Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Spiritual Deepening Small Groups: FAQs

Photo by Marta Rusek
Religious Education
The intention of the Spiritual Deepening program is to bring the full depth, joy, and fire of Quaker faith and practice to our daily lives, to our meetings, and to those who come to our meeting as seekers. 

The Spiritual Deepening Program goals include:

  • Fostering the development of a deeper and more connected spiritual community over time and supporting personal spiritual deepening.
  • Offering newcomers a path into the Quaker way and the life of a meeting, as well as nurturing and supporting the transformative Quaker experience for all.


Why does this ‘deepening’ seem necessary?

The need for spiritual deepening is a question for each meeting and individual to consider.  Many meeting communities have expressed a desire for deeper connection and stronger spiritual bonds.  Friends have expressed a yearning to know one another and to be known.  This program was developed in response to that expressed need and offers a framework that can minister to the unique needs of diverse meetings and individuals.

The interactions and relationship-building that happen within a Spiritual Deepening small group or eRetreat community take place in a holy container of trust and depth.  Friends and newcomers who have experienced this find it meaningful, energizing, and encouraging.  The small group's experience can bring greater depth and groundedness to meeting for worship and meeting for business, benefitting the entire meeting community.  Many meetings have found this to be worth the investment of time and energy.


What does 'deepening' look like?

Within meetings, going deeper might mean knowing one another and ourselves better and having more intimate bonds of connection.  Worship may be more grounded and the meeting might be better equipped to support Friends in discernment, pastoral care, and exploring their spiritual journeys.

For individuals, to go deeper in a spiritual practice may allow for a strengthened relationship with the Holy and a greater ease in settling into worship and hearing the still small voice.  The experience of sharing within a Spiritual Deepening small group or eRetreat can spark curiosity, learning, enthusiasm, and engagement in one's faith life.


We already have a Bible Study group, a newcomers group, and a Learning Quakerism group.  How is the Spiritual Deepening group unique? 

The Spiritual Deepening Program is designed to speak to the condition of Friends and newcomers.  It is not the only answer to our deep longing, but is one possibility, one piece of the puzzle.  We know that very few meetings have a systematic, intergenerational program in place in which all meeting members, attenders, and seekers can learn together about Quaker faith and practice.  Many meetings have expressed a desire for this learning and also for ways to share spiritual journeys with one another.  This program offers opportunities for learning, sharing, and growing together and in one’s individual faith journey.  If your meeting has practices that have helped you learn, grown, and share together, you may choose to share those practices through the Spiritual Deepening Program to help support and enrich others.


Who is the Spiritual Deepening Program for?

The program invites newcomers, individual Friends, and meetings to explore how Quaker spiritual practice can transform lives and take us deeper in the life of the Spirit.  The materials are designed for participants of all ages and at all stages of their spiritual journey.  We encourage meetings to experiment with intergenerational Spiritual Deepening activities and to form small groups that invite newcomers and Quakers to come together for mutual learning and relationship building.


What can I expect if I sign up for the Spiritual Deepening Program?

When you participate in the Spiritual Deepening Program, you will join a small group that meets on a regular basis to explore Quaker thought together and to share and listen deeply to each other.  You will be encouraged to try out some new individual spiritual practices and to reflect on how the Light is working in your life.

Learn more about the Spiritual Deepening Program content.


How do I sign-up?

The first step is to form a small group and decide who will be the small group leader or co-leaders.  Learn more about this process here.

One small group leader will register using this form, then receive a unique small group number, a sign-up sheet, and instructions for registering participants and co-leaders.

The small group leader will pass around the sign-up sheet during one of the first group sessions and will register all of the participants on one online form.


How much time will the program require?  When will the groups meet?

The participants in each small group determine the frequency, duration, and place of gathering for their group. A group might meet for one hour a week for three months or they might meet for one hour a month for six months.  Most small group sessions will last for 90 minutes - 2 hours and we recommend meeting for a minimum of six sessions in order to explore the three topic areas.  The program is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of participants.


How do groups form?  How are groups organized?  What is the recommended size of a group?

A group size of 6-8 participants is ideal.  Groups can be as small as three or as large as twelve.  If there is interest from more than twelve, it is recommended to break into a few smaller groups and come together as a larger group for only some of the activities. 

