Engage Adults Through Ongoing Small Groups

Looking for ways to engage your congregants?

Some synagogues are organizing small groups to learn and connect around topics of shared interests or life stages. Drawing on the notion of chavurot - typically small groups of friends who gather to learn or worship together – such ongoing small group learning can transform your congregation into a destination for meaning and relationships.

Here are three ideas for small groups that can bring Jewish wisdom to everyday life. Each one contains everything you need to know about structuring such groups – from discussion guides and other activities to instructions on how to engage congregants. 

Topic: Aging

Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit, helps groups of older adults consider aging in a new light. It focuses on often-ignored subjects such as relationships, romance, living with loss, cultivating well-being, and shaping a legacy. It also shifts the conversation to opportunities and tools that readers can use to live their lives more fully.

Many Jewish communities are using Wise Aging, by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal, as a guide, in small groups that combine Jewish texts and secular writings with exercises on mindfulness and meditation, heartfelt discussion, and prayer to challenge participants to embrace this third chapter of their lives. In fact, research shows that the single most important factor in staving off the ill effects of aging is staying connected and being part of community – another reason why small groups are effective for this demographic.

Topic: Living Jewish as an Interfaith Family

An increasing number of families consist of parents or in-laws of different faiths, which can sometimes cause confusion and conflict. In Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner's Journey Raising a Jewish Family, Jim Keen shares his deeply personal insights on the challenges and opportunities of being in an interfaith relationship, and he offers comfort and strategies to couples starting down a similar road. 

A discussion guide written by a family relationship expert provides structure and help for couples and families as they consider how to resolve dilemmas around holiday celebrations and family relationships.

Topic: Parenting

The Joys & Oys of Parenting: Insight and Wisdom from the Jewish Tradition can bring adults with young children together in a way that helps them bond over the challenges they face in daily family life. Jewish tradition offers timeless wisdom, values, and guidance to help parents of all faiths and backgrounds, and authors Dr. Maurice Elias, Dr. Marilyn Gootman, and Heather Schwartz apply problem-solving techniques to just about every parenting challenge. 

A discussion guide at the end of the book provides a framework for engaging parents - as well as grandparents, foster and stepparents - in small, ongoing groups to reflect on their own practices and develop new ideas, centered around and inspired by ideas from this book.

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