Small Group Ministry Pilot Project
Earlier this year, 8 leaders from 5 congregations joined Bishop Jason and Deacon Michelle for a season of learning and experimentation around small group ministry. The Small Group Ministry Pilot Project began with a 6-week Small Group Leader Training course, followed by participants hosting a 6-week small group in their context. As the small groups completed their first session in April and May, a few groups decided to keep meeting beyond the designated 6 weeks. Others have plans to reconvene in the fall after taking a break.
In a gathering to debrief the experience, several leaders expressed interest in continuing to stay involved in small group ministry going forward. “It was great to get to know each other in a deeper way,” said Candace Kostna (Abundant Life), sharing about her small group’s focus on the resource Praying in Color, by Cybil MacBeth. “I knew some of the people in my group before,” said Faye Schultz (Sherwood Park) whose group explored different forms of prayer, “but now we will be more comfortable approaching each other in church.” Karina Hill (Messiah) facilitated a small group of moms with young children focusing on various stories of women in the Bible. In that group participants commented more than once that it was nice to hear others were going through similar parenting dynamics and challenges in the pandemic. Michelle McConomy (Grace) led a group of teachers in a discussion of the book Dear Church by Pr. Lenny Duncan, which led to meaningful discussions about the racial history and reconciliation dynamics in Canada and an interest to learn more. Many leaders reflected on the good conversation that happened around the chosen topics, but how those conversations often led to deeper discussions of faith and life.
The small groups met via Zoom, which was a new way of generating faith community for some leaders and participants. Most groups discovered that, while different than in-person community, genuine relationship and authentic conversation still developed, and that meeting virtually possibly strengthened the connection participants will make in-person. Some discovered that meeting via Zoom increased their ability to participate, as they didn’t have to navigate other factors like childcare, driving after dark, or weather that might otherwise affect their participation. While everyone expressed a deep yearning for in-person gatherings, leaders discovered that virtual small groups still led to positive connection and meaningful faith development.
Bishop Jason and Deacon Michelle are making plans to host a second series of Small Group Leader Training in the fall, and will be holding an information session in September for those interested in participating.