Starting a  SIP

This page has all you need to know to start your own Spirituality in the Pub™ (SIP) group! When you have had the opportunity to consider this material, please contact us to discuss your proposal.


Spirituality in the Pub was begun by Catalyst for Renewal, and Catalyst owns the name. There is a network of SIPs which are affiliated with Catalyst and have the right to use the name. Affiliation is indicated by the advertising of venues, topics and speakers on the Catalyst website:

Catalyst offers members of the SIP network:
• the use of the name and the official logo;
• the advertising mentioned;
• Public Liability insurance cover;
• assistance as required in setting up your SIP;
• advice as required as to availability of potential speakers;• national professional development activities for members of SIP committees – generally provided online using Zoom;
• occasional days of sharing resources and ideas (regional);                   • in special circumstances, limited financial support may be available.

In return, local SIPs are asked to acknowledge that SIP is an initiative of Catalyst for Renewal by:

  • using the official logo, and naming Catalyst in their literature (flyers, programs);
  • maintain close liaison with Catalyst – especially in the establishing of any new SIP;
  • develop a clear understanding of the ethos of Catalyst and its purpose, and the particular intent and structure of SIP, as outlined in this booklet and in the associated materials found in the SIP Kit.

The people organising SIP at the local level are asked to make every effort to attend either or both the national and regional gatherings of SIP organisers in order to contribute to and benefit from the networking and to increasingly develop their understanding of the ethos of Catalyst and Spirituality in the Pub™.

Each SIP is expected to make a financial contribution to Catalyst for Renewal. This should be the balance of donations received at SIP after the deduction of reasonable expenses (photocopying, postage, gifts, meals and drinks for speakers, if given). Catalyst may occasionally provide funds to subsidise attendance at national and regional gatherings (see above).

SIP is about conversation with a view primarily to renewal – personal, church and in our wider society. The members of Catalyst for Renewal, the group behind SIP, are all members of the Catholic faith tradition. Catalyst, as evidenced particularly through our SIP forums, is ecumenical and inter-faith in outreach.. Polemics at SIP should be avoided. Further, it is not meant to provide a platform for anyone. It is about conversation, not ideology.

Therefore, speakers who are active and public campaigners for positions directly contrary to Catholic Church teachings are to be avoided. People who “have an axe to grind”, people who are strident, obsessed about some particular thing or clearly angry – in other words, people who will provoke confrontation rather than conversation – should not be invited as speakers.

Only those venues listed on the website are associated with Catalyst for Renewal. Any other group using the term “Spirituality in the Pub” is doing so without permission and should either take steps to become affiliated with Catalyst for Renewal (with all the mutual obligations referred to) or cease to use the name which is a Trade Mark owned by Catalyst for Renewal Incorporated.

SIP has, since its inception in May 1995, gradually – and justifiably – gained a significant and trusted profile within the Catholic Church and wider community in Australia . While we confidently and without apology promote conversation in this way, we ask that all SIP organisers be mindful of their responsibility for the ongoing credibility and viability of SIP throughout Australia – what happens in one venue is to the benefit or detriment of all venues.


  1. Build a good Organising Committee
    Setting up and maintaining a SIP venue takes time and energy. It is recommended that a committee of several people who are willing to do the various jobs, be formed. Foster a team spirit, one that actually models a way ahead for Church and for society generally. Other possible committee members who will carry on the project, should be a constant consideration. Avoid a situation whereby the current members work themselves to a standstill and only then start looking for someone who may or may not be available.
  2. Be clear about what you are intending
    This takes time and a good deal of conversation within the group to jointly come to an understanding of the ethos of SIP and to reach a shared vision of what is intended with your particular SIP. Try to write it down in a concise and clear statement which can be used on fliers and other documentation. Use the material in the first part of this booklet as a guide and context.
  3. Set the ethos
    In accord with the ethos outlined above and what you specifically intend for your SIP, produce fliers and other advertising material, using the SIP logo. Choose speakers with that particular purpose and ethos in mind. When introducing the program be clear in your own minds, and in what you do and say, what you are – and are not – trying to achieve. Your “front person” – on the night that will be the MC – plays a crucial role in setting the ethos.
  4. The room
    The room needs to be big enough for a reasonable gathering of people but small enough to engender a spirit of conversation. The room should be available free of charge. The pub gets patronage as their compensation. However, it is not always possible to get the “perfect” room and the perfect arrangement! Settle for what works.
  5. Finances
    No entry fee is charged. However, we suggest a collection immediately after the break. The money collected helps to defray any costs you may have incurred, such as printing and postage.
    SIP venues are asked to contribute surplus funds from the collections to Catalyst for Renewal. This maintains the national network, keeps the insurance coverage current and meets ongoing administrative expenses.
  6. Organization
    Organization is critical and it takes time! You will need to have brainstorming sessions and think carefully about your speakers and your venue. Many phone calls will be made. Leave yourself plenty of time to engage the speakers and structure your calendar. Write letters to the speakers telling them exactly who you are and what you expect of them. Contact the speakers near the date to confirm. Write letters to thank the speakers. Be at the venue early to see that everything is in order. Maintain good relationships with the manager of the pub.
    The roots and primary focus of SIP is Catholic. Catholic also implies ecumenical. It is certainly within the best possibilities of SIP to include members of other faith and religious traditions both within the organising committee and as speakers. At all times, however, the fundamental ethos and mission of Catalyst must be respected.
  7. Advertising
    Plan well in advance. Try to program for the year and create a flier detailing place, time, topic and speakers. We suggest a regular time and place – eg the second Wednesday of the months April – September. Parish and school newsletters are generally good places to advertise. The whole community can be reached through news items in the local paper(s).
  8. Speakers
    The speakers will make the difference between success and failure. They offer their services on an honorary basis and they are chosen according to their ability to bring something of substance to the conversation within the context of spirituality. Have a “Plan B” in case a speaker doesn’t/cannot turn up! The following general criteria can be used to guide the choice of speakers:
    a) Values a sense of spirituality in her/his life;
    b) Known expertise/competence in given area;
    c) Good communication skills;
    d) Where appropriate and possible:
    i) at least one speaker should represent the Catholic Church’s position and teachings;
    ii) gender balance is to be maintained;
    iii) theory and practice should both be represented;
    iv) speakers should complement each other;
    v) age balance is to be maintained.
  9. Start and finish on time
    People are jealous of their time. They come for the conversation – make sure that is always the clear focus. Do not let the time be eroded (eg by commercials or by the MC talking too much) or unnecessarily expanded (eg by over long presentations or questions). Keep faith with the previously announced ending time.
  10. Set some simple rules of engagement
    Limit questions/comments to say 1 minute. Watch out for people giving a “sermon” or “commercials” under the guise of asking a question. The MC should let things run as much as possible, however, facilitating the evening with a light touch, being seen and heard as little as possible. Keep the focus of conversation clearly up front. Encourage people to talk across the room, not just to/through the speakers.
  11. Meet regularly
    It is useful to establish a pattern for SIP in your area. For example, you might meet at the same time on the first Wednesday evenings of certain months.


