Creating Intentional MINISTRY in Small Group MinistryGeneral Assembly 2003 Event 2069
Speakers: Julia Rodriguez, Ed Massey, Robert Miess First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA
Notes from the Presentation
What are the goals of our Small Group Ministry? To develop a network of small groups that:
- Draw us into mutual ministry
- Strengthen our congretation
- Deepen our understanding of UU principles and values
- Continuously develop lay leadership
- Challenge us to action and spiritual growth
- Express our principles and values in the community
- Help members identify their own calling and expression of lay ministry
How would you organize to support small groups?
- Have an SGM council to support membership, leadership and focus on content
- The leaders of the groups meet monthly with members of the council
- Clergy help consult with and are members of the council
What key roles are needed?
- Group leader (two per group)
- Group member
- SGM Council Member:
- Leadership team lead
- Membership team lead
- Content team lead
- SGM Support Team Member
- Leadership team lead
- Membership team lead
- Content team lead
What would you want the groups to be like?
- 6-12 members
- Meet twice a month, 1 1/2 or 2 hours
- Limited confidentiality (unless people specifically ask for it); not estabish secret societies in congregation; this way, you can talk about them openly at coffee hour, keeps groups from becoming therapy groups
- Worshipful experience guided by content, based on questions distributed before the meeting
- In place of the sermon is sharing our stories in context of deep listening
- Not all group members are church members
- Topics sometimes sychronized with Sunday services
- Vessels for mutual support of spiritual growth
- Right to reticence
- Service to the church and the community encouraged
- Birthing (give birth to new groups)
- Open Chair
What would you have the leaders do?
- Act as local representative of the lay ministry of the church
- Express and model the goals and purposes of the SGM
- Assemble the group
- Facilitate the group process
- Bring in wider context of the church community
- Connect ministers with those who have special needs beyond the resources of the group (it's the leaders responsiblity to notice, but not to solve problems of those people)
- Mentor one another and future leaders
- Most limiting, most difficult, is the identifying and preparing of new leaders
What should group leaders be disallowed from doing?
- Allow the group to function as a therapy session
- Promote philosophies that go against UU principles
How would you support the groups?
- Initial training (one day)
- personal mentoring
- Monthly leadershop gatherings
- Electronic group/website
- Content for sessions
What is the monthly Leadership Gathering?
- All leaders gathering once each month
What role would the clergy play?
- This is a lay extension of the ministry of the clergy (multiplication of ministry)
- Develop lay leadership
- Minister to the congregation
Why is content so important?
- It makes the groups worth showing up for
- Strengthens group bonds
- Enriches lay ministry
- Enables growth of SGM
- Provides a strong spiritual experience
What do we try accomplish with content?
- Encourage spiritual growth
- Maintain a worshipful approach, not a potluck or tea party
- Promote all-church conversations
- Acknowledge milestones
- Facilitate important transitions
- Educate about UU principles—many members new to UUism
- Strengthen bonds to the church
What types of sessions do we offer?
- Seasonal (repeated each year; e.g., Day of the Dead, Father's Day, Winter's Solstice)
- Milestones—when a new member joins, when the group starts up, leaves the church
- Life Rituals—short sessions, birth of a child, birthday, serious illness, 20 minutes that is about one person only
Does every group do the same session at the same time?
- Groups like to be doing the same sessions (same content) although they don't have to
What's in a session's content?
- Order of worship—sets the tone, keeps people on task, brackets the experience as sacred time
- Leader Notes
What kind of sharing do we include?
- Sharing/Deep listening—no one responds
- Discussion—can respond in kind, differ
What's the value of preparation?
- Open-ended, provocative questions
- Promotes thinking in advance
- Creates an ongoing spiritual practice
- Enriches the sharing experience
- Suggests different approaches
- Helps reluctant speakers
Why do we need Leader Notes?
- Enables leaders to lead
- Reminds them of their ministry
- Prepares for a smooth session
Why do we have a content team?
- Leaders don't have to deal with it
- Quality assurance and consistency
- All-church conversations
- everything is a possible subject for a small group session
- Ministerial support
- Leader support
Questions from the Floor
Who selects the leaders? What do you do when one of the persons who wants to be a leader is not qualified?
The council selects them; they must have certain skills, which are listed. Generally, people who are not qualified will self-deslect when they read the FAQ about leadership skills.
How are groups formed?
It starts off with sign-ups; in most cases, it's self-selecting. By staying within the structured format, you allow people to get along with those who they might normally not be able to.
How many people are in your program; how long did it take to get going?
Currently 120 participants; took about a year to establish; created task force to work through all the issues, recruitment of leaders, membership tracking.
When people sign up for a specific group, do they know who the leaders are?
Yes, it's worked both ways; but the driving factor has been meeting time more than the group leaders, or participants; groups will go through transformation and change, anyway.
Where do you meet?
Some at the church, more at peoples' homes.
What about service?
Some groups have participated in social action groups; service gets encouraged by the content that's written.
As new groups form, what do they do about the content? Do they go back and tackle earlier topics?
They can. All the content is available to group leaders, and on the website.
What do you do about people who reveal themselves in the group to be mentally ill, or have severe issues?
We knew certain leaders were very competent in dealing with certain types of issues, and tried to assign people to be with those leaders (but made clear that it was not the leader's job to deal with the person's problems.
How do you introduce SGM to visitors?
There is a Small Group Ministry table at coffee hour every Sunday.
Are you sharing your group leader training curriculum?
It's on the website.
What things do you have problems with?
One of the things we struggle with is smoothly matching up of members to groups. It's not easy.
How do you handle scheduling of SGM meetings?
Our SGM groups meet the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month; therefore, we ask all committees to meet the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month. It takes a total commitment of the church to do this.
Do you allow affinity groups?
Yes, there are several women's groups, and also young adult groups.
Reported by Allan Stern; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.