Small Group Ministry programs (aka covenant groups) exist in many Unitarian Universalist congregations as a way for people to explore their deepest understanding of life in the midst of a community of faith. Here at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, Covenant Groups also serve as small communities of listening and caring in the midst of our very large congregation. How often do we get to explore the fundamental concerns of our lives with the support of other liberal religious seekers? Covenant Groups are groups of about ten people who meet regularly to build community, learn to practice shared ministry and nurture their spiritual lives. Every Covenant Group has one or two trained facilitators who meet monthly in their own Covenant Group with our minister.
Several characteristics of Covenant Groups foster such an experience:
Covenant Groups consist of 6-12 people, large enough to promote group interaction but small enough to encourage intimacy and equal participation.
Each Covenant Group gathering is structured to help us set aside daily distractions and make deeper connections with one another. The simple format includes: 1. Opening Words & Lighting of the Chalice 2. Check-in 3. Focus of the meeting 4. Check-out 5. Closing Words & Extinguishing the Chalice. A monthly “session guide” will provide readings and topics that groups may use at their discretion.
Some topics are spiritual in nature (joy, trust, faith); others reflect universal human themes (mentors, loss, forgiveness, humor). Covenant groups are not study groups or debate teams. The focus is on respectful listening, reflection, and creative interchange among group members.
Making connections with other people is easier when we understand how they like to be treated. In the first few meetings of a Covenant Group, members develop a covenant – a list of promises – describing the ways they commit to interact with one another. Members each contribute to the ongoing activities of the group, such as choosing the readings, hosting the gatherings, and reminding members of meeting times and places. Having clear expectations for communication and sharing responsibility for the group’s activities ensures that all members benefit from the Covenant Group experience.
How Do I Sign Up?
Each covenant group smaller than 12 members will accept new members at least once a year. An empty chair is present at each meeting as a reminder of the importance of welcoming the future stranger who will benefit from the blessings of the group. The normal sign up time for existing groups is in August of each year, with a September start. New groups may form throughout the year. For more information, or to sign up, contact Sheri.