellent resource.

The Center for Community Values has material on “covenant groups” on their website: http://www.the-ccv.org

That includes their Covenant Group Source Book - http://www.the-ccv.org/sourcebook.pdf They can be reached at The Center for Community Values, 1507 E. 53rd St. #901, Chicago. IL 60615


CAVEAT

If you read, watch, and listen to all the Carl George material, you will know a lot more than you need to know. It is very useful. It helps to be exposed to the range of possibilities inherent in the small-group ministry program. If I were to narrow the list, I’d suggest The Coming Church Revolution, the Nine Keys to Effective Small-Group Leadership, and the Vision videos by Carl George and Growing Small Groups by Floyd Schwanz. What you’re doing by absorbing as much as possible is developing a broad base from which you can develop your own program.


APPENDIX B
Some of the members of the Northeast District Extension Committee may be contacted for help with your beginning a Small Group Ministry congregation.

Cheryl Ring, Chair of the Committee and member and group leader, at the Augusta Church - (207) 621-0590 cring@mint.net

Rev. Helen Zidowecki, NED Religious Education Consultant - RR 1, Box 8279, Litchfield, ME 04350 (207) 582-5308 HZMRE@mint.net

Rev. Calvin Dame - (not on Ext. Com. but doing Small Group Ministry at the UUCC Augusta, 69 Winthrop St., Augusta, ME 04330, (207) 623-3663 caldame@aol.com

Rev. Nancy Anderson - (not on Ext. Committee but with workshop experience in the Small Group Ministry) (address: see Charlie Scholz)

Rev. Glenn H. Turner, District Minister NED-UUA - 227 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103 (207) 797-3246 gturner2@maine.rr.com

APPENDIX C

I want to thank Frances Buckmaster who introduced me to the work of Carl George and his ideas on the “Meta-church.” I want to thank the following people for their suggestions in shaping this paper: Cheryl Ring, Charlie Scholz, Helen Zidowecki, Georgia Prickett, Calvin Dame, and Rhonda Millett. I also want to thank Bob Hill for his collaboration in creating and spreading information on “Covenant” Groups and Small Group Ministry. And, thanks in the Northeast District to the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta who turned theory into fact, like spinning straw into gold as this idea has unfolded.

APPENDIX D

The quotation from Alice Walker came from Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful - 1983 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

The quotation from David Whyte came from The House of Belonging - 1997 Many Rivers Press

Material on shepherds and ranchers from How to Break Growth Barriers by Carl George - 1993 Baker Books



Quotation from Harry C. Meserve came from About Community - 1998 Downeast Graphics & Printing, Ellsworth, ME




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