There are several different ways people can organize their groups:

  • A small group of people from a meeting or regional area might gather and work together
  • A small meeting may choose to participate as a whole-meeting group
  • A whole meeting or worship group might separate into small groups for certain discussions and activities and gather as a large group for others
  • Friends and newcomers who are not in close proximity to a Spiritual Deepening group might participate in an eRetreat, hosted by FGC and led by a facilitator

We recommend that participants make a commitment to participate in the group on a consistent basis in order to build a culture of trust, sharing, and mutual learning within the group.

Find a step-by-step guide to forming Spiritual Deepening groups on the Meeting Resources page.


How much does it cost to participate?

The suggested fee for participating in the program is $20/person.  This fee registers participants for the small group or the eRetreat that will explore exercises and activities in three topics.  Pay-as-Led means you can pay less than $20 or more than $20 based on your own sense of what you can afford and how well you feel you can support this program for the benefit of others.

This Pay-as-Led participation fee contributes to the development of the Spiritual Deepening program materials and the training and support for small group leaders.  The participation fee also allows FGC to continue to support, develop, and grow the Spiritual Deepening Program and to make it broadly available over time, with the ultimate goal of increasing the depth of Spirit and the strength of our Quaker communities.


How will the Spiritual Deepening Program affect the meeting?

Those who participate will form a connection with one another and that will impact the overall dynamic of the meeting.  The experience of an enriched understanding of Quaker practices and thought may lead to a more grounded experience of worship.  Sharing intergenerational exercises can build relationships and strengthen the community life for the whole meeting.


What is the content of the Spiritual Deepening program?

The program content focuses around foundational readings, activities for sharing spiritual stories, and exploring spiritual practices in order to strengthen and deepen both individual and communal experiences of spiritual connection. 

Grounding exercises help participants explore the roots of Quaker faith and give context to Quaker practices and beliefs.  Sharing exercises invite participants to share their spiritual stories and listen deeply to each other’s truth.  Practicing exercises offer new ways of connecting to Spirit.

The content is organized around three topics:

  • Silence & Expectant Waiting - Explore the Quaker experience of worshipo, silent waiting, and vocal ministry.
  • The Light, Seed, Christ Working in Us - Explore the experience of being led by the Inner Guide.
  • Friendly Practices - Explore the practices of Friends, including discernment, meeting for worship with attention to business, worship sharing, and more.

Exercises include texts and videos, queries for discussions, art, role-play, body exercises, and spiritual practices.

The content has been compiled from Friends from various yearly meetings and includes materials drawn from high quality existing curricula and resources, as well as newly developed activities.

Small group leaders are given access to all exercises and activity guides through the online Spiritual Deepening Library.  New content will be released regularly.

Check out some sample activities from the program.


Is the program for adults only?

No, the content is accessible for all ages.  Each topic has exercises for grounding, sharing, and practicing for kids, adults, and some for all ages together.

Learn more about the materials for children.


Can the content be used for Religious Education?

Yes, the program can become the foundation of a meeting’s Religious Education for either (or both) adults and First Day School.  The program can also be separate from or supportive to Religious Education. 


Can the materials be reused?

Yes, the materials are designed to be cyclical so that when Friends repeat a topic the experience will be different, similar to how we experience the seasons from one year to the next.  One woman who participated in a pilot group said that the content was so rich that she would happily do the program again because she knew it would continue to speak to her condition as her life changed.


What is the role and responsibility of a small group leader?  How will small group leaders be trained and supported?

The in-person small groups will be led by trained individuals from the meeting.  The orientation for small group leaders is primarily online -- there are resources to explore, including a few videos, and each small group leader will attend an introductory webinar.

To offer ongoing support for the small group leaders, FGC also hosts a series of optional conference calls on topics of interest to the leaders, such as sharing strategies for using the materials, facilitating deep conversations, incorporating newcomers into the groups, and so on. 

There is a closed Facebook group for small group leaders to share ideas and offer support. 

Learn more about the training for small group leaders.


What is the difference between the Spiritual Deepening eRetreat and the in-person small group?

The same exercises and Grounding, Sharing, and Practicing framework from the small group experience has been adapted into a 4-, 6-, or 8-week eRetreat that is available for newcomers, isolated Friends, or groups that wish to share the Spiritual Deepening experience together.

Learn more about the Spiritual Deepening Program eRetreat.


I have a suggestion for a topic or activity for the Spiritual Deepening Program.  How might I share it?

Email your feedback and ideas to help shape the program content to [email protected]

“As a result of these sessions I feel good. Just good, like it was the best choice to make to have been a part of this.”

 - Spiritual Deepening small group participant