The Spiritual Deepening Program is designed to offer meetings an opportunity for small groups of members, attenders, and newcomers to build spiritual community as they explore Quaker thought and practices and deepen their spiritual journey. The program offers content but leaves it up to the small groups to decide the sequence and structure of how and when they will meet. This page describes steps a meeting may want to consider following when discerning about participating in the Spiritual Deepening Program.
- Bringing the Spiritual Deepening Program to your Meeting
- Welcoming Newcomers through the Spiritual Deepening Program
- Frequently Asked Questions about Spiritual Deepening
There are several different ways Spiritual Deepening small groups can organize:
- A small group of people from a meeting or regional area might gather and form a group together.
- A small meeting may choose to participate as a whole-meeting group.
- A whole meeting or worship group might choose to adopt the Spiritual Deepening program, separating into several small groups for certain discussions and activities and gathering as a large group for others.
- A meeting may choose to offer a Spiritual Deepening small group experience with a mix of newcomers and members/attenders, as a way of sharing the Quaker way and building community and connections.
- A meeting may decide to focus on building intergenerational connections by adopting a program centered on the Spiritual Deepening children’s and all-ages activities.
- Friends and newcomers who are not in close proximity to a Spiritual Deepening group might participate in an 8-week online eRetreat, hosted by FGC and led by a facilitator.
Step 1: Discernment
The first step to bringing the Spiritual Deepening program to your meeting is to generate interest and excitement among members, attenders, and newcomers of all ages.
Share the informational flyer widely. (PDF)
Consider scheduling a two-hour session to explore these Spiritual Deepening sample exercises from Silence & Expectant Waiting:
Check out this sample exercise for children: Does God Hear My Prayer? Each Spiritual Deepening topic offers several activities for children to go deeper together, as well as intergenerational and all-ages exercises. These exercises are not just for our youngest Friends -- Adults may also be surprised about what they can learn by reading picture books together!
The Spiritual Deepening model encourages participants in small groups to commit to meeting together for a period of time. A big part of the power of the program is the depth of relationship and spiritual exploration that can take place within committed small groups. However, meetings have different needs and circumstances, so be creative in adapting the program to suit the needs of your community. Some Spiritual Deepening possibilities include:
- Blending Skype and in-person meetings
- Offering Spiritual Deepening sessions with fluid membership, allowing people to come in and out
- Participating together in a Spiritual Deepening eRetreat group, rather than forming in-person groups
- Scheduling the in-person group sessions over a longer period time, such as once a month for eight months, in order to not overburden participants
Consider hosting a discernment meeting to explore whether the Spiritual Deepening Program format and materials might suit your meeting’s needs. Designate someone to take notes in order to capture what is said. This conversation could start off in pairs, perhaps noting ideas on sticky notes, then returning to the whole group for feedback and discussion.
- Where do we feel that there is a yearning or need for growth, learning, or development in the life of the meeting?
- Which members (i.e. newcomers, young adults, members we infrequently see at meeting, etc.) might benefit and/or be excited to engage in this program?
- Where is there a sense of excitement or possibility when we look at the Spiritual Deepening Program?
- What do we hope to gain from this experience, both as individuals and as a meeting?
In order to make room for the Spiritual Deepening experience you should ask yourselves: What might we need to let go of as a meeting or individuals in order to have time and energy to develop and grow in the Spirit?
Be bold and live adventurously – this stage of the discernment process may provide a really helpful opportunity for you to consider whether there is a practice, activity, or burden that needs to be laid down so as to make space for the next stage of your meeting’s life and learning.
Some Friends may choose to bring a recommendation to Business Meeting to adopt Spiritual Deepening as a meeting. This step may be necessary if the meeting intends to pay for the program registrations from its budget or adopt the program as a meeting-wide endeavor. However, it may not be necessary for a small group to gain the approval of the meeting before proceeding.
Step 2: Form Small Groups
As the meeting forms Spiritual Deepening groups, consider if you want to extend special invitations to newcomers, young adults, young families, teenagers, or members who are not regularly present in the life of the meeting.
It is recommended that groups:
- Consist of 6-8 people
- Meet between 90 minutes - 2 hours
- Be informed of the anticipated duration of at least 8 sessions (which can always be extended)
- Be informed of an expected commitment to regularly participate, as best as they are able
Each group will choose together the dates and times of their Spiritual Deepening sessions. Think creatively! This program offers materials and a process but leaves much of the structure for the group to determine. The group decides when to meet and how many meetings they will plan initially (for example, twice a month for six months or once a week for eight weeks), so that there is a definite ending time. At that time, some may want to discontinue the work, some may want to continue, and new people may want to join if the group is comfortable with that option.
