Small Group Ministry at James Reeb UU Congregation
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Small Group Ministry is a program of intentional small groups that deepen and expand our shared ministry. The basic elements of Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry have evolved from the experience of many people in diverse congregational settings. Those basic elements are their power and their promise: intimacy, ultimacy, and growth.
Intimacy: Small Group Ministry helps build community and provides opportunities for deeper relationships.
Ultimacy: Small Group Ministry provides an opportunity for deeper spiritual exploration and search for meaning.
Growth: Small Group Ministry provides opportunities to grow leaders, as group members become facilitators. It has the potential to grow our congregation in numbers, as well as in generosity, cooperation, and
sense of well-being.
Covenant Groups are part of the Adult Religious Exploration Program at JRUUC. Groups are randomly created at the start of each church year, based on the availability of people interested, and they are made up of 6 to 10 people, plus a facilitator. Groups are open for the first two meetings, to allow people to decide if they would like to continue for the year, and are then closed to encourage trust and depth of sharing.
Covenant Groups have several purposes. One is to build relationships through the practice of deep listening. Another is to practice shared ministry with each other and our congregation as a whole. We recognize that all of us are responsible for the ministry of caring for one another and our congregation.
Each group creates a covenant during their first gathering – a set of relational ground rules or agreed-upon behaviors of how members will be with each other. Having a covenant creates a safe environment and enables a small group to build trust and share spiritual exploration.
Ground rules typically include time management, commitment, respectful listening, confidentiality, and speaking from one’s own experience (“I” statements). The group’s covenant is read or acknowledged at the beginning of each gathering. The groups also covenant with the congregation to engage in service to the congregation and larger world. Having clear expectations ensures that all members benefit from the Covenant Group experience.
Covenant Groups meet monthly at JRUUC. Each group begins their time together with a chalice lighting and check-in, and then are guided through times of silence, and sharing and deep listening, based on a reading or set of readings. Members are encouraged to share the stories that come up for them, and to be present to each person sharing. Each gathering ends with a short time in which participants briefly share responses to what they have heard, followed by closing words.
Group facilitators are self-selected, and meet with Rev. Karen at the beginning of the month for their own covenant group. Each facilitator serves two roles in their group: holding the space within which participants freely share their lives and minister to each other, and maintaining their group’s connection to the larger program. As they focus on these roles, the facilitators’ sharing in their groups may be a little limited.
Once a year, each group engages in service to the congregation and/or the larger community. Serving together as a group gives members a chance to get to know each other in a different way, to understand how our values and actions shape each other, and to perform service as a group of Unitarian Universalists rather than as individuals.
Each month, the covenant groups reflect together on a theme, which is also the basis for that month’s worship services and religious education for children and youth.
Questions? Contact Rev. Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org
2021-20212 Themes for Reflection
September: Embracing Possibility
October: Cultivating Relationship
November: Holding History
December: Opening to Joy
January: Living with Intention
February: Widening the Circle
March: Renewing Faith
May: Nurturing Beauty
June: Celebrating Blessings