Small Group Ministry
“People come to church longing for, yearning for, hoping for … a sense of roots, place, belonging, sharing and caring. People come to a church with a search for community, not committee.” — Glenn Turner
A different way of doing church
The Small Group Ministry program deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. Known as Chalice Circles and Soul Circles at First Unitarian, a group usually consists of 8-10 members who meet at each others’ homes or at the church, usually once every two weeks. 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 trained facilitator who links the group to the program coordinators and the assistant minister. The coordinator and minister provide overall guidance, recruit new members, establish new groups, and develop session plans.
Goals of Chalice and Soul Circles
The Small Group Ministry program deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. This is done through five components:
- Listening: Deep listening is gift for both the speaker and the listener. A connection forms when we share and give this gift to each other.
- Worship: Worship is central to the life of our congregation. Small Group Ministry augments and strengthens our shared experience.
- Community: Small groups meet the need for connection and intimacy that is both a hunger in our society and essential to the ongoing life of a religious community.
- Learning: 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.
- Service: 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.
How do Circles work?
Meetings focus on a spiritual or religious topic such as perfection, mothers, community, living simply, music, and healing. Groups choose their own order, direction, and pace.
Soul Circles convene around a specific focus. For example, current Soul Circles include an intergenerational group and circles on creative aging, women’s well being, grief journey, and living LGBTQ+.
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.
How are the meetings structured?
- 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 gathering.
- Check-Out: Likes and Wishes: This is an opportunity for feedback.
- Closing Words: This brings the formal session to an end. Groups are encouraged to start and end on time.
Contact: Janet Downing Taylor