A Church of Small Groups

“There are two primary types of churches – churches with small groups and churches of small groups.  Here’s the difference: A church with small groups offers its attendees a buffet of ministry options to choose from….Small groups are just one of the many options.  A church of small groups focuses on and runs all ministry through the small groups system.”  – from Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups

Connecting through a small group allows us to connect more fully with ourselves, with others, and with something larger.  Small groups help us move from a social connection into a deeper, spiritual connection.  And small groups help us practice our covenantal faith, learn together, and become better human beings together.

What would it look like for us to be a church of small groups? To begin, it would mean that all of our “task” groups would consider their gatherings small group gatherings, and would use the practices of small groups.  It would mean that relationships and how we work out our differences in community are always the core questions before us.  It would mean that as we gather in groups of 6 or 8, we are already a “body” of the church, empowered to discern where and how the spirit of love and life is moving us now.  It would require a certain discipline, a commitment, a prioritizing of deep learning and deep relationship.  And it would mean we would create a clear and simple path for our members – stages to move through – throughout their stages of membership and faith formation, all carried out in the contexts of small groups.

To be clear – this does not mean you stay with the same 6-8 people and this is your designated small group! On the contrary, a church of small groups is constantly inter-changing group members after sufficient time to grow deep and trusting relationships.  Over a few years, members in the church will have had the opportunity to know a wide variety of other members in meaningful way.  We all benefit from this cross-pollination of learning and understanding – particularly because it will mean building relationships with people that you may have never otherwise gotten to know.

A church of small groups supports the concept of a simple path of membership and faith formation, offering members 2 or 3 solid ways to keep moving forward along their spiritual path towards a greater sense of spiritual maturity, and the quest towards becoming your best self.  Rather than a million different ways you might choose to practice your Unitarian Universalism, a church of small groups offers you just a few.  The best few.  The ways we have discovered will best allow you to go deep, to connect fully, to bring more love and goodness to the world.


About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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