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Small groups revive Walla Walla First Congregational UCC

Church survey identifies what members sought to strengthen their faith

Cecilia McKean, pastor of First Congregatonal UCC in Walla Walla, shared how the church has developed small group ministry that is revitalizing the congregation and participation in church.


Cecilia McKean, retiring as pastor in August.

“I was converted to small group ministry as part of a church in Seattle,” she said.  “As pastor at Walla Wallla I found how to implement a larger process.”

Beginning with a survey to find what members liked, what they would like to see and how they would like to be involved in the church.  The survey revealed that they wanted more opportunities for small groups, Bible study, adult forum, work parties and classes.

They wanted time to get together to come to know each other and share their stories,” Cecilia said.  “I suggested a structure for small group ministry.”

There was fear small groups might form cliques that would be churches unto themselves so they would not need to participate in the larger church.

Walla Walla First Congregational decided on a six month trial period beginning in fall 2013.  Cecilia picked facilitators who learned about small group interaction and structure, and talked about covenant, covenant groups and UCC values.

In the fall, there was much promotion in the church.

In January 2014, there was a party with balloons and flowers to encourage people to sign up based on times, locations and facilitators.

The groups met two times a month from January to June.

The covenant of the groups had three parts:

• Behavior – everything said is confidential and does not go out of the group, even to the pastor.  The group would start and end on time and develop other rules.

• Covenant – The group would covenant with the church not to go rogue unto itself.  It would maintain an empty chair to remind the people that the group is always open.

• Service – each group was to do one service project a year.

The groups started again in September.  Group ministry teams for each other.  Cecilia met first Sundays with facilitators.  She facilitated the facilitators but was not in a group.

Two groups met for two hours.  One group met Thursday mornings at the church.  It was cross generational because elders did not drive in the evenings, and mothers needed child care.

Most groups were men and women.  Many were couples.

It was wonderful for the congregation, said Cecilia, who has resigned as of the end of August to retire.  She will continue to live in Walla Walla.

There’s a longing in society for spiritual intimacy, said Cecilia.

“People want first to belong.  Then they believe and behave,” she said.

For information, call 509-526-4847 or email


Copyright June-July 2015 © Pacific Northwest Conference News




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