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									Session 1: Ministry - Session Facilitator Notes

Note: To help new facilitators get started, this set of facilitator notes is much more
detailed than most. Please use what works for you, and feel free to modify things as
needed to suit your facilitation style and the needs of your group.

This session is the first of five introductory sessions for a Small Group. Members are encouraged to
think about ministry, particularly as it relates to our Small Group Ministry program.

In addition, this session includes 5 minutes for the facilitator to welcome everyone to the group,
and 10 minutes to go over group Agreements and discuss whether or not anyone needs additional
rules to feel safe. Members will have a chance to suggest modifications to the Agreements in the
5th session.

Member Preparation
In preparation for this session, take some time to read over the following quotes, and to think
about what ministry means to you.

       [Ministry]…is a quality of presence we bring that is grounded in our liberal faith.
       Singing and preaching, teaching and leading, caring and justice work are all
       ministries. It is what we do when we gather in community. – Rev. Mark Morrison-
       Reed from Canadian Unitarian, Fall 2002

       Fellowship is being present with one another in the wordless, the unspoken, the
       ineffable. Fellowship is where we speak and live the highest we know, living with the
       knowledge that it is never as deep, as wide, or as high as we wish. Fellowship
       happens when there is a quality of relationship between and among human beings
       that beckons forth hidden possibilities.
       - Adapted from the Starr King Ministry Catalog

       You see, one of the secrets of life is that we are all ministers. We all have the ability
       to bless one another. It’s true. But it is not easy. – Webster Kitchell Howell

       There is a vitality, a life force that is translated through you in action. And because
       there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it
       will never exist through any other medium and be lost.- Martha Graham

       …time and space become more generous when we explore ultimate truths in the
       presence of others….We make the discovery that when we are honest and vivid and
       particular in describing what is most personal and important in life, we can summon
       universal and redemptive places at the very edge of words. - Krista Tippett,
       Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters—And How to Talk About It

       Ministry is the whole community teaching the whole community what it means to
       love. – John C. Morgan, Awakening the Soul: A Book of Daily Devotions

These questions provide ways you may want to approach this topic. Remember to focus on just
one or two of the questions, if you choose to use them, as this will allow you to explore the topic in
more depth.

•   What would a truly shared Ministry look like to you?
•   How does fellowship—being part of a community that is “present with one another”—affect your
    ability to Minister and to be ministered to?
•   How is ministry currently part of your life? If there was time in your life when ministry played a
    larger or smaller role, how did this affect you?
9/10/08                                                            Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
•   What feelings, beliefs, or hopes do you hold as you start this process of forming a new Small
    Group? What would you like to give or get from this shared Ministry?

Special Materials
   Name tags and marker(s).
   Group Agreements written out on a large piece of paper or poster board.
   Marker to add any additional ground rules or agreements to the list.

Setting Up for Your Small Group’s First Gathering
Arrange chairs (enough for all the members plus one) around a small table of some sort. Create an
altar on the table, and place the chalice in the center of the altar.

Post the ground rules on a wall. (Continue posting these for the first five gatherings.)

On a separate table, place blank name tags and markers. As member arrive, welcome them to the
Small Group and invite them to fill out a name tag.

Introduction to Small Group Ministry
Thank everyone for coming, welcome them to Small Group Ministry, and describe briefly what will
happen at this first gathering (a chance for each of us to introduce ourselves, to go over the
Agreements – or ground rules – that we use in each gathering, and a discussion about tonight’s
topic, which is ministry).

Acknowledge that this is both exciting and scary. Try to sandwich fears between hopes so that you
don’t end on fears.

Introduce the concept of Small Groups remaining open to new members, pointing out that there is
one open chair to symbolize the group’s willingness to welcome new members. Let members know
that if there is room, we may add a member or two to the group in the next session, at the fifth
session, or later in the year.

Quiet Reflection
Ask members to take two minutes to sit quietly. Let them know that you will ring a bell or
otherwise let them know when the two minutes are up. Ask members to take a deep breath and let
go of the stresses of the day, the rush of getting to the meeting on time, and anything else that
might prevent them from being fully present. Ask members to continue breathing deeply, and to
think about being here, now, within this new and welcoming circle of people.

Set up first sharing
Let members know that during future gatherings, check-in will be more open-ended, with a
question about our lives and our physical, emotional and spiritual states. But that tonight we will
have a more specific set of questions. Also introduce basic Agreements for the check-in:

“After the check-in, we will discuss the group Agreements in more detail but for now, as facilitator,
I’m going to impose a set of rules for this check in:
• Everyone will have an opportunity to be heard. Don’t speak longer than _____ (2-3) minutes.
• We will all check-in once and only once.
• Everyone has a right to pass.
• Speak for yourself, use “I” statements, don’t label or disparage others or their contributions.
• No interrupting each other (no “cross-talk”).

