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Task Force shares resources to build relationships

The PNC Adult Spiritual Formation Task Force understands people don’t need another program. 

Marcia McLaughlin of the task force said members realize people are looking for a way to build relationships and community in their churches.

Small covenant group meets at Ferndale UCC.
Photo courtesy of Bobbi Virta

“A common theme heard in the conference recently is the importance of relationship building,” she said. “It was heard at the annual meeting in Yakima. It has been restated in articles in the PNC Conference News. It is heard in our churches.”

The Adult Spiritual Formation Task Force has easy-to-use resources that pastors and laity alike can use to facilitate expression of communal life invited by Christ, pulsing with Spirit and experienced through relationship.

The program offers four years of Small Group Ministry sessions, more if for groups meeting only once a month. Each is distinct in content but all follow the same format for ease and flow across time.  

The task force has worked diligently to create resources stemming from a core belief that “Church Should Be the Last Place Anyone Stands Alone: Strengthening Community through Vital Group Life.”

“Our new in-depth curriculum, “The Art of Noticing,” is fresh off the press this fall and has what congregations need to start a small group ministry or to enhance one that is already in place,” Tammy Bell of the task force said. “We believe small group ministry is at the heart of a healthy church. Changed lives are a church’s greatest asset.”

The newest curriculum provides preparation materials along with step-by-step guidelines for up to 22 sessions focusing on The Spiritual Journey and organized around themes: The Art of Noticing Your Life, The Art of Recognizing Your Soul, The Art of Experiencing the Divine and The Art of Practicing Your Faith.

“Although we’re excited about the new series because seeing it come to fruition is our own small group collaborative triumph, our previous three offerings are equally worthy of attention and may actually be a better place for some congregations to begin,” Tammy said. 

“We’re happy to help flesh out the perfect starting point for those considering small group ministry but unsure which series to choose,” she said.

Series #1 is about “Sharing Our Stories” of everyday life and practicing the art of truly listening to strengthen relationships and establish trust.

Series #2 on “God Is Still Speaking” encourages group members to reflect on the presence, movement and call of God within and around them through stories they share.

Series #3 is “Living the Questions” by considering new ways of thinking about, experiencing and exploring spirituality in the context of participants’ own everyday, ordinary, extraordinary lives.

Series #4 is “The Art of Noticing. It invites people to recognize the sacred in daily life and deepen a relationship with Spirit, neighbor and all creation.

“We’ve worked hard to bring the best of sacred texts, secular writings, thought provoking inquiries and diverse preparation activities together toward the end of nurturing both personal and communal spiritual growth in a safe, interesting, fully engaged way. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, there’s a place for you to plug in and ignite your faith,” Tammy said.

The task force seeks to find ways to partner with congregations to nurture meaningful spiritual growth in each faith community. The introductory materials will assist a congregation in selecting and supporting appropriate lay facilitators. 

“This is not one more thing for the pastor’s plate,” Tammy said.  “Laity are at the heart of small group leadership.”

“We even furnish ideas for publicizing and inviting people to join. We’re here to listen, support, uplift, provide resources and, ultimately, be of service to a congregation’s spiritual growth,” Tammy added. “We seek to help clergy and lay leaders expand their ‘span of care’ by making sure everyone has a place to be truly seen, known and heard while no one carries the burden of care alone.”

As the small group ministry deepens relationships needs of parishioners are more precisely known and met, whether carried out by paid or unpaid leadership.

“We have been working for several years on this program and the churches using it have expressed deep positive impact.

“We’ve poured our hearts, souls and time into practicing small group ministry and developing resources we believe can facilitate vibrant, authentic community through vital group life no matter the current size, circumstance or make-up of a congregation,” said Tammy.

The task force seeks to build spiritual communities where each individual has a safe, encouraging space to freely explore, deeply expand and confidently express his or her faith through action.

Covenant groups began at Walla Walla First Congregational church under the leadership of Cecilia McKean who was then on the task force.  She shared resources, which the task force has expanded.  Nathaniel Malberg, her successor as pastor, has continued the small group ministry.  Ferndale has used the materials for two years and Bellingham began a small group ministry last year.

She said that the Adult Spirituality Task Force considered it both “a joy and privilege to partner with congregations” to spread use of these resources.

PDF files of the resources are available by contacting Kathie Forman at 206-799-9248 or, Tammy at, or Marcia McLaughlin at


Copyright © September 2018


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