According to the UUA, Small Group Ministry (SGM), or as we call it a “Journey Circle” is a structured program within the UU church community; over 60% of UU congregations have small group ministry in place or are actively beginning a program.
What is the Small Group Ministry About?
Groups help create a vibrant and vital religious community by providing resources in these four areas:
- Worship is central to the life of our congregation. Small Group Ministry is meant to augment and strengthen that shared experience.
- Small Group Ministry meets the need for connection and intimacy that is both a deep hunger in our society and essential to the ongoing life of a religious community. Participants have established new and deeper connections with one another.
- People come to the church seeking spiritual growth, seeking to know themselves better, to grow into their understanding of the world, and to ponder the age-old questions of faith: how to live, what to believe, how to act, what meanings we can decipher from the mystery of life.
- A life of faith is a life of service. As human beings, we seek to be of use and a healthy congregation needs to provide avenues through which we may serve.
Members of a Small Group Ministry get to know one another by participating together in discussions on topics of universal human significance. The spirit of community that develops in such a group radiates outward, increasing the members’ connection to BBUUC as a whole. This purpose motivates everything about SGMs: the size of the groups; the structure of the program; the form of the meetings; the topics discussed; and the ground rules, or covenant, each group agrees to.
A few things that SGMs are NOT
They are not a debating society or a study group. The point is not to convert other people to your opinion or to impress them with your intelligence and knowledge, but to speak your truth so that others can know you, and to listen to others speak their truth so that you can know them.
The topics are not ends in themselves. We don’t talk about, say, community or forgiveness because we want everyone to become experts in community or forgiveness. (Although that would also be OK!) The topics are meant to be the end of getting to know each other. By watching and listening to each other grapple with the topics, the participants learn about each other in a different way than they would by serving on a committee or meeting at a purely social event.
They are not therapy. The point is to get to know one another, not to solve each other’s problems or give each other advice. People get to know each other not by confessing their deepest darkest secrets, but by participating together in discussion and sharing. The topics are intended to focus the group’s attention on the experiences we have in common just by being human.
SGM groups are not affinity groups. The topics do not assume any shared special interests or experiences. But everyone was born and everyone will die. Everyone has successes and failures, loves and losses. Everyone has the same fundamental needs and the same basic emotions. Just being human gives us a great deal to talk about.
Finally, the purpose of a small group is not to replace BBUUC’s other activities or to cut group members off from the rest of the congregation, but to draw them further in. Many other UU churches have found that the Small Group Ministry program does not exhaust the participants’ appetite for the community but whets it. Having discovered how much common humanity they share with a random group of parishioners, participants often become more curious about the rest of the congregation. Having been listened to, accepted, and treated with respect in one church activity, they may feel encouraged to try others.
Journey Circles -contact Jenn Jones at email@example.com to become a facilitator or join a group