1. Being Together, Part I
- Chalice or LED/battery-operated candle
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- A calendar
- Timepiece (seconds)
- Bell or chime
Share this quote by reading it aloud or asking several volunteers to read it with you.
Come in. Come into this place which we make holy by our presence.
Come in with all your vulnerabilities and strengths, fears and anxieties, loves and hopes. For here you need not hide, nor pretend, nor be anything other than who you are and are called to be.
Come into this place where we can touch and be touched, heal and be healed, forgive and be forgiven.
Come into this place, where the ordinary is sanctified, the human is celebrated, the compassionate is expected.
Come into this place. Together we make it a holy place. —
Rebecca A. Edmiston-Lange, on the UUA website WorshipWeb
If group members are new to each other, invite participants to say their name, their school or where they live, and something they are looking forward to this year. If participants have been together previously, ask for everyone to state their name and anything interesting that has happened since the last meeting.
Say, in your own words:
Welcome to Sharing the Journey! Today will be different from most meetings because we have several items of business to discuss. Yet today's meeting will resemble future meetings in some important ways. One of those ways is that in each session, we will have time to listen to each other as we share both our common and unique experiences. What we will be doing with our time together is often referred to as small group ministry.
Ask participants what they know about small group ministry or what they think the sessions will be like. Affirm what you can. Explore ideas that will lead participants to clearly understand the program.
Share with participants any decisions that have been made concerning facilitation of sessions, other ways to participate, format, how topics for discussion will be chosen, and whether your group is closed or open (and the empty chair, if one is being used). See Chapter 2, Planning and Implementation, for more information.
You will have the most buy-in if most decisions are made by the group. Use this time to present the decisions the group needs to make. Facilitate the group to make the decisions. Use a sheet of newsprint and a calendar to keep track of ideas and decisions. There are three categories of decisions to discuss:
- Logistics, such as when and where you will meet, whether your group will perform a service project, and other questions about organization
- Leadership, such as who will facilitate future sessions, what is involved in facilitating, training for facilitators, and other ways to contribute to the success of the group
- Topics for future sessions and focus of a service project.
After the group has made the decisions needed to go forth, tell participants that the model for a small group ministry session has a few distinct components. Explain the purpose of the Opening, Check-in, Focus, Questions, Activity (if using in this session), Check-out, and Closing. Note that this session started with an Opening and Check-In. The focus for this session was the decisions on how the group will proceed. Now you will move on to Questions, Activity (if using), Check-out, and Closing.
- Why do we call these sessions "ministry"?
- How will we open and close our sessions? Should we establish a ritual for Opening and Closing? Are there other rituals we should include to help us remember we are here to support each other on our spiritual journey?
- What other questions and/or concerns do you have?
This activity, Concentric Circles, was written by Eric Dawson. It is a way to practice listening. Give these instructions:
We are going to practice deep listening, the kind of listening we will do in Sharing the Journey. Find a partner. Each pair will respond to a question.
One person will speak at a time, the partner only using non-verbal communication.
After a minute and a half, I'll hit the chime, the person should finish their sentence and then the other person begins, with the first person listening silently.
After another minute and a half, I'll hit the chime again and ask another question.
When answering the question, speak from personal experience and only share what you are comfortable sharing. When listening, work on really listening. You do not have to think of a response to what your partner is saying; you don't have to solve anyone's problem; don't think about what you will say when it's your turn. Just listen, non-judgmentally.
Pose the first question:
- Who is someone in your life who you feel deeply listens to you, and what is it about them that makes you feel this way? Or, when was a particular time you felt listened to in an authentic way?
After both partners have answered the question, ask the next questions. Ask as many as time allows. Here are a few ideas for other questions:
- Describe one of the best meals you've ever had; what made it special?
- What's a book you would live if you could?
- Is there a geographic place to which you feel connected or rooted? Describe it.
- What drives you crazy when you are trying to share something with someone?
- Has there been a time you feel you ministered to someone else? What was that like?
After the activity, process the experience with the following questions:
- How was this different from the way we frequently listen to each other?
- What does "confidentiality" mean? Think about how confidential we want to keep what is shared during our sessions. In our next session, we will talk more about confidentiality when we build a covenant.
Use the closing ritual if the group created one earlier or extinguish the chalice with these words:
May our faith sustain us,
our hope inspire us,
and our love surround us
as we go our separate ways,
knowing that we will gather again
in this beloved community. Amen. — Jim Wickman