Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whatever happened to SALT groups?

After we joined UALC in 1976 we invited the others in our "new member" class to our home to see if they were interested in becoming a more permanent, contract group that would meet on a regular basis. We had been in a Couples Group at First Community Church for eight years and liked that model with rotating host family choosing the topic or speaker for the evening with occasional social events or service projects. Five of the six couples came, and four decided to stay together.

At that time, UALC had no mechanism for creating small groups. It had traditional "Lutheran" type groups like women's study/social circles, Altar Guild, ad hoc task groups, choir, and committees that reported to various staff or board members. That first couples group stayed together about 4 or 5 years. After that group disbanded we either joined or created (can't remember which) another group that was a bit more fluid--there were some core members, but others came and went--8 or 10--as it suited their needs and schedule. The third group we joined was about a year old and its leader died shortly after we joined. My husband took over even though we'd only been in the group a short time. By then (early 90s?) the church had actively begun to organize small groups and christen them SALT, or, "Sharing and Living Together." (I much prefer the term Serving and Learning Together but . . . oh well). The church had regular meetings for SALT group leaders for communicating with the rest of us and a staff member to oversee putting new groups together. After 10+ years with that group, we went a few years without an intimate friend-fellowship-prayer group meeting regularly, and we missed it. About three-four years ago we were invited to join a group that had begun in the late 1990s from a new members class and we're still together.

SALT has been a successful model for bringing people who don't know each other together in a very large church with four styles of worship in three locations and nine services. At some of our Sunday evening meetings, we may have heard four different service leaders/pastors that morning. We still rotate hosting and planning, and occasionally have service projects or attend an event together.

So why has UALC dropped any mention of SALT on its Web page or printed small group "connected" and "study" brochures reprinted in 2009? Why is there no shepherd for SALT on the paid staff? Not even a volunteer? The worship attendance is dropping (decrease of 414 between Dec. 2007 and Dec. 2009 according to the Jan 19 Council minutes). Maybe we need to get back to a model that was in use when we were bursting at the seams and decided we needed another campus? Technology like Facebook, Twitter and web sites are great--but they don't take the place of face to face contact, praying together, studying together, going out to eat, sharing child care or visiting a friend in the hospital.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to the ELCA FAQ, your mega congretation has lost an entire corporate congregation!