SGM Basic Elements

Small Group Ministry is intentional lay-led small groups that deepen and expand the ministry of the congregation.

“Small" means a group with a maximum of 8-10 people. Groups of this size provide an opportunity to relate on a more intentional level.

"Group" is a gathering of individuals, sometimes selected at random, sometimes selected for a specific interest or characteristic. These groups meet over a period of time.

"Ministry" is the process or act of caring or being present with another. This relates to the spiritual as well as the physical and emotional well-being of the group participants.

The Power and Promise of SGM are Intimacy, Ultimacy and Growth.

Intimacy is increased depth of relationship that comes from meeting over time, willingness and ability to listen without comment or advice, to learn from others, and to share from the soul, beyond the surface.

Ultimacyfocuses on meaning and significance, rather than details, information or outcome.

Growth: Small Group Ministry provides opportunities for members to develop skills and grow in confidence as leaders within and beyond the group, and the potential to grow churches in numbers, and in generosity, cooperation, and sense of well-being. This growth occurs when people feel supported.

Three agreements between the groups and the congregation as a whole are suggested:

  1. To abide by a set of relationship ground rules, called a covenant. This includes ways to listen and to be heard.
  2. To welcome new members to the group or to the program overall, keeping the groups open to new people and new ideas. 
  3. To engage in service to the congregation and larger world. This helps the group deepen its internal relationships, increases the connection with the congregation, and gives from the abundance of the group experience.

Leadership has two functions which can be done by one person or shared: The Group Leaders are chosen and trained by the minister(s) and/or designated lay leadership (Small Group Ministry Coordinator) as part of shared ministry in the congregation. Group Leaders meet with the minister and Coordinator for spiritual support, enhancing group development, and awareness of new resources. Each meeting of the group is lead by the Session Facilitator who follows the Small Group Ministry model. The Session Facilitator may be the same person each meeting, or rotated within the group.

The Session plan is a guide and a springboard for discussion. The Standard Format includes:

  • An opening reading that introduces but does not guide the topic.
  • A check-in during which each person briefly shares about such questions as, “What's most on your mind today?” or “How is it with your spirit today?”
  • A time for the focus or theme of the meeting with sharing from personal stories, guided by questions in the Session Plan, and learning from listening to others, rather than wanting others to agree with a perspective.
  • The check-out gives opportunity for each participant to say how the session was for him/her.
  • A closing reading.

Resource: Implementing Small Group Ministry from the UU Small Group Ministry Network.