Also known as “covenant groups” and “chalice circles,” Small Group Ministry is a vital part of many Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations. Groups of 8 -10 people meet regularly, usually monthly, to reflect on and discuss significant life topics.

A different way of doing church

The Small Group Ministry program deepens and broadens our personal spiritual growth. A group usually consists of 8-10 members who meet at each others’ homes, the church or other venues, usually once every two weeks or monthly. Each meeting is focused on a spiritual or religious topic.

The goals are to:

  • Listen and be listened to in a safe place
  • Learn about the mysteries of our world and our spiritual paths
  • Build new and deeper personal connections
  • Serve our community and the needs of one another
  • Maintain personal connections and a caring community

Each group has a facilitator who links the group to the SGM steering committee and the minister. The steering committee and minister provide overall guidance, recruit new members and establish new groups, and develop session plans.

How does Small Group Ministry work?

Ministry happens in the meetings, which focus on spiritual topics through a process of deep listening and service projects. Topics that may be shared during meetings include: sacred places, perfection, mothers, community, living simply, music, and healing. Groups choose their own order, direction and pace. Service projects are expected from each group once a year. In general, projects tend to be ones that serve the church community or the local community, but they can be larger projects that reach beyond our church community.

What is expected of members?

Group members are expected to commit to regular meeting times and to practice deep listening. Deep listening is a way of focusing intently on what another person is saying without interruption or simultaneously formulating a response. Deep listening also gives an individual an opportunity to speak without interruption or comment.

What are Small Group sessions like?

  • Opening Words: Gathering in, settling down, reminding
    participants of the special opportunity of the gathering, possibly
    reflecting the topic of the session. The meeting may begin with the
    lighting of a candle or a chalice.
  • Check-In: Participants share news of what has been happening in
    their lives. Each group develops its own customs as to the length of
    sharing. This portion of the meeting may expand from time to time
    when circumstances call for it.
  • Topic/Discussion: A paragraph or two lays out a topic and presents
    questions that will elicit thoughtful discussion and significant
    reflection. A group may stay with a topic several weeks or be done
    in one evening.
  • Check-Out: Likes and Wishes: This is an opportunity for feedback.
  • Closing Words: This brings the formal session to and end. Groups
    are encouraged to start and end on time.