“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, also known as Covenant Groups, deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. A group usually consists of 8-10 members who meet at each others’ homes, usually once every month. 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 facilitator who links the group to the SGM steering committee and the minister. The steering committee and minister provide overall guidance, recruit new members and establish new groups, and develop session plans. The Steering Committee meets every other month while church is in session.

How can you join a group?

Contact the current leader through covenantgroups@hunterdonuu.org to get more information.

Goals of Small Group Ministry

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 does Small Group Ministry work?

Ministry happens in the meetings, which focus on spiritual or religious topics through a process of deep listening and service projects. Topics that may be shared during meetings include: sacred places, perfection, mothers, community, living simply, music, and healing. Groups choose their own order, direction and pace. 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.

What are Small Group sessions like?

  • 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 evening.
  • Check-Out: Likes and Wishes: This is an opportunity for feedback.
  • Closing Words: This brings the formal session to and end. Groups are encouraged to start and end on time.

What Groups are available?

  • Inner Peace: Gotta’ Have It! This group is comprised of women seeking balance in their lives, taking time to examine a variety of topics. Led by Val M.
  • The Men’s Group. This group for men meets to discuss heartfelt issues in confidence within the group. The topics vary from month to month, based on ideas from members. Led by John G.
  • Spiritual Journeys. A group where we share our spiritual journeys with each other–to make contact again with the essence of what brings us to church in the first place. Led by Holly G.
  • Writing As A Spiritual Practice. This group does timed, free writing from spiritually challenging prompts. Then we read our work out loud, alternating writing and reading. Our goal is not to produce finished pieces, but rather to open our minds and create fertile ground for seeding further work. The group offers an atmosphere of support where the writers can take risks with their creativity. Led by Rebecca G.
  • Nurturing Self through Nature. By nurturing their own emotional, social, ecological and spiritual natures, group members will experience greater belonging, beauty, reverence, wholeness and joy! Led by Jennifer D.

  • Our Aging Journey. This group provides an opportunity for retired individuals to explore, in a supportive community, the many aspects and possibilities of their journey into aging. Led by Maria K.

  • Resilience & Transition. A group to discuss strategies for resilience in today’s changing world and ways to engage in the work of transitioning to a post-carbon, more equitable society. Topics may include developing emotional and practical resilience as well as activism and building a community of support. Led by Amy T.

  • The Salon of the 7 Principles. Participants will explore UU values and principles by listening to readings from poetry, novels, short stories, essays, plays and other forms of the written word. At each meeting, one person will read aloud, and that will be followed by reflection and discussion. Just as important will be the experience – simply listening and experiencing the human voice reading stories, poems, scenes from plays – whatever is chosen. Led by Peggy G.