Small Groups ~ Community Building in Our Growing Congregation
Many churches find that members experience a deeper sense of community by sharing a common interest with 4-10 other people. Small groups complement shared activities such as worship, witness, faith formation, and hospitality. In the spring of 2013, the people of St. Paul’s UCC voted to further develop small group ministries as a strategic move for the present and future. We're committed to journeying together in faith and friendship in small and changing groups.
What is a Small Group Ministry?
A small group forms around a common interest. It could be almost anything--from gardening to card games, baking to theological conversation. Our small groups usually gather for 90 minutes, either weekly for 4 to 6 weeks or biweekly for 2 to 3 months. There's no charge to take part with the possible exceptions of the cost of materials (books, yarn) or activity fees (bowling, movie tickets, etc). As an Earthwise congregation, we encourage people to produce as little waste as possible and to clean up after themselves.
A small group gathering incorporates 3 basic components:
- Engagement in a common interest
- A spiritual practice (prayer, silence, mindful stretching, etc.)
- Food (group members take turns bringing a simple snack)
How Do I Start a Small Group at St Paul’s UCC?
Called to Care support group
The Called to Care support group meets on the first Sunday of every month from 12:30 to 2:00, usually in the Fireside Room. Led by Rev. Norma Rae Hunt and others, this is an opportunity for members and friends of the congregation who provide special care for a loved one to come together for mutual support and prayer.
Common Ground small groups
Many members find common ground through meeting over a shared interest, experience, or activity. This fall and winter, various groups are meeting three to five times each. Topics and shared activities include mental health, parenting loss, prayer-shawl knitting, recovery, DVD yoga, and walking.
Past Small Groups include...
Lenten Book Study
Several groups read Lillian Daniel’s Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong to. Daniel argues that it's time for Christians to stop apologizing and realize that how we talk about Christian community matters. With disarming candor laced with just the right amount of humor, she urges open-minded Christians to explore ways to talk about their faith journeys that are reasonable, rigorous, and real.
A small group met in October to learn how to can fruits and vegetables.
November 2015: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atil Gawunde
As an outgrowth of the sessions on aging and living wills offered by the church in August, a reading group gathered twice to discuss Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by physician Atul Gawande.
Summer 2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
We met at a local independent bookstore to discuss Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, which recently won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This novel tells the parallel stories of two young people coming of age during World War II, one in France and the other in Germany.
'Saturday Night Live' Golf Group
This group was '"for all who don’t know the difference between a hook and a slice, as well as those who do." We gathered to play nine holes of golf on Saturday evenings last summer.
We started with God Girl at the History Theatre in downtown Saint Paul, then checked out Drawer Boy at Minneapolis' Theatre in the Round. We finished our first series with two plays at the Guthrie--A Midsummer Night's Dream (March 21) and The Crucible (April 12). Some also took in These Old Shoes, at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.
Then, in the next theater season, we attended My Children! My Africa! at Park Square Theatre and Emilie/Eurydice at the Illusion.
This small group, including people with varying levels of experience, met weekly for a month to bake cookies, cake, pie, and a gluten-free dessert. At the end of March, they helped host a Fair Trade Coffee Hour and provided baked goodies.
Lent 2015: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
Over five weeks in Lent, 40 people met in several small groups to read and talk about various spiritual practiuces described in this book. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it. So welcome to your own priesthood, practiced at the altar of your own life. The good news is that you have everything you need to begin.”
Gardening Small Group
Our Wildflower, Peace, Corner, and Rain gardens need gardeners, and Becky Galkiewicz headed up such agroup. The Gardeners met biweekly throughout the growing season, alternating between Tuesday evenings (7 to 8 pm) and Saturday mornings (9 to 10 am).
Lent 2014: Strangers at My Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
We met in small groups across five weeks in Lent to discuss Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests. From the book cover: “His first followers knew that Jesus could be found with the fatherless, the widows, and the hungry and homeless. He said that he himself was a stranger and commended those who welcomed him. If he really meant these things, what would happen if you opened your door to every person who came with a need? Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove decided to find out..."
Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.
Dr. Alexander, a highly trained neurosurgeon, suffered a rare illness leaving him in a coma for seven days. As a scientist he believed that near-death experiences were simply fantasies produced by the brain under extreme stress. His recovery was a medical miracle. In this book he describes his experience and how he now believes that true health can only be realized when we recognize that God and the soul are real. Two groups met to read and discuss the book together.
The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle
Groups met both at church and in members' homes over a 3-week period to discuss Phyllis Tickle's book, which declares not only that every 500 years, the church goes through a period of dizzying upheaval and hopeful promise, but also that we are in such a historical moment right now.
Prayer Shawl knitting
A group met for four Sundays, both to learn how to knit prayer shawls and to knit together. Bev Heck convened the group.
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
In this 12-session group, we discovered the important connection between spirituality and creativity. We met twice monthly to experience Julia Cameron’s book and process: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Sessions included Centering Meditation, triad, small-group, and large-group discussions. Sessions were led by Rev. Norma Rae Hunt.