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Forming support groups in a congregational setting

A quick-and-dirty guide to forming support groups in congregational settings.


A support group is typically a small group of people who are facing similar problems or issues, who come together periodically to share their stories and give each other moral and spiritual support (and sometimes to give each other practical advice).

Support groups may be open or closed, depending on whether new members are admitted or not. Some closed groups admit new members every so often -- perhaps once a year, or when they need to replace members lost due to attrition.

Organizational and logistical matters to consider:

1. Covenant or basic agreement

A short set of behavioral agreements ("covenant," in religious language) is needed.

2. How often to meet

Meet monthly, bimonthly, weekly, other? -- what time and day to meet -- where to meet -- length of meeting time.

3. Basic structure of a typical meeting

The basic support group in a Unitarian Universalist context will follow this format more or less:

4. Roles for group members

At a minimum:

Other roles may be appropriate for some support groups. Many support groups ask members to rotate in the role of facilitator, sometimes in the role of convener.

5. Logistics

Child care, sharing or providing transportation, other logistical details.

6. Relationship with host congregation

This includes whether congregation provides support (financial assistance, training and support for facilitators, a place to meet) and whether support group provides support (typically monetary contributions each meeting) to the congregation. Support groups should know to whom they are accountable (Board, minister(s), etc.).