Covenant Groups are gatherings of small groups each with a trained facilitator. These groups discuss all sorts of issues but are usually tied to the worship theme for the month. It’s a way to go deeply into spiritual and philosophical themes beyond Sunday morning. People in Covenant Groups often develop life-long friendships and deepen their connections here at the church. It’s a fabulous way to get to know people! Groups generally meet one or two times a month (depending on the facilitator). Generally take place from September through May. We take a break in the summer and new groups form in the Fall.
Covenant Groups are are a form of small group ministry with two ends in mind. First, in Covenant Groups (CGs), we build community and offer opportunities for deepening relationships; and second, they offer a chance for people to into a deeper spiritual exploration and search for meaning in their lives and the world.
What Covenant Groups are:
A place to talk about your own beliefs and meaning in life. We rarely in our lives get a chance to do this, even with those closest to us. In CGs we talk about what is important to our lives and what gives it meaning. The topics are formatted around a theme, sometimes coordinated with a theme in Worship as a chance to deeper in a topic. It is time to take a break from the mundane and explore what is holy.
A place to build relationships. Here we learn about one another on more than superficial levels, focusing on what has deep meaning for each of us. Some people in CGs go on to be life-long friends; others cherish the time and move on. But all can be touched by the stories they hear.
A place to practice the art of listening. Listening is a learned skill, not an innate one and we aren’t taught it well in our society. Most of us listen to reply, not to understand. In addition, we also often don’t risk opening up our deeper selves to one another out of fear of rejection. In CGs we are offered the chance to learn to how to listen deeply to one another and to be heard deeply. CGs are a safe place to live into your whole self.
What Covenant Groups are not:
They are not group therapy. The facilitators are (usually) not trained counselors or therapists. While such groups can be healing and therapeutic in nature, that is a side benefit, not a focus of the group. If you feel you need counseling, please speak to our minister who can offer pastoral care, or referrals to therapists.
They are not a social gathering. While a natural outcome of covenant groups is building relationships, it’s not a time for chit-chat. It’s a time for going deeper into what gives meaning to your life. Social activities are also wonderful ways to get to know people and if you are interested in those activities, such as Circle Suppers, they are also available (or soon will be). It’s just not the primary purpose of a Covenant Group.
They are not a conversation. Most of the time when we talk with people, ideally there is a sharing back and forth of ideas, often with an “I agree” or “I disagree” tone. This can be a beautiful thing, but it is not what we do in Covenant Groups. In CGs we practice the art of listening to one another without judgment, allowing ourselves to witness and be moved by each other’s story. We don’t give advice, pass judgment or allow our own inner dialogue to take over. We simply love and accept their point of view and marvel at each story as it unfolds. And thus we also learn so much from one another! If you are in search of conversation, we invite you to our workshops, Adult Religious Education classes or book groups.
- Usually 8 – 10 in size, with 6 as a minimum. New people may join at certain points of the year. The groups are deliberately random, so as to encourage new relationships to be formed.
- Generally last 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the facilitator.
- They meet either in people’s homes or at the church, this being up to the facilitator’s preference.
- They meet once or twice a month, depending on the facilitator. Twice a month is optimal. The time is offered by the facilitator – we will have many different times to choose from.
- They are run by trained facilitators who work closely with the minister.
- Generally last from September through May. We take a break in the summer and then the church is invited to form new groups in the Fall.
- It is a commitment. Barring life’s hiccups, participants are asked to be present at all meetings. It can take a while to build trust in relationships: it takes commitment and showing up.
The format of a typical Covenant Group:
- An opening reading that introduces the topic.
- A check-in during which each person briefly shares about such questions as, "What's most on your mind today?" or "How is it with your spirit today?"
- A time for the theme of the meeting with sharing from personal stories, guided by questions in the Session Plan, and learning from listening to others, rather than wanting others to agree with a perspective. There is no cross talk and all are given a chance to speak.
- The check-out gives opportunity for each participant to say how the session was for him/her.
- A closing reading.