I just gave a short answer to someone on Coffee Hour inquiring about small group ministry. I've been a big proponent of covenant groups for quite a while, but at General Assembly this year, I got to experience another layer to them.
Thandeka was one of the leaders of the GA covenant groups and in my group, her influence was definitely felt. The goal of "truly listening" was set up to succeed by following a model of quiet voices, silence between each person's comments, no cross talk, and speaking from one's own experience and feelings. ("I feel ..." as opposed to "I think ...")
At first, it was a little foreign and uncomfortable. I was used to lively covenant groups, tons of interrupting and cross talk. Invigorating, but occasionally a bit overwhelming.
This model led to a level of intimacy that could be felt by the second day. People opened up and bonded ... and you walked away feeling refreshed.
We've been integrating that into our covenant groups here at home. For some groups, that method works best just for check in and check out -- the cooking cov group for example. But in other groups, it really helps. There is less of an opportunity for the big mouths in the group (speaking of myself) to overtake the conversation from the quieter folks.
It's definitely a conversion experience, being in a covenant group. There needs to be a time and place at some of these things for ministers to be a part of a covenant group -- not a facilitator, but just an equal member of the group.