Small groups use special practices

The November issue of Covenant Group News, the monthly newsletter of the UU Small Group Ministry Network, includes an article on using Skype to connect people who can’t attend a meeting because of distance. Skype is software that can be used to connect two computers so that a distant person can be seen as well as heard.

“It was a great experience,” said a facilitator from Hamilton, Ontario. “I believe it has tons of potential applications for all kinds of ministry.”

Another article explores a group at High Plains UU Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., created for parents with small children. The group includes childcare. It has two trained facilitators, who, if enough people attend, hold two sessions. The groups sometimes have a choice of child-centered or spiritual growth topics.

The Church of the Larger Fellowship, a congregation that serves isolated UUs through the Internet and by mail, holds online small group sessions that can last three to four weeks. The facilitator sends out an opening reading and invites members to check in by email over the next few days. Then a topic is posed and more time is allowed for receiving responses. Then a few more days are provided for closing and evaluation and then there’s a final week for informal chatting. The Rev. Lynn Ungar, CLF minister for Lifespan Learning, said these groups work especially well for people who are shy or need time to process.

More information on the UU Small Group Ministry Network, including how to join and sign up for Covenant Group News is here. The network also collects discussion topics and makes them available to members.

Newsletter supports small group ministry

An article in the October issue of Covenant Group News, a publication of the UU Small Group Ministry Network, notes the power of moments of silence during small group ministry gatherings. Diana Dorroh, editor of Covenant Group News and program director at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, La., writes:

Silence is a powerful tool for any facilitator. It can be used after a particularly moving sharing occurs. For example, if one member tells a story about the death of a family member, the facilitator can call for a moment of silence. This honors the sharing that just occurred and prepares the way for the next member, who may have been planning to share something joyful.

Some groups routinely allow 15 seconds of silence after each sharing. This honors each person and creates a clean finish of one sharing before the next begins, similar to passing a talking object. It’s also like a small silent prayer after each person’s sharing.

Silence can also be used when a difficult situation occurs (such as an inappropriate comment.) Calling for a moment of silence may . . . allow you to think of something gentle to say, something beginning with “I” and followed by a loving statement to call everyone back to the model and the covenant.

Copies of Covenant Group News are available online. You can also sign up to receive each new issue by email. The UU Small Group Ministry Network also has an email discussion group that supports leaders of small groups.