Small Group Growth Strategies – March Training

Many of my readers are religious leaders interested in growing congregations, transforming lives, and impacting the larger community.

Many congregations that want to grow get stuck small because they don’t have the relational structures in place to allow for growth.

That’s why my March Leading Congregations Monthly live training  is focused on small group growth strategies. If you want to grow your congregation, I hope you’ll join us.

Family-sized congregations (up to around 50 people) are often kept small by their close relationships, with members not wanting to disrupt intimacy. They like knowing everyone, they like being a family.

Pastoral-sized congregations (up to around 150 people) tend to stay small because the minister serves as the hub of everything. If you draw a map of relationships in one of these congregations, it looks like a hairball. I have colleagues who call this the “hairball ministry” model.

You can want to grow, but unless you change the structure, after a certain point, there just isn’t the capacity to grow. That’s where growth oriented small group ministry comes in.

Small group ministry, when designed and implemented correctly, offers the vision, leadership, and relational capacity congregations need to grow.

That’s what we’re discussing in next week’s Leading Congregations Monthly live training: Small Group Growth Strategies.  Learn More.

Some of you might not know that small groups are how I got into working with our congregations nationally.

After successfully using small group ministry with youth, young adults in my home congregation, I launched the UU Small Group Ministry Network in 2001 and in 2004 relaunched it with colleagues as a nonprofit and affiliate organization of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

That effort helped establish the popular approach to small group ministry used in Unitarian Universalist congregations.

While small group ministry is common now, what isn’t as widely known is what you need to do to grow small groups and use small groups as engines for congregational growth.

After helping to popularize small group ministry, I stepped away for a time to help pioneer our use of social media in our congregations. Both are ways to connect people with our congregations, which is my passion.

I have led weekend retreats in which I’ve shared the deeper growth strategies, but I haven’t offered this content through online training.

But that’s changed thanks to Leading Congregations Monthly which is helping more leaders access my training.

This month I’m going to share core strategies you can use to grow your group leaders, grow your groups, and grow your congregation.

This is a 90-minute live training happening Wednesday, March 13th at 7pm EST.

All of our Leading Congregations Monthly trainings are RECORDED with video recordings with CLOSED CAPTIONING and HANDOUTS available in the program MEMBER AREA.

If you’re committed to growing your congregation and don’t have a thriving small group system actively supporting the health and growth of your ministry, this is an important training for you.

Click here to get all the details about Leading Congregations Monthly  including the benefits, how you can include teams, and bonuses if you join. Bonuses will be available in your library immediately after you join Leading Congregations Monthly.

This month’s bonuses are:
• Relational Volunteer Recruitment with Peter Bowden (mini-course)
• Social Media and Membership Growth with Peter Bowden (full course)

Thank you for your leadership and let me know if you have questions.

In cooperation,


Live Session: Lifespan Small Group Ministry Approach to UU Religious Exploration

Live session exploring using a lifepan small group ministry model as the engine for our Unitarian Universalist religious exploration, leadership development, and justice work with children, youth, young adults, and adults. Video was recorded in our UU PLANET Community Group on August 14, 2018.




• What kind of group experiences do you have for adults in your congregation? Where is group life jamming in your congregation?

• What about groups with children, youth, and young adults? How do these compare to your offerings for adults?

• What do you think the benefit would be of integrating our vision and approach for groups across ages?

Have questions for me on these themes? Share them in our group or contact me here! I’m working on turning my core small group ministry trainings for program leaders and group facilitators into online trainings. Would love to include more on groups for all ages. Your questions are a big help. Thank you.

Joseph Priestly District 2013 Worship Arts Festival

Friends, this year I will be offering the keynote and series of workshops at the Joseph Priestly District’s 2013 Worship Arts Festival. My talk is titledWorship & Social Media in the new Age of Collaboration.”  Social media has opened amazing new possibilities for turning worship and sermons into just one part of a much larger conversation.  Together we’ll explore new ways for engaging your community as you plan, research and design worship. There will be over a dozen workshops offered at this event.  Scroll down for the full selection, including my three workshops. It is going to be amazing!  I hope you’ll join us.  Let me know if you have questions about any of my offerings. ~ Peter


Joseph Priestly District 2013 Worship Arts Festival
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Optional Friday evening session February 22, 2013
Hosted by the UU Church in Cherry Hill, NJ



Who should attend: Anyone interested in enhancing the worship experience of their congregation from ministerial, musical, and religious education staff to worship presenters and hospitality volunteers. You’ll find amazing resources, inspiration and connections at this event.

What is Small Group Ministry all about?

This video by the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis does a great job of sharing what small groups in our congregations can be like.  Thanks to First Universalist for producing this, great to have video testimonials!


Interested in small groups for your congregation? Check out the website of the UU Small Group Ministry Network. It is filled with resources, including a great quarterly journal, and hundreds of free session plans.

The UU SGM Network started as a website I launched in 2001 with a focus on networking and exchanging resources.   In 2004 other small group early adopters and I launched the network as an organization with a membership program to better support these ministries.

Today the network is a non-profit, with a great board, and continues to support  small group ministry and covenant groups across the UUA.  Those of you passionate about growth, master small group ministry. Ministry is relational.  No groups, no growth.

PS — An important shout out to Rev. Justin Schroeder for his ongoing work with small groups. He’s on my short list of UU clergy who *really* understand the power of small groups. Want to get on that list?  Write a blog post like this about small group ministry and share the link with me. 😉

October UU Small Group Ministry Retreat with Peter Bowden

Friends, I’m excited to announce that I will be leading a UU Small Group Ministry retreat October 14-16, 2011 at the U Bar U Retreat & Conference Center in Texas.   Full details on the San Antonio website. Hope you can join us!

Details and registration information

Download PDF Flier

UU Small Group Ministry Retreat
Program Development & Renewal with Peter Bowden

Friday – Sunday, October 14 – 16, 2011
U Bar U Retreat & Conference Center

First UU San Antonio is proud to offer a weekend Small Group Ministry training with Peter Bowden, Unitarian Universalist Growth Consultant and co-founder of the UU Small Group Ministry Network. This training has been designed for clergy and lay leaders seeking to strengthen congregation-wide small group ministry programs. This program will cover the following core areas, as well as opportunities for worship, networking and hands on small group experience.

  • Small groups that are HEALTHY, GROWING and INTEGRATED into
    congregational life.
  • Approaches to SELECTING, TRAINING and COACHING small group
    ministry leaders.
  • Turning FACILITATORS into small group LEADERS and PARTNERS in
    shared ministry.

Continue reading on event page….


“Peter brings to his work a powerful combination of experience, commitment, and enthusiasm for Small Group Ministry.” — The Rev. Bob Hill, author of The Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry

“One of the earliest to grasp the potential of Small Group Ministry, Peter quickly developed effective techniques for its development and spread.  The online UU Small Group Ministry Network is thanks to his vision and energy.  He is one of our foremost teachers and promoters in helping churches to develop and maintain small groups.” — Rev. Glenn H. Turner