Sample letter of invitation to the speaker

(This letter is probably best sent after phone or personal contact has been made.)
Dear ……….,
Thank you for agreeing to be a speaker at Spirituality in the Pub (SIP). We are one of about thirty such venues – SIPs – around the country, indicating a very strong desire on the part of many to be part of good conversation about things that matter.
The topic is ……………………………… and the venue is ……………………….The other speaker with you is …………………… You are each invited to speak for about fifteen minutes on the topic, after which time there will be a five minute break. During that break people will either re-charge their glasses, talk to those near them or do whatever they feel they must do. The evening begins at ……. And will end at …… We do try to start on time and finish on time.
The atmosphere is congenial and the focus is conversation. We look forward to your contribution. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on ……….



Sample letter of confirmation to the speaker

This letter might be sent about a week or so before the event.)
Dear …………..,
Re: Spirituality in the Pub, Wednesday March …..
I am writing to confirm your engagement for Spirituality in the Pub on Wednesday March ……. The topic is …………………………………….
The other speaker, apart from yourself, will be …………………….
You and ……………. are each invited to speak for about fifteen minutes, opening up some significant aspects of the conversation on this topic. The two fifteen minute inputs will be followed by one hour of open forum in which the guests will be invited to make statements or ask questions. From previous experience, it is this open forum that provides the most fruitful time. So I would suggest you simply give the participants enough in your initial presentation to evoke thoughts and questions and trust that the open forum will allow you to develop your own thoughts more adequately.
You can expect about ….. people to be present in a room that is small enough to allow conversational style rather than lecture. Many buy a drink of their choice and sip it through proceedings. Apart from that patronage for the hotel – which we are happy to foster – the evening is a non-commercial event.
The event will be at the …………. Hotel, ……………. Street, ………………. We start at 7.30pm and stop at 9pm .
If you have any questions or particular requests please do not hesitate to contact me on …………….. I look forward to seeing you there.

Parish Talk

An outline for a talk to introduce SIP to the Parish community)

A. Greeting

Name & thanks for opportunity.
I am here to tell you about Spirituality in the Pub and to invite you to come.

B.What is SIP

SIP is one of the forums for conversation instituted by Catalyst for Renewal, an organization dedicated to renewal within the Catholic Church. The mission of Catalyst is: We are believers who are attempting to establish a forum for conversation within the Catholic Church of Australia. Our aim is to prompt open exchanges among the community of believers, mindful of the diversity of expression of faith in contemporary Australia . This springs explicitly from the spirit of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II.. “Let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is unsettled, and charity in any case” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 92).

The most fundamental pre-requisite for good and genuine conversation – conversation that renews – is at least an openness to the views of others.

C. The format of a SIP evening is simple:

  • It begins promptly at 7.30pm
  • There are two speakers who each have 15 minutes to address the topic set for the evening.
  • The presentations are then followed by a break of about 5-10 minutes in which people speak with one another or get another drink.
  • There is then open forum in which the everyone is invited to ask questions of the presenters or put their own point of view on the topic
  • The evening ends promptly at 9pm

D. Exciting Program for 202x

The Theme for this year is ………………………………………………………………………………………..
Speakers include name some of the speakers you have invited for the years program

E. Time & Venue

The Spirituality in the Pub group meets on …………. of each month – March to October at ……………………………………..(venue)
The first meeting for 2008 will be on ……………………………………………………… when the speakers will be (list speakers)

……………………..……………………. & …………………..………………….
And the topic will be: …………………………………………………………….

I will be outside the church after Mass with copies of the program.


3. SIP Evaluation Sheet

(An evaluation of the years program to inform planning for next year)
§ What aspects of this year’s program have you liked best?

§ What aspects of this year’s program did you like least?


§ What topics/subjects would you like to see included in next year’s program?


§ Are there any speakers you would like to see included in future programs


§ Any other comments


Thank you

Like ourselves, speakers will appreciate being thanked in some way for their contribution. Since we do not pay them, we suggest, at the very least, a thank you card from the organising committee. Some groups offer a small gift, such as a bottle of wine.

Other documents

Sample flier
Lists of Topics and Speakers from other venues
Copy of SIP logo
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