GROWING A UUCF SMALL GROUP
Ways To Form Small Groups and Make A Difference in the World
The Natural or Organic Development Basic Outline
(best done in this order, the way you would follow a recipe. If you try to do them in a different order don’t be surprised that what you cook up goes flat. Check out online sites for Natural Church Development or natural church planting)
1. Find ways to grow personal relationships. (party, eat together, trips, conversations) and always invite others and provide hospitality. Help people connect with one another. Know each other’s birthdays, for example. Remember that where “two or more” are gathered in his name, the spirit of Jesus will be present and alive. Don’t worry about numbers or programs. Refresh yourselves in the Spirit of God for service to and with others in the Spirit. If this is the stage your group remains in it may not be as full a group as needs to be to be living fully in the spirit of Jesus, but it will also be a seed of that Spirit.If you don't do step number one, you will more than likely find that efforts to do the other steps can not be sustained.
2. Share Spiritual Passions (do spiritual autobiographies of defining or transforming movements in your lives of faith, and each person’s top three issues of commitment and how they see their own gifts they might bring to these passions.)
3. Service Together in your immediate area, within your church, to another church, Random Acts of Kindness (outside church and inside church). Ideas at Kindness.
4. Small group worship, communion, singing, sharing joys and concerns, prayers and blessings. The UUCF has the special issue of the UU Christian Journal, the red one, for Communion Sermons and Services, and consult the website for more links to resources. Sometimes just share bread and cup and what it means, share prayer concerns and blessings, say The Lord’s Prayer together.
5. Study Together. Your group may want to begin with the collection of essays entitled: Christian Voices within UUism by Skinner House Press, or one of the UU Christian Journals or an issue of the Good News periodical or a book by Marcus Borg or Brian McLaren or other contemporary Christian writers. Consider studying the books of our recent or speakers at UUCF events, such as Jim Mulholland, Gary Dorrien, Kathleen Norris, John Dominic Crossan, or John Dear. Bring in favorite spiritually-themed web sites to share. Explore hymnals together. Do Bible Study with the Bible Workbenchor from the resources at The Text This Week. Bring in favorite sermons or blog entries and have a discussion. Have a video series on how Jesus is portrayed in the movies.
6. As you grow, Spin Off/Create Multiple groups. One size doesn’t fit all. Let the spirit of abundance work. Different groups evolving to focus on some of the particular areas above; just schedule a time, like your own regional revival, when people can be together.
7. Depending on your local area and church culture and policies, you may be a group that exists just of the people connected with a single UU Church, or become a group attracting people from different UU churches, or an ecumenical area progressive Christian group with people from different faith communities. If you are a single UU church group, be sure toconsult with church small group leaders and ministers.
8. Whether you meet once a month, twice a month, or weekly, intentionally do these: Socialize Together, Study Together, Serve Together, Celebrate Together, Take Care of the Structures of the Group together, be that with established or rotating duties. See McLaren’s ideas for simple covenant above.
9. Going Even Deeper: Life Transformation organic Groups; New Monastic Groups Resources from Neil Cole and Organic Church Movement:
The groups meet once a week for approximately an hour. Two or three only, with the fourth person coming in as the start of the next group. For him, the groups are not coed (I can see those advantages, the same as having traditional women's and men's ministries in organizational churches; but for my purposes here I don't think they have to start out that way.) there is no curriculum, workbook or training required; there is no leader needed in the group; only three tasks are to be accomplished: sin is confessed to one another in mutual accountability, scripture is read repetitively in entire context and in community, souls are prayed for strategically, specifically and continuously. In the book he provides a series of different questions that have been asked as part of small groups from John Wesley on up to various ways people are adapting the Life Transformation Groups. Let me repeat again my belief in the generalization that liberals tend to not be comfortable confessing personal sins, and conservatives tend to not be comfortable confessing, or even knowing, about their involvement in social sins. His book again focuses too heavily on personal holiness for my taste, not because that is not important, since it is important for liberals who have ignored it often in public discourse, but because the questions don't tend to allow for the social self to be explored and while the whole point of the organic church and LTGs is to stress community over individualism, the questions as mostly prompted to be asked seem focused on the individual.
But there is one set of questions offered in the book that I really like and can use. They come from Phil Helfer, pastor of Los Altos Brethren Church in Long Beach, CA. Here are the questions to be asked each week of one another:
1. How have you experienced God in your life this week?
2. What is God teaching you?
3. How are you responding to his prompting?
4. What sin do you need to confess?
5. How did you do with your reading this week?
(I like these because they can easily incorporate the social self)
Often there is a variation of another question focused on how you have shared God with others this week. LTGs, as Cole points out, are different in focus from accountability groups because they are designed to multiply as participants tell others about their life and its changes.
In many ways these are spiritual direction questions and spiritual direction styled groups, but in a prophethood and priesthood of all believers sort of way in community rather than focused only one one individual. I think they tap into that deep longing that the rise of spiritual direction has done also.
The questions he even boils down to two simple ones to encounter and share with one another week after week: 1. What is God telling you to do? What are you going to do about it?