Why Do Small Group Ministry Now?
As we move through the summer and into the fall of 2021, our congregations have lived through a time of connecting differently and will be moving towards a time when we will be able to be in person more often.
Our volunteers and staff are exhausted. Many are out of creativity and inspiration and just need a break. And yet, we do need to reconnect. We may be awkward. We may feel uncomfortable. Large groups of people may feel like “too much” for many of us.
Small group ministry is a style of circle worship for small groups. It allows each person a chance to share, if they choose, and to be heard and held by the group. Many of our congregations have active small group ministry programs, sometimes called chalice circles or covenant groups. UU youth and young adults often worship in such a circle form. But this idea could be new to your congregation.
We are offering a six session series of gatherings that could be an addition to what your congregation has planned for congregational programming. This could happen after services, or could replace Sunday morning worship for a time when your staff and/or volunteers need a break. You could have groups meet at different times or use the material when you gather on Sundays. For Sundays, after a brief gathering time split into small groups, some online and some in person preferably outdoors.
We have created this series paying special attention to the trauma we have been through. These sessions are not designed to dig deep into our trauma as that work may be more difficult and would require the presence of religious or mental health professionals. Instead these sessions allow people to reconnect in gentle ways that invite them to share at the level they feel comfortable sharing. Sessions integrate small reminders about trauma and ways to gently connect with the body's nervous system.
- Running this Small Group Ministry Program (PDF)
- Session Format Guide for Facilitators (PDF)
- Session 1: Relationship (PDF)
- Session 2: Joy (PDF)
- Session 3: Bearing Witness (PDF)
- Session 4: Resilience (PDF)
- Session 5: Connection and Community (PDF)
- Session 6: Interdependence (PDF)
Small Group Program Overview for Planning
- Purpose: help adults in congregations reconnect emotionally and spiritually; provide congregations a resource for programming they do not need to create
- Plan for fully inclusive: some groups in person (outdoors or indoors as is safe for participants), some online
- Facilitators: If your congregation already has a small group ministry program or practice with other circle practices, you likely already know who could facilitate well. If not, look for people comfortable facilitating groups and comfortable with silence. You can share the resources below with them for them to get a better sense of this style of being together.
- Forming groups: Best practice is to have the same people in the same groups each week, but we have written this with the assumption that congregations will lean towards the more inclusive and include those who missed earlier sessions when they want to attend later.
- Timing: Could be on Sunday morning in place of worship, after worship, or happen at another time of the group’s choosing.
- Length: We have six sessions planned. These could run between 45 and 90 minutes depending on how long is saved for check in and how long a group wants to share.