The Soul Matters Model
Soul Matters is a distinctive small group curriculum. Like other small group programs, its central goal is to foster circles of trust and deep listening. However, Soul Matters adds four unique components:
1. Explore the Worship Themes in More Depth
Soul Matters is not a “stand alone” program. It is designed as a companion program to multi-religious sharing circle experience. Sharing cirlces using Soul Matters position it in their system as “an opportunity to explore our congregation’s monthly worship themes in more depth.”
2. Experience the Worship Theme, Don’t Just Talk about It.
Unitarian Universalists want to do more than just read and talk about spiritual topics. Discussing a topic is important. But there is nothing like experiential learning. Honoring this, Soul Matters participants are given a spiritual exercise each month to engage prior to their group meeting. For instance, when we wrestled with the concept of grace, we didn’t just read what theologians had to say about it, we also challenged ourselves to find a way to bring grace (a gift one doesn’t expect, earn or even deserve) into another person’s life.
3. Questions To Walk With, Not Talk Through.
In traditional small groups, questions are an opportunity for the group to think together. Soul Matters uses questions differently. We see them as tools for individual exploration. Instead of asking our groups to go through the questions and discussion them one by one, Soul Matters participants are asked to read all the questions ahead of time and find the one question that “hooks them”—the one that speaks to and challenges them personally. Participants then live with–or “walk with”–that question for a couple weeks leading up to the group, coming to their meeting, not with an answer to each of the questions on the list, but with a story about how this one particular question lead them to deeper, personal learning. This technique leads us away from abstraction and intellectualizing and challenges us to think about how the topic (and question) apply to our daily living.
4. A Reminder That UUism is Distinctive, Not an “Anything Goes,” Religion
Our monthly themes are not just interesting topics. Rather they focus us on a spiritual value that our UU faith has historically honored and emphasized. At each meeting, we are reminded that our faith promotes a preferred way for us to be in the world. This is why each monthly theme is couched within the sentence: “What does it mean to be a people of ____________?”