In addition, creativity is encouraged in thinking about how a group might gather. Some ideas that have been lifted up include:
- Having meetings in public spaces such as a restaurant, coffee shop, or park
- Having a family group of parents and children, where they sometimes gather together and sometime work separately. For example, while parents are gathered, children can engage in activities under the care of other Friends.
Meetings with multiple Spiritual Deepening groups might want to appoint one or two people to coordinate and make practical arrangements for the Spiritual Deepening groups. Consider involving someone younger or newer to the meeting to serve this function – they may be very glad to be asked! This coordinating group could handle logistics such as spreading the word about Spiritual Deepening, inviting participants and coordinating the registration process, reserving meeting spaces, and distributing materials. This is one approach, however, and your meeting will know best what will work well in your community. Smaller meetings with less people-power may do better to limit the scope of the responsibilities.
Step 3: Discern who will lead or co-lead each small group
In the Spiritual Deepening work, the small group leader assists the group by holding the Light and Spirit during the work and allowing everyone to get as much as possible out of their time together. A small group may choose to share the responsibility among two or more co-leaders.
Small group leaders are responsible for:
- participating in an introductory webinar and exploring a set of online Spiritual Deepening training materials
- encouraging participants to register and pay the participation fee
- choosing activities and gathering materials for group sessions
- leading the group’s sessions (or the co-leaders might take turns leading)
- holding the space for the Spirit to be in each session
- communicating with Friends General Conference for support and concerns and administering a program evaluation
As you discern who has the skills and a leading to be the small group leader, it is important to recognize who in your meeting has the spiritual gift of facilitation. This gift may be clearly visible and already identified. It may also be found in young adult Friends or others who may not have had the opportunity to play this valuable role in the community. Your meeting may also recognize an opening – where someone is longing to move deeper into the work of helping individuals and the meeting grow in relationship with each other and the Spirit.
Consider choosing small group leaders who:
- Are interested in growing their ability to support others on their spiritual path
- Want to build a deeper community with a group in the meeting
- Want to practice seeking that of God within others
- Are open to learning and growing these skills
FGC will train small group leaders and offer ongoing support. The online training materials orient leaders to the content in the Spiritual Deepening Library and provide guidance on planning Spiritual Deepening sessions and leading small groups. An interactive introductory webinar provides an opportunity for small group leaders to better understand the Spiritual Deepening program process as well as strengthen facilitation skills and confidence in supporting spiritual growth. The introductory webinars will be offered 2-4 times each month and all small group leaders and co-leaders are requested to attend. View the schedule and RSVP here.
To offer ongoing support for 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. Small group leaders share ideas and offer support in a closed Facebook group.
The training and ongoing support for small group leaders is offered at no cost.
Your meeting may consider forming a supportive group to assist and encourage the small group leaders through the process of making decisions and leading group sessions.
Step 4: Register for the program
One small group leader from each small group will register for the program, then receive a unique small group number for their group.
All participants (and any co-leaders) must register here using this unique group number.
The registration forms are mobile-responsive and participants may register using a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.
The suggested participation fee is $20/person. This fee can be paid by each individual using a credit card during their registration process; a meeting can pay for a whole group by sending a check to Friends General Conference or an individual can pay on behalf of the group using a credit card (if some folks pass the hat, for instance). Learn more about the participation fee.
If the meeting will be paying the participation fee by check, please mail checks to:
Spiritual Deepening ProgramFriends General Conference1216 Arch St. #2BPhiladelphia, PA 19107
Step 5: Plan Sessions and Begin Meeting
Small group leaders will participate in an orientation webinar and be given access to the Spiritual Deepening library. They will plan the introductory meeting, which will offer an opportunity for the whole group to share preferences for which topics and activities to explore together. This process will build engagement and enthusiasm by allowing participants to collaborate in designing their Spiritual Deepening experience together.
The Spiritual Deepening Program was specifically designed to speak to the condition of individuals at various points on their spiritual journeys. We encourage meetings to invite members, attenders, and newcomers to join small groups together, in order to learn from each other. In this way, the program offers a structured and meaningful opportunity for newcomers to be incorporated into the life of the meeting by building relationships while learning about the Quaker way.
If the meeting does not have an active in-person group at the time the newcomer arrives, newcomers can also be pointed to the online Spiritual Deepening eRetreat as a way to learn about Quaker thought and practice and deepen their own spiritual journey.
Spiritual Deepening Facilitator Training Task Group: Casey Kashnig (ILYM), Liz Wolff (SCYM), April Allison (LEYM), Gita Larson (SAYMA)