a society that has for many people resulted in an increasing sense of isolation,
it is essential to nurture community, to foster meaningful conversations, and to
work together to make the world a better place. Small Group Ministry has become a vital
way to meet those goals. This
program has become an essential part of many Unitarian Universalist
congregations as well as other faith communities. After three years of small groups at
Channing Church we have found that
many people’s lives have been transformed and their sense of community
program is at once simple and profound.
Co-facilitators lead each group and meet with me monthly for ongoing
guidance. Every other week for two
hours, a group of eight to ten people gather in the living room of a member’s
home. The idea of meeting with a
circle of people regularly in and of itself is a satisfying way of breaking into
the rush of daily life. A group of
strangers rapidly becomes a supportive circle that cares and offers assistance
to one another.
session explores religious concepts through the lens of personal
experience. The topics are in the
areas of spirituality, ethics, relationships, life passages, vocation, and human
nature. The central event of the
small groups is the sharing time.
Attentive listening is our practice. This means that each person speaks
without interruption from his or her own perspective. When individuals share stories, beliefs,
and doubts in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, a remarkable thing
happens: each person is empowered to articulate his or her stories and
beliefs. Through sharing our
particular life experiences, universal truths are revealed. We are able to get in touch with a deep
place of knowing. After a time of
sharing and deep listening, the group has a more free-flowing conversation about
the subject. The exchange of ideas and experiences is
nourishing to the mind, the heart and the spirit.
in Small Group Ministry have also reported an increasing awareness of spiritual
issues in their lives. After a
session on “Forgiveness”, one member was able to take real steps in mending a
relationship. Through the regular
practice of attentive listening, a participant found that she was better able to
listen to her daughter. By
exploring silent meditation with his group, one man decided to take up a regular
practice. A session on “Art as Food
for the Soul” inspired an outing to a local gallery.
only does Small Group Ministry deepen the experience of current church members,
it provides an entry for newcomers to join the community. Every group has an “Open Chair” which
means participants are encouraged to invite their family members, friends, and
neighbors to attend a session and join the small group. Church visitors are also invited to join
a group. Friends and newcomers have
commented that joining a small group allowed them to get to know a circle of
people more quickly than attending worship alone. Folks who are not familiar with
Unitarian Universalism often feel more comfortable going to a session in
someone’s home before choosing to attend a Sunday service. We have found that people who have
joined the church after being in a small group are some of our most enthusiastic
and committed members.
is most inspiring is that each small group chooses a service project to do
together. Sometimes groups have
done something at church like hosting a pancake breakfast or polishing the
pews. Other times groups have
walked together or held a yard sale to raise funds for a worthy cause. Service is a natural extension of
meaningful conversation for once we are connected to our beliefs and to other
people we are motivated to take action.
The participants engage in ministry to one another and then turn outward
to make a difference in the world.
For more information contact growthresources @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Friday, October 3, 2014.
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