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Small Community Ideas That Work: Relationships

Small communities are the heart of the parish community, and relationships are the heart of small communities. Staying in touch—connecting with others, especially when there isn’t a scheduled meeting or gathering on your calendar—reveals the sincerity and commitment that you bring to your relationships. With regard to relationships, consider these important questions:
With whom do you need to connect?
How can we communicate our experience to the pastor?
What resources are available to support small communities?
Connecting can take many forms: a phone call, note, email, visit, or meeting for coffee or lunch. It can be formal or informal. This is a blessing for you and the other! Whether the encounter is with the participants in your small community, the pastor, or other parish leaders, your faith life is at the core of your connection. Remembering, celebrating, and sharing your faith experiences affirms, sustains, and encourages all who are part of the conversation.
Create ongoing structures for communication such as monthly meetings for small-community leaders. These meetings can be opportunities to provide the leaders with insights into the scripture readings in upcoming faith-sharing sessions. Ask your parish catechetical leader, or your pastor, to help you prepare for these meetings. This has been very successful in many parishes.
Get invited to a meeting of every other ministry in the parish to share how small communities are making a difference in the parish and in the lives of participants. Offer to provide the opening prayer.
Always remember, your pastor is on your side. He wants very much for the people of the parish to have deeper spiritual lives. If it seems as if he is not supportive, it may be because he has not completely grasped what small Christian communities are doing, and can do, for the parish.
Take a chance when a spontaneous encounter with the pastor occurs and let him know how much the experience of faith sharing in small communities means to you. Share a good news story, express your gratitude to him for inviting the parish to take part in this process, and ask him what he has seen or heard. If no spontaneous meeting occurs, call your pastor or set up an appointment to see him. Imagine how happy the pastor would be to have a meeting that isn’t a problem!
Consider arranging “Coffee with the Pastor” meetings for small-community leaders. This will provide a nice affirmation for the leaders and will help the pastor get in touch with the good things that are happening in the communities.
Make time to visit your diocesan center. Visit some of the offices (evangelization, adult faith formation, social justice, parish life, etc.) and ask how they can help nurture small Christian communities.
Visit your diocesan resource center and ask what books or faith-sharing materials are available for small Christian communities. Share with the resource center the materials you have. Talk to the librarian and suggest that he or she build up the small Christian community collection.
Resources that are available outside the fall and Lenten seasons can be avenues for individuals or groups to grow in faith. Knowing there are a Lectionary-based resource (PrayerTime), a resource about the Blessed Virgin Mary (At Prayer with Mary), or a print and audio series on deepening spirituality (Longing for the Holy) can be just what others are looking for.
Network with other parishes. Exchange ideas over coffee, plan a retreat together, ask for recommendations for speakers for a parish mission, and share good news from the parishes and then publish it in your own church.
Get information on regional and national events. Consider opportunities such as annual conferences for small Christian communities that provide opportunities for people to get re-energized, network with others from all over the world engaged in the same ministry, and meet nationally known speakers in a community of prayer and learning.
Explore other humanitarian organizations in your area. Consult with groups that can be of assistance to small Christian communities wanting to move into mission. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, food pantries, and other local groups that assist the homeless or those with disabilities are all possibilities.
In the end, whether it’s a one-minute, 15-minute or longer connection, God and you and the other have shared that blessing and refreshment that comes from relationships rooted in faith sharing.

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