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Format for small group ministry sessions

While small group ministry uses various formats, it must provide (1) a time dedicated to checking in and (2) questions that invite participants to speak to their individual experiences. By sharing stories and reflecting, with others, on how we, as individuals, make meaning of our experiences, we accompany one another on our spiritual paths.

This resource uses the same format for all the sample sessions. Its components are:

Opening gathers people, and sets the time for being together as special. The opening can be:

  • Generic — focused on calling the group together, or
  • Specific — related to the topic of the session.

You might light a chalice and share a reading or song from the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition, or other material.

Check-In allows each member an opportunity to speak, without interruption. (It may be helpful to set a time, such as two minutes, for each member to speak, with the option of extending the time as needed and as agreed by the group.) Check-in can focus on:

  • Sharing accomplishments or concerns
  • Sharing highlights in your life since the last meeting.

Passing on sharing is acceptable. Someone who passes may wish to speak after others have shared. Not all sharing is appropriate in the group. When a person needs more discussion, make plans for that outside of the session time, and with appropriate youth and adults.

Focus features material that sets the theme for the session. For example, focus material might be a film, a story, or a presentation about a current event.

Questions reflect on the focus material. Questions lead to discernment; use them to promote dialogue, rather than decisions, using these guidelines:

  • Participants talk about the topic as it relates to them, without being disputed
  • Participants share from their own experience
  • Participants can learn from the stories and sharing of others.

Optional activity(ies) offer alternate ways to explore the theme of the session. For a group with kinesthetic learners, add an activity that provides a more active approach. Include a game, to foster group-building.

Check-Out gives participants a chance to comment on how they feel about the session and to make suggestions for enhancing future sessions or the group process.

Closing can be:

  • Generic — the same for each session, or
  • Specific — related to the topic of the session.

As with the Opening, the Closing can come from various sources.

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For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.