Putting Small Group Ministry Techniques to Work for You in Your Congregation

St. Peter's Anglican Parish

Although I have not succeeded in establishing intentional small group ministries in the Parish, I have incorporated many aspects of the small group culture into gatherings and projects here. In particular I have begun to design most of my parish gatherings (involving fewer than 12 people) with seating around some devotional centerpiece so everyone can see everyone else. I have included more time for 'checking in', mediation, and prayer. I include food in these gatherings. I express the purpose for the gathering and invite everyone to share their gifts and experience in helping us to find satisfaction and encouragement in being together.

People have responded with increased honesty and more active participation. These are small steps, but I feel they are important in helping people in the Parish begin to become more open to each other and to God. The prevalent culture has been resistant to personal disclosures and genuine shared learning so I am grateful for the progress we are making.

Rev. Stephen Hallford

Cold Lake United Church
Cold Lake

I've learned a lot about small group ministry this past year.

I believe that the small group format has helped our Hospitality & Welcoming Team to have meaningful conversations about our local church - why would someone attend, why would they come back, how are we different from a community group, and what would interest people who have not had any church experience? At a meeting about church vision this past spring, the work of our group was named as one of the best things that has happened in our church recently!

We set three goals for our group and we partially accomplished the first! Yet I view this as success, as throughout the year we continued to check in as a group as to whether we were doing what we wanted to do.

As we were finishing the work during our last meeting we reminded ourselves that we agreed to meet only for this church year. Our group, with these specific members, having completed this particular task, will cease to exist after our celebration.
Often when we find a 'good worker' (or group) we work them so hard (and tell them what to do!) that they burn out. I believe that setting the duration of the group, the commitment expected from each member, and encouraging the group to discern it's own tasks, helps to generate new and creative energy for the work that the group has come together for.

When that time is over it is important to honour the intent of the original commitment so as to free that energy for new endeavours. What's more, it will allow me to share small group ministry with a new group in the fall!

I have shared the small group format and the ROOTS principle with many people this year; twelve people from our pastoral care organizational meeting last fall who were the initial 'guinea pigs', eight on the Hospitality and Welcoming Team, six on our Session Committee, and six from a new leadership team that is being developed for another church in our pastoral charge. My daughter (age 16) used it in her youth group (6-8 kids), and for confirmation this year (3 kids). In fact, I now refuse to be part of any church group that does not meet using this format. This fall I hope to help lead a group that will study Marcus Borg's book, The Heart of Christianity, using it.

Sharing this format at my church has helped me to bring people together to talk about what is important to them in an honest and respectful manner, to encourage others to lead by helping them to learn these methods and to get us to share our spirituality with each other (surprisingly easy with this format). And while I was busy doing this work I became a leader myself, without really meaning for it to happen!

Sandy Godel


Congregational News May 2007 Vol. 13 No. 4

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