By Debbie Hardegree, Volunteer Recognition Team member
In 2006 a pilot group for Small Group Ministry (SGM) was launched at UUFA with the aim of fostering deeper connections between members in a small group setting. The Lifespan Development Cluster’s honorees for June, Todd Dinkelman and Michelle Swagler, were members of that pilot group and have been involved with SGM ever since. Todd and Michelle began attending UUFA separately in 2002 and then as a couple in 2003. They have been members for about 14 years. Their involvement in SGM evolved from members to co-facilitators, to coordinators, in which role they have served since 2013.
They were drawn to SGM as a way to “sit with people who let you see something about their lives, open up some about how they see the world, and share their stories.” Members of SGMs commit to meeting regularly to share themselves with others. Todd and Michelle feel that members of the groups get to know each other in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise, and that they take the experiences of SGM with them into their lives and their interactions in the wider community.
For the past three years, Todd and Michelle have worked at keeping the SGM program up and running, healthy, and expanding. They have run two registrations each year, promoted the program, organized groups, maintained the SGM webpage, sought out and supported facilitators, coordinated quarterly facilitators meetings, held an annual program review, and helped to resolve any conflicts.
Todd and Michelle say that it has been very satisfying to build on the work of those who established the SGM program at UUFA and that the connections formed through SGM are so important to the life of the Fellowship. Todd and Michelle would encourage anyone who is considering joining SGM to give it a try for one year. They describe their SGM participation as “one of the most important and meaningful aspects of our association with UUFA.” There are currently nine SGM groups with a total of almost 100 members. The following people are serving as facilitators this year: Rosemary Woodel, Linda Gilbert, Elizabeth Bishop-Martin, Richard Gottleib, Jane Kobres, Ann Blum, Kelly Case-Simonson, Melanie Hennings, Vivian Preston-Sellers, Carol-Lee Baker, Ted Mayer, Lee Cornell, and Aleta Turner, along with Todd and Michelle.
Diane Bridges has worked with her Volunteer Recognition Team cohorts to arrange the June 12 recognition of SGM and Todd and Michelle, in coordination with Lifespan Development Cluster Lay Ministers Vivian Preston-Sellers and Aleta Turner.