19 delegates from seven MUA congregations attended a whole-day training course about Small Group Ministry, led by the inspirational Rev. Jim Robinson of Hampstead.
After a spiritual opening session, to remind us that we are a spiritual community, not just a social club, we all “checked in”, by sharing the wide variety of small groups that exist in our congregations. These included discussion, Friday Light, charity work, choir, rambling, retreats, Inquirer, small group worship, district work, and committees. We then shared what we appreciated about these small groups, and what the possible barriers were to them fulfilling their potentials.
Jim then took us through the basic principles of Small Group Ministry and Engagement Groups, including their intention, structure, engagement sharing principles, and facilitation. We learned that the reason for small groups is to deepen the spiritual life of the participants; to create community between them; to enable them to live in ‘right relationship’ with the rest of the world; and to deepen their connections with their church or chapel.
After lunch, we were taught how to listen to our fellow human beings, avoiding stereotyping ourselves and others. We were then invited to put this into practice, by splitting up into pairs, which was both fun and instructive. Then Jim took us through some of the practical issues of running an Engagement Group, about the meeting space; time questions; leadership; focus or purpose; the name of the group; the covenant between members; the structure of sessions; and the issues of problem behaviour and confidentiality.
The day was rounded off by a “check-out” session to balance the “check-in” in the morning, and a short spiritual closing.
We are all very keen to learn more about facilitation skills, and are hoping that Jim Robinson can be persuaded to run a course about this in the Autumn.