Tips for Starting and Maintaining a Local Group
Be able to say in a sentence or two why you want to form the group
For example, do you want to deepen your understanding of the progressive approach to Christianity, be able to articulate a progressive viewpoint in conversations with others, create a supporting community, enhance your ability to strive for peace and justice in the world, some combination of these, or do you have some other objective? Get clear about what you want to be about.
Find a partner
A group is a collaborative body, and working with a partner sets that tone from the beginning. It also doubles the energy and resources available to get things going. Find a partner in our directory, or recruit a friend, neighbor or colleague to be involved together.
With your partner, plan the initial meeting(s).
Set a positive tone
It is easy, for example, to be against fundamentalism or against injustice. But it is more attractive in the long run to be for a compelling alternative. Begin each meeting with a spiritual element- a reading, a meditation, a prayer, or some quiet moments.
Decide together the major purpose(s) of the group
Is it to be a study/discussion group, a spiritual practice group, a social action group, some other type of group? You can find excellent books for sale in the our store.
Decide where, when, and how long to meet
Choose a place that is easily accessible by public transportation and/or has ample parking. Choose a place that is religiously neutral – a community meeting room, a private room in a coffee shop, or a home rather than a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.
Set dates and times for the initial meetings at the outset rather than gathering names and then engaging in the frustrating e-mail task of figuring out when everyone can meet.
Two hours is a reasonable commitment that also allows time to accomplish real work.
Set the agenda of the first meeting
Consider distributing the 8 points of Progressive Christianity or a short article that particularly interests you and your partner, to participants in advance of the meeting. Excellent material is available in our resource section.
State the purpose of the group and be clear at the outset of the meeting what expectations and hopes the two of you have – while leaving room for modification as the group matures. As part of this introduction, you could describe the ProgressiveChristianity.org website and your intent for form a sacred community.
Be clear about discussion ground-rules
Here’s a suggested list:
Listen to each other. Do not interrupt. Do not monopolize the conversation; make sure that everyone who wishes to speak gets a chance. Speak respectfully to each other. Speak from personal experience rather than making broad sweeping statements. Do not criticize another member’s expression of faith or belief. If someone hits a sore point, speak up. Be present to learn and grow, rather than hoping to change others in the group. Remind the group they will be dealing with issues close to the heart and that it is inevitable that they will uncover divergent views.
Provide ample time at the beginning of the first meeting for individuals to introduce themselves and tell what sparked their interest in the group.
To deepen discussion of an issue or article, have a question ready to get people talking about the study material or topic. Follow up with a question about what the issue has to do with the way those present live from day to day.
Solicit the views of those present regarding how they would like to spend their time together. Add your own ideas into this mix. Without taking any suggestion off, try to determine which idea(s) have the most energy at this moment. Those should form the basis of the next meetings.
Spread the wealth. If there are presentations/tasks that group members can and are willing to assume, encourage that to happen.
As an alternative, program a set number of meetings on a specific focus, and, at the conclusion, ask participants whether they want to engage in another series
For example, plan meetings on five consecutive Wednesdays from 7:00-9:00 pm to discuss a particular topic or book. We have reviews, books, articles, sermons, liturgies, meditations, videos, etc that you can share and discuss. At the conclusion, as the group if they want to continue with another issue or book. Individuals in the group can take responsibility for leading these future meetings.
Use the personal approach
Posters and flyers are wonderful – but everyone also likes to be asked. Personally invite the list of progressive Christians in your area — you can check out our directory to get you started. Invite your friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues. Ask those who have said “yes” to invite someone they know.
Be clear about the time, place and format
Note that the ideal size for a discussion group is from 6 to 12 people.
MAINTAINING A VIBRANT GROUP
Sign up (as a group and individually) with ProgressiveChristianity.org
Signing up connects you a to the larger network of progressive Christians and strengthens the voice of progressive Christianity on the national scene. It also allows others to find you and gives them information about your group’s activities.
Begin each session with a check-in
It can be as brief as asking each person to provide a one word description of how they are feeling at the moment.
Share in the responsibilities
Distribute and rotate tasks from leading discussions to bringing refreshments.
Check-in with the group
From time to time, ask the group what has gone well, what needs attention, and what they would like to see in the future. Agree on how to implement these suggestions.