Small Group Ministry

I’ve become increasingly committed to the development of small group ministries (also known as Covenant Groups) in churches in which I’ve worked.  This model has come into widespread use among Unitarian Universalists in the past several decades.  Covenant Groups provide a way to provide intimacy for members of congregations by creating a small circle of eight to twelve friends who gather every other week to share each other’s lives.  The program provides a structure for participants to engage respectfully in speaking from the heart and listening deeply about key spiritual issues that affect all of us like gratitude, joy, guilt, death, happiness, transcendence and many others.  The groups also provide a way for members to band together and help care for one another when particular needs arise, to celebrate joys together, and to engage in projects that help neighbors in concrete ways.  Including newcomers to the congregation in these small groups enables them to make friends faster than they would simply by attending Sunday morning services, and in this way helps them to become more engaged with the life of the whole parish.  Conventional wisdom in church growth holds that newcomers who don’t make six friends in six months will drift away; a robust small group ministry helps to ensure that they will make friends and thus be more likely to commit to the congregation long-term.

Deedee was one of the members of the committee that initiated this program in Ridgewood under the name “Connections,” and I was privileged to work on launching the program with the minister, Rev. Sarah Lammert, while doing field study for my seminary.  I also facilitated three groups in the course of two years.  While serving Arlington Street Church during my ministerial internship, I helped to re-start a small group ministry program that had fallen into disuse using the materials we had developed in Ridgewood, and I’m happy to report that the Connections program at Arlington Street is still going strong.  I introduced this program at Second Parish as well, but unfortunately too few members were willing to try it out and we were not able to continue after the initial sessions.

Attached are the following:
- The brochure announcing Connections at Second Parish
- A Training Manual we developed at Arlington Street Church (ASC), showing some of the philosophy of the program
- A sampling of the topics covered by Connections at the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood (USR)

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Paul Sprecher,
Jan 7, 2014, 12:22 PM
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Paul Sprecher,
Jan 7, 2014, 12:22 PM
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Paul Sprecher,
Jan 7, 2014, 12:22 PM