Small Groups at St. Bs: Got Questions?

What are small groups? Small groups are committed, intentional micro-communities exploring God in our lives. This is not the kind of reflection we can do alone, and it’s the kind of reflection that is essential to growing as a Christian and growing in community at St. Bartholomew’s. Small groups allow us to be more deeply connected to God and to each other. 


How will the groups be composed? We will have a women’s group and men’s group, each with about 8-10 people. These groups will be intergenerational, with a mix of ages and experiences with church and matters of faith. 


Who puts the groups together? The formation of these groups is a two-step process: first you express interest and then Father Josh and Reverend Serena seek to find spots for everyone. If we have too many interested people of one age bracket or similar experience, we may ask some folks to wait until a future group so we can keep our groups balanced. 


When are the groups meeting? You get to decide! Once the group members are set, Rev. Serena will hold initial meetings (20 minutes) with each group on Sunday, September 10 after 11am worship in Wallace Hall to help them find a meeting time for the next 8 weeks. Meeting times usually fall on a Sunday afternoon or evening or a M-Th evening. If you can’t make the brief organizational meeting, don’t worry. Rev. Serena will get your availability ahead of time.


Where are the groups meeting? The groups will meet at St. B’s for these first 8 meetings because it’s a neutral space and no one is responsible for hosting.


What can I expect at the first meeting? At the first official meeting, Rev. Serena will guide the groups in setting ground rules (like confidentiality). She will ask the participants to share what brought them to the group and what they hope to get out of the group. Rev. Serena will also give examples of how each person can craft the story of his or her spiritual or faith journey, which will form most of the sharing in these first 8 weeks. The meeting will close with two volunteers agreeing to share their journeys next time and a prayer. The groups will meet without clergy for the next 6 sessions. 


What do you mean by sharing my spiritual or faith journey? This is an opportunity for you to decide what you share about God and faith in your life. Some people will have to pick and choose among their many God-moments, some people will struggle to think about their life in these terms. It’s okay. We will give you some ideas to get you started (e.g., talk about churches you’ve belonged to, talk about important people in your life, etc.). Remember it’s only 20 minutes!  


How is this different than other ministry settings I’m already in? Other groups like choir, youth leaders, lay Eucharistic members, and vestry have a task or agenda to complete when they are together. Small groups don’t. They exist solely to deepen our relationships with God and each other. 


Is this therapy or self-help? No! Talking about our spiritual journeys may end up being revealing, but it is not a chance for you or anyone else in the group to seek advice or counseling. These groups are not about fixing problems or helping each other through a crisis. It’s a chance to be real with yourself, God, and others.  


Is this Bible Study? Not yet, but it could become a Bible study. Once everyone in the group has shared their stories, we will provide the groups with a choice of curricula for the remaining weeks: e.g., a Bible study series, a “basics of faith” series, Way of Love series, etc. 


Is this social hour? No, but we want people to be friendly, of course, and enjoy each other’s company.


What will a typical session be like? Sessions will begin with an opening prayer and a brief “check-in” focused on sharing with the group your “high point” and “low point” from the prior week. Then two members will share their spiritual journeys, each taking 20 minutes. The other participants remain silent, listening and embracing the stories. The sessions will close with administrative details and prayer. Barring a personal emergency that warrants shifting the format, we ask you to stick to the session format so that everyone knows what to expect.


What if I have to miss a session?  That’s okay. We expect participants to make as many sessions as possible, and at least 6 of the 8 sessions. We hope participants will be sufficiently committed and will schedule around their small group meetings. 


Who is in charge of the group? You are! It’s true. Everyone is responsible for how the group functions. If folks are talking too much, ask them (nicely!) to let others have a turn. If folks are not talking enough, ask them if they would like to share. Rev. Serena will help the group identify a convener from the group’s participants, but this person is really in charge of the room reservations and making sure the group knows who is sharing, praying, etc. each week. 


Where are your clergy in all this?  Rev. Serena will help the groups set a time to meet and will assist with the first and last sessions of the 8 weeks. She will not attend the sessions in which the participants share their stories. 


What happens after 8 weeks? That depends on you! We hope that a significant number of participants will continue meeting over the next 6-7 months. You can choose to meet every other week or once a month with a topic of your choosing. Do what you need to do to stay connected to God and one another!