The Changing Role of Ministry
When I first came to Unity some 25+ years ago, Unity spiritual communities and publications were the main source of the message that turned me on spiritually. That message was:
- God—the one divine, spiritual, creative presence of the universe—was good,
- Human beings (me included) were made of that divine spiritual essence,
- Our lives in the world reflected our own state of consciousness,
- Spiritual practices could expand our consciousness and our experience of God—divine goodness, and,
- We could live transformed lives in this world through the practical application of these spiritual principles.
That’s the message I heard on Sundays. It was also available through Unity publications and other books in the Unity bookstores. Often the best, and sometimes the only, place to experience that message on a regular basis was Sunday mornings, sitting in the pews at a local Unity church, listening to the Unity minister.
Today, much of that has changed. There are now thousands upon thousands—maybe millions—of highly gifted individuals who are effectively teaching varieties of this spiritual message. They are teaching through books that are now available in local and online bookstores everywhere. They are teaching through their online, web presence. They are teaching on national and international television. They are emerging as leaders in a variety of progressive Christian churches and movements. They are leading seminars and workshops all over the world. But they are not usually present at the local Unity ministry on a regular basis other than occasional workshops and classes, and their materials might be in the Unity bookstore. And, most of those who buy their books, CDs or DVDs take them home.
Spiritual Growth Group Ministry
That can change with a Spiritual Growth Group/Small Group ministry. A well-organized semester-based program (up to three semesters per year) would provide unlimited opportunities for participants in Unity ministries and the communities they serve to experience many of these emerging teachings in a group learning environment created by the local Unity ministry. This kind of Spiritual Growth Group program could provide an unlimited number of new leadership/group facilitator opportunities for those who want to take an active role in the ministry.
A two- or three-semester-based Spiritual Growth Group program like this does take dedicated work and leadership. It should be led by someone who is gifted at cultivating leadership, identifying current and compelling Spiritual Growth Group content and curriculum, organizing the semesters, training and supporting facilitators, and promoting and publicizing the program and its groups.
Developing a Spiritual Growth Group ministry may be one of the most accessible strategies for revitalizing Unity ministries and enhancing a local ministry’s contribution to the spiritual awakening and transformation of humanity. It may be one of the best ways to find and engage people in the community who would be considered spiritual independents or cultural creatives.
There are many books and other resources that address the development of a small group ministry. Here are a few suggestions:
- Unity Worldwide Ministries’ Small Group Ministry Guide
- Unity Worldwide Ministries’ Small Group curriculum
- Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas
- Living the Questions produces very high-quality, tech-savvy, adult education material from a progressive Christian (very close to Unity) perspective.
- Many of the more popular spiritual books that might appeal to “spiritual independents” and “cultural creatives” also lend themselves to six- to twelve-week facilitated group studies.