What are SCCs?

"A small Christian community is a face-to-face gathering of six to twelve people who invest time with one another for the common purpose of applying Gospel values to every aspect of their lives."

Small Christian Communities: A Vision of Hope for the 21st Century

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20

The call to gather in prayer and pray for personal and communal needs comes from Jesus himself. His desire was that the disciples in his age and beyond would come together in his name so to fulfill his mission of spreading the good news and baptizing all in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

How did the early church do this?

In the Acts of the Apostles we hear:

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, and to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Acts 2:42-45

This description of the early Christian communities serve as the model for church today. The early Christian communities were small. People gathered in homes to remember the words and stories of Jesus, to break the bread and drink the cup in imitation of him, find support and strength with each other to be disciples, and to pass on the faith to their children and those who hungered for the word of God. Before the actual church as we know it today was formed, these small communities in synagogues, neighborhoods and families were the church of Christ. Even today, we recognize them as units of church – the community gathered in the name of Christ. We typically refer to them as Small Christian Communities or SCCs.

Parish-based Small Christian Communities

While there are many forms of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in North America, and indeed throughout the world today, parish-based small communities are the most numerous. The following is an overview of what they are and what they do.

Number of Participants In Each Group

A small community is generally made up of 8-12 people who meet together to pray and to reflect on faith and how it informs and applies to their lives.

Primary Reason for Gathering - Discipleship

The most important reason for gathering is to place God in a primary spot in their lives, make faith essential to their lives, hear the invitation of Jesus to change themselves, and transform the society around them. In other words to make disciples. We live in a complicated culture in which we constantly juggle society and our Christian values personally and with our families and friends. SCCs provide a place where life’s issues can be discussed, shared, and reflected on in the way that Jesus showed us. Some refer to these groups as “safe places” to listen to each other and hear the voice of God. Jesus calls us together in the Gospel of Matthew when he says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." MT18:20

Communities are Invited to Form by the Parish

Parish-based communities are usually invited into groups by the pastor and parish leadership, and often begin through an organized national program that a parish or diocese is using. They can also be started by a parish as a Lenten program that focus on the Scripture of the coming Sunday.

The General Format for a Group

While different SCCs do different things, the majority follow a similar format. This may vary depending on the materials they use.

•Gathering Prayer 2-3 minutes

•Introduction 1 minute

•Life Reflection or Ice Breaker 1 0 minutes

•Scripture Reading 1 minute

•Scripture Reflection 2 minutes

•Reflection Sharing 40 minutes

•Parish Questions 15 minutes

•Family Question (done at home)

•Action 5 minutes

•Sending Prayer 5 minutes

•Evaluation of the Gathering 5 minutes

90 minutes (approximately)

Meeting Frequency

Most parish-based communities are seasonal and meet during Fall and Lent. Some meet monthly and even weekly all year long.

There are Several Kinds of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in the Parish

Parishes generally have several types of parish-based SCCs:

Seasonal SCCs meet for six weeks during Fall and Lent

Ministry/Organization Communities meet periodically in their areas of ministry to pray and reflect on their ministry. Other parish meetings can follow an SCC format, as well as other parish groups and organizations.

Ongoing Small Christian Communities meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on the group. These groups are sometimes referred to as “intentional groups or communities” if they are meeting on a regular basis or on their own independently of the parish. Many seasonal groups decide to continue meeting with the blessing and guidance of the parish.

Family Groups may be formed by an individual family or groups of families who want to spend time together in prayer and reflection regularly or during particular seasons such as Advent or Lent.

Neighborhood SCCs are another way parishes gather people especially in urban and suburban areas.

There Are Many Names for Small Christian Communities

Small communities may be referred to by the following names: Small Christian Community (SCC), Small Faith Community (SFC), Small Church Community, Faith Reflection Group, Base or Basic Community, Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC), and Comunidades Eclesiales de Base in Spanish.

Meeting Places

SCCs are encouraged to meet in parishioner’s homes. Some parishes have meeting areas that are conducive to faith reflection gatherings and some groups prefer to use those spaces.

The Group Leader

Each group has a facilitator or co-facilitators whose main task it is to keep the group focused. The facilitator is also a full member and participant, but must guard against playing a dominating role.

Facilitator Training

Facilitators are generally trained by the diocesan or parish SCC staff or Core Team. Many parishes make the mistake of thinking that everyone knows how to facilitate groups and therefore, don’t bother to train. SCC staff or Core Teams are encouraged to meet often with their facilitators to discuss their progress. Facilitators are also asked to return an evaluation sheet after each meeting and, at the conclusion of the seasonal or other type of group.

Organizing the Parish-Based Small Christian Communities

A parish puts together an organizing committee. This may follow the requirements of a particular program or in general may consist of committees to do the organizing tasks. The Small Group Committee or Core Team, as they are most often called, consists of 5-7 parishioners who are willing to come together to pray and reflect on their faith, and to organize the small community sessions. They also recruit and train facilitators.

Reviewing the Experience of the Community

After each season, it is advised that all the groups come together for review, evaluation, and reflection. Parishes do this in all kinds of creative ways including pot luck suppers, inviting speakers in, celebrating a special Mass, a prayer service, retreat days away, or picnics for the family. There should be a great celebration!

On-going Formation

It is advisable that a parish design a plan for their small community effort. With other parish committees and the evaluations of the SCC participants, the parish can plan the direction the SCCs need to take. For example, they may want to learn more about the SCC movement, more on scripture, more on certain aspects of the faith, input on parenting, being a young adult, peace, economics, culture and religion, current church or religious issues, and other topics.

©2011 Donna L. Ciangio

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