WHAT IS SMALL GROUP MINISTRY?  This program provides an opportunity to establish new and deeper relationships with one another and to find a place to enrich our spiritual and life exploration and growth. Small Group Ministry (SGM), sometimes called Covenant Groups or Chalice Circles in other UU congregations, allows people to get to know a small group of UUFA members or friends while discussing questions and issues of deep significance. 

The groups typically meet twice a month at either UUFA or in group members’ homes.  SGM is intended to give participants a chance to get to know others in a manner different from the experiences of committee work, Sunday service, and other Fellowship activities.

HOW ARE GROUPS STRUCTURED?  Groups of six to twelve members are formed according to mutual meeting times and days of the week. At the start of the new year, each group develops a covenant to guide how group members are in relationship with each other.  

Sign up takes place twice a year, in August-September and January.  People new to the UUFA after Open Enrollment periods have closed are given the opportunity to join already established groups.

Each group has volunteer Co-Facilitators who organize the group and attend quarterly Co-Faciliators Meetings to share ideas and give support.

Although Co-Facilitators play a special role in convening and guiding their groups, each group determines its own working process. Most  groups operate with a “rotating facilitation” model whereby group members share the responsibility of generating topics, finding readings, and leading sessions.

Some material is provided for possible use, other material is developed by the members and to meet specific group interests.

WHAT IS EXPECTED OF PARTICIPANTS?  Participants are expected to attend regularly, coming  with open minds and open hearts, and a willingness to take part in a service project for the fellowship or the greater community together with the group. We ask that members make a commitment to regularly attend the meetings.  To give groups a chance to develop, the expectation is that participants commit for the entirety of the remaining program year.

WHAT HAPPENS AT AN SGM MEETING?  Group sessions follow a standard format. There are no assigned topics for discussion.  Rather, each group is free to choose discussion topics according to the interests of group members.  Examples of productive topics past groups have discussed include religious histories, humor, spiritual practices, loneliness, fear, poetry, music, healing, joy, and friendships, to name a few.

Session format:

Opening reading: To focus participants on the purpose of the gathering and often to reflect the topic of the evening. Some groups will light a Chalice as well.

Check In: An opportunity for each member to share thoughts or feelings on his or her life.

Topic/Discussion: A paragraph or two lays out a topic and presents questions that will elicit sharing and thoughtful discussion.

Likes and Wishes/Wrap Up Words: An opportunity for members to share something that they gained from the discussion or wish for future discussions.

Closing Reading: This brings the session to an end. Groups are encouraged to start and end on time.

Topic Suggestions: You can go to UUFA Recent Sermons for recent sermon texts complete with quotes and questions at the bottom of the document. For older sermons, go the UUFA Sermon Archive.  A web search of “SGM topics” also may prove a productive source of ideas for session topics.

HOW DOES THE IDEA OF SERVICE FIT IN?  We ask that every group take on some kind of service at the UUFA or in the greater community. This might be signing up to do coffee hour for a month, lending a hand in the fellowship office, or helping groups in the larger Athens community, such as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Bigger Vision, Project Safe, etc.

HOW LONG WILL I BE IN A GROUP?  We ask individuals to commit to attend a group for the entire program year.  New groups form each year.

WHEN CAN I JOIN A GROUP? 

All participants must register!  Participant registration allows for fair and balanced assignment of individuals to SGM groups.  As well, Program Coordinators and Facilitators need up-to-date registration information to effectively manage and support the program.

The Fall Open Enrollment period is the “main enrollment” time for UUFA members and friends – whether new to the program or returning – to register for the coming year.  For 2017-2018, Fall enrollment will be August 13th-August 27th.

The Mid-Winter Open Enrollment period provides an opportunities for participation to newcomers to UUFA, as well as current UUFA members and friends who missed the Fall Open Enrollment period.  Here, newcomers sign up in January to join a group in February, and complete the SGM year which runs through May or August, depending on the wishes of the group.  Mid-Winter Enrollment is not for those already settled in a group who wish to move to another. Mid-year enrollment will run two weeks in January, 2018.

ARE GROUP MEMBERS EXPECTED TO CHANGE GROUPS FROM YEAR TO YEAR?

There are considerable advantages to switching groups.  There also are reasons why some participants enjoy the option of staying with the same group from one year to the next.  At UUFA, we allow participants to make that decision for themselves.  In assigning groups, the primary challenge is to find a healthy number of group members able to meet on a given day of the week, at a given time.  Nobody is assured they will be assigned to their first choice, but we try to accommodate preferences.

HOW DO I REGISTER?  

1) you can register online here during the enrollment period

or

2) For paper registration form, please contact SGM coordinator listed below.

For more information about the SGM program, contact Vivian Preston Sellers.

SGM Leader Resources

The UU Small Group Ministry Network http://www.smallgroupministry. net/

UU Small Group Ministry – Session Plans http://www.smallgroupministry. net/public/sessions/index.html