Convocation 2007 Closing Notes
What Participants Had to Say
? Interaction of different generations
? Safe space that allowed emotional sharing
? Hearing personal stories
? Saturday flowed well
? Mandy Carter, our amazing keynote speaker
? Challenging conversations
? Small group interaction
? Hearing do-able things
? Starting music from OurSong
? Worship and learning new songs
? See Monkey (it’s a game; you had to be there!)
What Was Missing or We Would Have Liked to Have Been Different?
? Music and dancing Saturday night
? High tea
? “Normal” from HBO, or something like that
? Small groups with different people
? More interaction with people from the church
? More singing in worship
? More games and fun
? Scheduled free time/socilization/networking
? More spiritual aspect
? More people
? Concurrent youth conference
? Attention to “Freedom to Marry” day
? More physical involvement interspersed with talking
? More emotional involvement
Something You Learned
? Intentional integration of generations leads to authentic integration
? Bonding with youth and young adults around games
? Maybe someday my home can be as safe as this place
? Wondering about weeping/bursting cultural barriers that suppress feelings
? The UUA survey of youth showed bisexual youth were more involved in leadership in the youth movement
? Importance of renewing the Welcoming Congregation
? Connection of small groups with touch groups
? P-FLAG and playing the media
? It’s still difficult for young people to come out
? The importance of connection and support for youth and young adults
? Take time to make friends
? Take time for self
? Our church needs a connection with national Interweave.
Small Group Ministry at Interweave Convo 2007
Rev. Jonalu Johnstone
President, Interweave Continental
How do you encourage and support deep connection among folks who come together for a weekend and may never see each other again? How do you draw newcomers into an established group that has met year after year? In short, how can you make a weekend workshop or conference better?
With small groups, of course.
For the last twenty-five years, Interweave Continental has held an annual Convo (short for “convocation”), inviting UU’s from all over the continent to come together to consider issues of concern for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. This year, as we reached out to bring in more young people, we added small groups to our schedule as a way to build connections and give attendees the chance to process their experiences. In this experiment, we were following General Assembly and some other groups I’ve participated in, including Small Church Conferences and Ministers’ Retreats in the Southwest District.
The process was designed to deepen people’s experience, to increase their connection with others, and to allow them an opportunity to process what they learned. Because we wanted to create a mix, especially across age groups, we randomized the groups, using colored dots on name tags. This meant that people weren’t in groups with the friends or partners they arrived with. Instead, they had to meet new people. Another way to group people, of course, is to assign them in advance. That’s the strategy we use at Ministers’ Retreats, creating groups whose members have a mix of time in ministry, type of ministry, and cluster.
For Convo’s small groups, board members served as our facilitators. Their job was to keep things moving, to watch to make sure everyone got an opportunity to talk and to listen, and to generally monitor the functioning of the group. I provided them with session plans, including opening and closing words, check-in suggestions and discussion questions. Ideally, facilitators should meet for an hour beforehand to discuss the plans and how to relate in the groups, and once during the weekend, perhaps over a meal, to process how the groups are going.
Groups had three meetings – an hour on Friday evening, a half hour on Saturday morning after a keynote speaker and workshop, and an hour late Saturday afternoon before dinner. In the first session, people introduced themselves and got to say something positive about what was happening on queer issues in their congregations, as well as talking about their hopes and concerns for the conference. The second session allowed reflection on a highlight of the morning, and questions about making Interweave more inclusive particularly of various age groups – a major theme for the weekend. The final session provided a time to reflect on the overall experience and how people would bring their learnings back to their congregations.
Participants wanted more! Next year, we may plan for an additional group Sunday morning, and perhaps more time on Saturday morning.
Many folks reported the small groups were the highlight of their weekend, even though they loved other parts too! On top of that, people went home with new friends they hope to see again next year.
Join us at General Assembly 2007 www.uua.org/ga for more infoJune 20–24, 2007 visit