9/10/08                                                          Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
• What is said in the group remains in the group.

We will start with a few minutes of quiet reflection on the following questions:
• Let us know your name,
• Let us know if you have participated in SGM before and what you are hoping to get out of being
  in a small group this year, and
• Let us know how you’re doing—spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, physically. We want to
  know how you are in this moment.
It often helps if one of the facilitators shares first, both to get things going, and to model the type
information that members may want to share as part of their check-in.

Quiet Reflection
As we have discussed at the facilitators’ meetings, we’re experimenting with ways to add a few
moments of reflection after the check-in. Feel free to read the reflection on the order of service, of
if you are more comfortable creating your own, simply delete or modify that section in the order of

Ground Rules (or Agreements) Discussion
Introduce the concept of a common set of agreements as a way to create a safe, comfortable space
where everyone feels that they have an equal chance to speak from the heart and be deeply and
respectfully heard.

Change requires that we become vulnerable; we are more willing to be vulnerable when we have
some assurance of safety. Group Agreements provide that safe place to take risks.

Let members know that the group will start out with the Agreements posted on the wall, and will
have a chance to try them out for the first four gatherings. At the fifth gathering, the group will
revisit these rules, and decide together whether we need to modify any of them to work better for
our group.

Spend about 5 minutes or so going over the Agreements. For more detail, see the Small Group
Ministries website or pages 14-18 in the Facilitator Handbook:


     • Listen Deeply
     • Don't "Cross-Talk"
     • Use "I-Statements"
     • Share the Air
     • Maintain the Right of Reticence
     • Respect Members' Privacy*
     • Attend Gatherings Consistently
     • Share Ownership of the Group

     • Perform Service Projects.
     • Endeavor to Attend Sunday Services.
     • Welcome New Members.


9/10/08                                                           Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
     Consistent gathering mechanics also help create a space where all Group members feel
     comfortable and respected. Decide together how to treat starting and ending times,
     breaks, and gathering location.

     * Note: There is an important exception to the privacy rule: If a participant describes a
       serious problem or behaves in a troubling manner, the Facilitator will discuss the
       situation with the Minister, the SGM Steering Committee, or in the monthly Facilitators’
       meetings. The severity or urgency of the matter will dictate the response, including
       whether or not the participant is identified.

After going over the Agreements, invite members to reflect on them for a moment, and to let the
group know if there are any agreements that they feel uncomfortable with, or additional
agreements that they feel they need to feel safe in a group. Allow about 5 minutes for open


Thank everyone for coming. Let everyone know that the next topic will be Spiritual Journeys, and
that we will follow a more normal format for that gathering, with more time to check in about how
we are doing, a longer topic discussion, and a longer open discussion.

Ask if there are any logistical issues – changes in meeting location, rides, etc. that need to be

Suggested Timing
Chalice Lighting                               2 min.
Introduction to Small Group Ministry           5 min.
Opening Words                                  2 min.
Quiet Reflection                               2 min.
Sharing/Check-In                              35 min.
Quiet Reflection                               2 min.
Agreements Discussion                         10 min.
Topic Readings                                 3 min.
Break/Quiet Contemplation                     10 min.
Sharing/Deep Listening                        25 min.
Discussion                                    10 min.
Checkout/Likes & Wishes                       10 min.
Announcements                                  2 min.
Closing Reading/Extinguish Chalice             2 min.
                                             120 min.
Further Exploration
   Thandeka, “Healing Community: Small group ministry creates a sacred time where the stories
    of our lives are heard,” UU World, January/February 2005.
   Dr. M’ellen Kennedy, “The ‘Ministry’ in Small Group Ministry,” UU Small Group Ministry
    Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 2 (Fall 2005) (PDF:

9/10/08                                                          Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
   Elizabeth Barrett, “Shared Ministry Through Covenant Groups,” UU Small Group Ministry
    Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 2 (Fall 2005) (PDF:
   Glenn H. Turner, “Transforming Our Churches with Small Group Ministry,” The Journal For
    Liberal Religion, Vol. 2, Number 1 (Renewing Liberal Religious Traditions for Today, Fall 2000)
   “Shared Ministry,” Canadian Unitarian Council Website.
   Barbara Child, The Shared Ministry Sourcebook, UUA Women and Religion Committee, UUA
    (1996) (preview at:

9/10/08                                                         Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco

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