10 principles of circle time.

Empty chairs put in big circle on green lawn

My husband has been facilitating church in a circle for the past few years. We’ve tried to condense some of the “big ideas” we’ve learned over that time into 10 points…

1. Christ is the centre. Use the circle as a strong visual reminder that we have a central theme and focus, and that everything we do should revolve around Jesus.

2. One leader, many teachers, no professors. We have a leader – Jesus. All of us are qualified to teach one another. “Professors”/“experts” shut down dialogue and participation and unintentionally disempower God’s people.

3. Stop performing, start empowering. Get off the stage and start giving people a voice, a value and an impact. Don’t position them as a passive audience, dependent on a professional performer.

4. “The least of these” are the greatest. In Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, the last are first, the foolish shame the wise and weak shame the strong. The most unexpected people have the most to offer the community. When you empower the “least of these”, you empower everybody.

5. Get them talking – unlock them early. Get them talking early on and you won’t have to work hard later in the session. Don’t talk too much – push the “ball” out to others. Ask open questions. Look for involvement, not “correct answers”.

6. Create a “no-fail zone”. Accept everyone, as Christ accepted you – and demonstrate that acceptance by affirming people’s answers, opinions and stories. Set up a non-judgemental environment of respect, trust and safety.

7. Laughter leads to learning. Create a fun, active environment for learning together. “Haha” leads to “aha”. When people have fun, it primes the brain for learning and helps the community bond.

8. Discovery is the best teacher. Learning is more powerful when you do it yourself. Don’t spoonfeed people – make them work for their meal. Lectures impart information, but don’t help people think for themselves, change their attitudes and actions. Set up activities which make people think, problem solve and discover insights for themselves.

9. Whole body learning (head, heart & hands). Ears are not the only body part for learning. Engage different senses. Set up learning activities to involve the mind, mouth, emotions and movement.

10. Slow down, shut up and listen. Relax. Get comfortable with long pauses and awkward silences. Never answer your own questions. Have coffee breaks. Don’t try to cover too much ground – “Less is more”. Listen to individuals. Listen to what isn’t being said. Listen to where the group is heading together. Listen to the Holy Spirit – he speaks through the most unexpected people. Trust yourself less and trust God more.

6 thoughts on “10 principles of circle time.

  1. Wow…you guys have got it right. I really believe God has sent me to you guys for a reason. By day I am a nurse educator in the Texas, US and it has dawned on me in the last several months that we don’t teach nursing in rows why do we attempt to teach Christ in rows. I am attempting to disciple a group of men and they all come from apprentice type profession. Most of their professions did not require college educations, they learned through apprenticeships. I had my aha moment when I realized that as an educator my audience only learns about 12 – 15 % of what I tell them. But when they get to experience the teaching with all their senses they actually learn. The same holds true with growing in Christ. I am looking forward to reviewing your blog and learning more from your resources. My wife and I also lead a connection group and I forced them to place the seats in a circle…Holy Spirit not me!!! Thank you for your ministry.

    Tim Breaux

    • Hi Tim, awesome to connect with you. I love how you’ve linked learning and apprenticeship together – it’s such a hands-on, relational, collaborative, model of learning, and a brilliant analogy for discipleship.

      Blessings in your journey, hope to hear more from you along the way,

      – Kathleen & Kevin-Neil

  2. Hello,enjoyed your thoughts on church in a circle. My wife and I have been a part of traditional church our entire lives,and have pastored in very capacities for over 30 years. Would like to recieve any information you can provide about Church in a circle. (Where are you located)

    Blessings,Stephen and Rhonda

    • Hi Stephen, we’re in Perth, Western Australia, far away from the rest of the world. We’d love to keep connecting with you – perhaps you can subscribe, or follow us on Facebook (which makes it easier to chat and private message).

      Blessings to you and Rhonda in your journey. Like you, we were part of institutional church for decades and in ministry (including 6 years of senior pastoring) for many years. We’re still a part of a “normal” church, but our view of what “church” is has changed radically over the years.

      – Kathleen

  3. Pingback: Bits and Clips: February 2014 | Polly Castor

  4. Hi. My name es Jose, I’m from Argentina. I just translated your article into spanish. I’ll have a presentation of the organic church in a home next friday, and I’ll use it. Thanks a lot!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *