Covenant Groups meet regularly to discuss specific topics within a spiritual context. They provide opportunities for deeper community and for service to the congregation and to the broader community. Participation in covenant groups is a way to help individuals build relationships, experience a greater sense of belonging, and feel supported in their spiritual journeys. These groups have the power to deepen congregants’ commitments to UU values and to help build sustained relationships between members/friends and the congregation.
Download ALUUC Covenant Groups…
What will you gain from participating in Covenant Groups?
- Discover what you value, and express those values in your actions.
- Participate in an open, supportive, nurturing environment that promotes and facilitates spiritual growth and mutual, interactive care for one another.
- Search and grow at your own pace and in your own way through telling your story, learning, and contributing yourself and your resources.
- Feel affirmed and experience a high level of caring.
- Identify and use your spiritual gifts.
Most covenant groups
- Have around 6 – 10 participants.
- Combine centering readings, personal check-ins, and discussion.
- Typically have three types of covenants, or promises: a behavioral covenant focused on group interaction, a covenant with the congregation and a covenant to serve the larger community.
- Meet once or twice a month for about 2 hours.
- Have trained facilitators to keep the group focused.
What can you expect in a Covenant Group session?
- Meetings usually have a session plan distributed by the facilitator or a member before the meeting. Session plans generally include an overview of the topic, some questions or exercises, and related quotes.
- Each session has an Order of Worship. Some elements are similar to a Sunday service, such as lighting a chalice, silence, singing, and closing/extinguishing the chalice.
- Some additional elements include:
- Check-in: Each member has 1-2 minutes to share the high or low point of his or her life that week. There is no discussion or feedback during this time.
- Readings: one or more brief texts are read by several members in turn.
- Sharing/Deep Listening: Each member has about 5 minutes to share his or her thoughts on the topic. The other members engage in active listening – there is no crosstalk or discussion;. Members speak whenever they are ready, in any order, and sometimes pause to allow the previous speaker’s ideas to be absorbed.
- Discussion: Some sessions include a brief period for discussion after all have shared. This is not debate, but it gives members a chance to bring up ideas that might have occurred to them as others shared. Members are asked to be brief and supportive in their remarks.
Interested in participating in a covenant group as a participant or facilitator?
Talk to Stu Jacobson, Caitlin McDonald, Martin Woulfe, Carol Kneedler, or Tom Henehan or email email@example.com.
Adapted from the San Jose UU congregation group sessions:
Frequently Asked Questions about Covenant Groups
Do you have to participate in every element of the session?
Our reason for being in covenant groups is to grow—in our personal lives, our spirituality, our commitment to the congregation, and our ability to be supportive of each other. The more you participate, the better your experience and the opportunities for spiritual growth. The pPreparation, check-in, readings, sharing, discussion, and feedback are optional.
Is sharing confidential?
Each group develops a covenant at the beginning of their time together; confidentiality is commonly included as one item in the covenant.
How long are the sessions?
Sessions usually last 1.5-2 hours. Facilitators have an agenda for each session and are responsible for keeping the group on track so everyone has an opportunity to participate and the session agenda has closure. It’s important to be respectful of time to make sure everyone has the chance to share equally. Some groups use timers or watches to help them stay on track.
How often do covenant groups meet?
Covenant groups generally meet once or twice a month; the frequency is decided by group members.
What should you do if you have to miss a session?
Try to contact the facilitator ahead of time, if you can. You should plan to make a commitment to attend as many sessions as possible.
How long do covenant groups continue to meet?
In most covenant or small group ministries there is a principle called the “open chair,” which symbolizes our readiness to share this wonderful experience with new people. Usually new members will be added to an ongoing group at least once or twice a year. In these ongoing groups, members may stay with the group for a year or so, and then they may choose to move to another group or perhaps lead a new group. Sometimes groups of 10 members will split, or “birth,” into two separate groups. Other groups may plan to meet for a limited time, perhaps 8-10 weeks to explore a specific topic.
What are some examples of topics addressed by covenant groups?
Topics and sessions are available for download from the internet, including: UU Principles, Friendship, Art and Spirituality, Adversity, Aging, Racism, Buddhism, Atheism, and Belonging in Community, to list just a few. Groups may decide to change their focus after six months or more – a good opportunity to start new groups and/or invite in new members.
What are the responsibilities of the facilitators?
Facilitators serve the members of the group by organizing the group, facilitating the sessions and keeping them on track, addressing problems and facilitating group transitions such as adding new members or members leaving. Facilitators don’t lead the group in the traditional sense, since group members are responsible for creating their covenant and for their participation in sessions.
Designing and Implementing a “Small Group Ministry” Focus for Your Congregation http://mdduua.org/download/beloved%20community/Implementing%20Small%20Group%20Ministry.pdf