Doing church in a circle, not in rows.

When people sit in a circle, something powerful happens, which is totally unlike the interaction people have when they are seated in rows.

In rows, people look at and learn from the pastor. In a circle, they look at and learn from each other.

In rows, people are treated as a passive and dependent. People wait for the “professionals” to minister to them. There is a strong message of inequality between the leadership team and the congregation. In a circle, people are active and self-directed. They are implicitly empowered to minister to each other. There is a sense of equity and respect for everyone.

In rows, there is no opportunity to respond to the information presented. There is no place for prior knowledge or life experience to be shared. There is no chance to discuss, ask questions or disagree. In a circle, there is ample opportunity to interact with and explore new ideas and concepts. Individual life experiences are valued and sought; and robust discussion is allowed and encouraged.

In rows, learning is minimised and boredom is prevalent. Learning is constrained to a single event and a single intelligence (listening). The focus is on attaining knowledge from a single source (the pastor). In a circle, learning is maximised by tapping into multiple intelligences and promoting an attitude of continuous learning. The focus is on growing wisdom through shared experiences and interaction, and applying that wisdom to real-life situations.

A circle creates community.

A circle activates learning.

A circle empowers everybody.

A circle accelerates authenticity.

A circle gives everyone a voice and value.

A circle is a natural way of interacting.

A circle is symbolic in its very nature. A circle speaks of unity; of equality; of connectedness; of completeness. A circle is non-hierarchical, organic and natural.

I’m not saying that every interaction we have in church has to take place in circles. I am saying that we don’t use them often enough, and that we haven’t discovered the power of using circles in our Sunday church services.

4 thoughts on “Doing church in a circle, not in rows.

  1. Hi Kathleen and Kevin-Neil, found your site via a facebook link. Great thoughts.
    One of our church services is in a circle and those ideas you wrote about are true. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Thanks Gaz, I’m glad you’re experiencing the same things. More and more churches are heading in the same direction, I think. God is doing something new and creative in his church in this time, and I look forward to seeing the movement spread.
      Blessings to you guys in your family and in your ministry,
      Kathleen (and KN)

  2. If what you say is true above, then why are we still in rows even in the most progressive of churches – especially on Sunday mornings/or whenever churches meet with its members? If “in rows, learning is {truly} minimized and boredom is prevalent”….(and) “learning is constrained to a single event and a single intelligence (listening)” and “the focus is on attaining knowledge from a single source (the pastor) why wouldn’t all churches want to change to circles especially on Sunday mornings/or whenever churches meet with its members? Why would churches not desire to model what they believe when most of the congregation is together?

    You obviously have some opinion about using rows in a Sunday church service, but you have placed such a negative value on rows (or accentuated all the positives of circles over rows, without listing any of the downfalls of small and large circles) that you even state “in rows, there is no opportunity to respond to the information presented. “If that were really true then God really does not draw us to Himself. We could only be drawn to God “in a circle”. Most testimonies I have heard have happened when finally one has learned that God is the True and holy Pastor, speaking just to them….nothing passive about that, yet Jesus makes it clear that His message is about being dependent (on Him)- something that circles (by what you say above) has quite the opposite effect – including alluding to that we are now wanting equality versus seeing our inequality and need for Jesus. Read Phillippians and Jesus coming as a servant with equality not to be grasped. Jesus made it clear that He had to go back to the Father because we needed the Holy Spirit (who could be present dwelling among us in more than one physical location). One needs to be careful about articles like you have written and clearly not say …”I’m not saying that every interaction we have in church has to take place in circles.”…without equal time given to both the pros and cons of/when to use circles and rows as you allude to when you say (but don’t elaborate on). Potential dangerous, misleading, and divisive article the way it is currently written. Since it is now about 5 years since you wrote this, I’d be curious if you would now write somethings differently, as well as addressing some of the issues I have raised.

    Thanks for your article.

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