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Small Group Ministries

First, is the engaging of people in community for enhancement of spiritual journey through ministry in a group that is small enough for sharing and caring. I cherish my time in a small group in my own congregation. Small groups change lives and congregations!

And there are several subsets of the usual Small Group Ministry activities.
  • Small Group Ministry with religious education for children has been an ongoing and developing area.
  • Small Group Ministry for Youth, Helen Zidowecki, June 2005, is available from the Small Group Ministry Network at
This process provides a minimal but consistent structure within which youth have time for discernment and for sharing, for developing leadership and relational skills, and for learning from others and realizing that they have so much to offer others.
  • Unitarian Universalist Principles/Parenting: Small Group Ministry is available on this site.
  • Small Group Ministry and older adults is being developed in Spring 2006.

Second, Small Group Ministry adds a relational dimension to groups that do not fully follow the guidelines for a Small Group Ministry or covenant group. For example, Small Group Ministry adds the ‘relational’ component to ‘religious education for lifespan faith development’. ‘Relational’ includes:
  • how we group participants (for example; having 3 groups of grades 1-3 versus a group for each grade, allowing for more diversity in meeting needs of participants), keeping groups to 8-10 each, including the facilitators/leaders, and focusing on the importance of each person to the group and to each other.
  • taking attendance as ‘attending to’ who is present, and being aware of who is not present.
  • asking questions that engage participants from the ‘importance’ level. That is, asking questions that allow the participants to talk from their experience, their lives, and their stories rather than focusing on information.

Third, Small Group Ministry is an effective tool for focusing on an issue or topic within the context of a larger educational program or meeting. For example, Small Group Ministry can be used in as part of Teacher Development or ongoing Religious Education Committee meetings. Taking time for a session on feeling safe and contributing to a safe environment brings the discussion around safe congregation policies to a depth beyond the requirements for ‘two adults with children or windows in doors’. Or focusing on gifts and giving and receiving enhances how people work together from their respective strengths, from religious education to committee work. Or discussing leading and following may change perceptions of dynamics and interactions.

But in all of these uses of Small Group Ministry, the underlying principles must be preserved:
  • Small groups – allow space to welcome others, but keep the groups to the 8-10.
  • Focus on ministry, or the caring and sharing—focus on engagement and stories rather than information.
  • The methodology is dialog rather than discussion—expect to share and expect to ‘learn’ from others. Notes or reports are not generated from sessions, when addressing the topic that requires decisions after the session.

Small Group Ministry is a dynamic process that enriches our lives, our congregations and out denomination at a variety of levels. We have not even begun to realize its impact on Unitarian Universalism.

Rev. Helen Zidowecki

All materials copyright © 2008-2017 by Helen Zidowecki unless otherwise noted. - -

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