Publicizing the Program and Forming a Group
Identify and approach potential participants, explaining the program and inviting them to take part. Be inventive, using words and/or pictures you think best describe what is going to happen. Think about why people might want to participate. Explain that this program and the process of writing an Odyssey help us better understand who we are by helping us understand who we have been.
People may say, "Well, it sounds interesting. It sounds like fun, but what will I really get out of all that work?" Here are some possible responses:
- You will prepare your own story to read, relive, edit, add on to, and share
- You will have a documented life story to pass on to your family and future descendants
- You will understand your own story in a deeper and broader way. Whether an Odyssey takes the form of a journal, a paper, a video or a letter, it's a unique opportunity to celebrate your life with people you care about. You may inspire others to follow in your footsteps
- You will be invited to consider those things you wish to accomplish before you die, and may even develop a plan to do them.
When you publicize the program, make sure you include information about the time commitment required, and the specific age range and make-up of your proposed group.
One way to get the word out is an attractive flyer. Find a person who is good at graphic design ask them to create a flyer you can print and distribute. You can also distribute the flyer online. Your graphic designer might even like to join the group!
Flyers that grab attention while being informative are spacious and uncluttered. Here are some considerations:
- Use font sizes large enough to catch the eye from a distance, as from a bulletin board
- Use artwork that has relevance to the workshop
- Include this important information: goals, briefly stated; dates, time, and places for the two retreats; cost; facilitator name(s); registration information; information about transportation, including carpools if you are willing to help arrange them; and, whom to contact for more information
- Choose your paper color for maximum readability. Ivory and light tan are good choices.
There are many ways to get the word out. Here is a list to get you started:
- Include a flyer in the Order of Service
- Put a flyer on your congregation's bulletin boards
- Put a notice in your congregation's newsletter
- Ask your minister to announce the program from the pulpit
- Mail the flyer, with a hand-written invitation on it, to all the qualified elders in the congregation, and to any others you would like to invite
- Use social media to publicize your program.
If you choose to seek participants beyond your congregation, try these additional suggestions:
- Post flyers in local cafes, bookstores, coffee houses, or other venues where they will be seen
- Put an ad in a local newspaper
- Submit an announcement to your local public radio station
- Send flyers to nearby congregations.
From the High Hill for Existing Groups
There may be an existing group in your congregation, such as a men's group, a women's group, a Seniors group or another affinity group that would like to do From the High Hill as a project. Because group members already know one another, issues of trust and familiarity are likely to be easier. Existing groups will likely be enriched by their shared experiences in the program. If you are a member of an existing group in your congregation and wish to present them with the idea of doing this program, consider these steps:
1. Circulate printed copies of From the High Hill among members of your group or invite them to view the resource online. Tell them you are interested in having the group consider doing the program.
2. Discuss with your group the pros and cons of taking on the program. Bring newsprint and markers to the discussion and record people's ideas. Consider these questions:
- Are most or all of the regular members of our group willing and able to take part? What if some are not?
- Is this group the right size for the program? If not, do we want to divide into two groups? Include people who are not part of our group?
- If we include others, whom will we invite? When you all know one another, it may be best not to include newcomers into the group. The nature of the subject matter and the work you will be doing involve a high degree of trust. It can be difficult for a newcomer to break in.
- What dates might work for us? When should we begin?
- Who is willing to serve on a committee to organize the program? Recruit a facilitator?
Although someone in your group may be an excellent facilitator, they should not be asked to facilitate this program. The person who facilitates is not, should not, and cannot be a member of the group. Facilitators need to be able to focus their full attention on the program activities and agenda and on the process and progress of each individual.
Committed Couples in the Group
If there are committed couples in your group, talk with the couples about guidelines for the program. Invite them to talk with one another about expectations and work out an agreement for their interaction in the program. Ask them to reach agreement on these questions before beginning the program:
- Will we participate in the same group or in different groups (possibly at different times)?
- Will we read one another's work while it is in process? Will we comment or offer suggestions?
- How will we respond to one another if one of us is distressed or emotional about a particular story or topic? Will we talk privately? Refrain from commenting? Comment only as part of the facilitated conversation?
- Can we each refrain from disagreeing publicly with the other if our memories of events and people differ? Will we also refrain from private disagreement?
Invite the couple to agree to consult with the facilitator if they need help sorting things out during the program. Recommend that they not be peer writing partners and that they avoid being in the same breakout groups during the retreat weekends.
Suggestions for Small or Large Congregations, Districts, and Clusters
If you are part of a small congregation, you may wish to invite another congregation in your area and invite them to join you in offering the program. You might consider opening your group to people who are not part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation. If you are a member of a larger congregation, there may be enough congregational interest and staff support to present two or more groups that will run concurrently, or to offer a number of groups at different times. One person, likely a congregational staff member, would be responsible for the oversight of these groups, convening their facilitators regularly in a peer support groups.
To accommodate a large number of participants, whether from a single congregation or from a district or geographic region or cluster, recruit enough facilitators to ensure that there is one for each group of six to ten people. You could have a large number of participants meeting simultaneously, if you have a facilitation "staff" serving basic groups and break out spaces to meet comfortably and privately. In this case, you will need to have staff meetings in preparation for your program and to acquaint facilitators with the materials, exercises, and discussion guidelines and challenges. Plan to involve all program participants in activities such as worship services, openings, and closings.