Small Group Ministry and Affinity Groups

Transformation happens in small groups.

Each person can speak and all listen.

Gloria Steinem

Blue wooden heart ornament with word "open" written on it

Small Group Minsitry

There are many programs, dreams, and visions that make up a congregation. At the heart, are small group ministries that nurture people holistically in community. Small group ministry forms both spontaneously and intentionally across the breadth of the church. Perhaps a committee nurtures the spirit, a circle of acquaintances forms into deeper mutual support. A congregation can also intentionally invest in small group ministries. I love growing and supporting small group ministry programs because these groups allow people to form deeper bonds of trust and to share tender aspects of their spiritual lives. Small group ministry is a vital place to nurture spiritual formation and the health of the community at large.

Small group ministries can take shape in myriad ways. Some seek a cross-section of a community, while others circle around an affinity the group members share in common. For example, covenant groups are organized around a theme that invites all to join, whereas young adult ministry is an example of an affinity group. All forms of small group ministry meet vital needs and bring flourishing to a congregation. At the Accotink UU Church in Burke, VA, I supported the training and formation of covenant groups open to all adults in the congregation, while I also celebrated the growth and vision of the youth group ministry.

Graphic of hands in varied skin tones eight hands forming a circle

Why Affinity Groups?

UUs has a long history wrestling with the tension between unity and diversity. During the civil rights movement, this tension was woven into a crisis at the very core of our UU Association. The lesson awaiting our learning, however, is that we need both. We need forms of organizing that bring all intersecting groups and identities together, and we also need spaces where people can gather and be nourished among shared experience--especially when their identities are demeaned, devalued, or objectified by the larger society.

Young Adult Fellowship, UU Congregation of Fairfax.

Young Adult Ministry

I have a special place in my heart for young adult ministry. Once upon a time, I was a young adult seeking missional spiritual community. Fortunately for me, I found a Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministry group at my University. This inclusive, authentic, diverse group welcomed me and inspired me. Although I had grown up UU, I have drifted away from "church" and Sunday services after leaving home. The young adult and campus ministry group I found was a soul-enriching path back into a deeper faith and a lifelong calling. I am personally indebted to young adult ministry, and in a blog post for the UU Congregation of Fairfax, I summarized the vital contribution of this ministry to UU Congregations everywhere:

A thriving young adult ministry is critical to creating multi-generational community. Connected and supported young adults weave their skills and perspectives into the congregation, which helps the congregation adapt and respond to changes holistically. This ability to adapt to challenges is increasingly needed in our world today. Beyond challenges, healthy multi-generational communities can grow and learn in ways that create new opportunities, from governance strategies, to hospitality to new and meaningful relationships.

Reflection & Renewal Sample

Reflection & Renewal

During my time as Intern Minister at the UU Congregation of Fairfax, I developed a small group ministry program designed to meet the needs of the young adult fellowship. The program provided a spiritual anchor and deepening opportunity for the community, but each meeting had flexible attendance expectations and was open and accessible to newcomers. I have used this format for many other groups, and offer an example here. Feel free to try out this format for your group, and contact me with any questions.