What is church in a circle?


Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Jesus – (Matthew 18:20)

It only takes two people to form a circle. Using circles in church can be as simple as talking to the person next to you.

A circle is a two-way interaction. Both parties are given a voice, a value and an impact. God’s people are empowered to connect, learn and grow together. Adults are encouraged to be active learners, not passive listeners. The leader stops performing and starts facilitating. The congregation stop being a critical audience and become a connected community.

Church in a circle starts with the seating arrangement, but ultimately changes the way we meet and interact as God’s people. It changes us from consumers into participants. It changes the way we see each other. It changes the way we learn and teach others about God.

It’s time to stop filling rows and start forming circles.


22 thoughts on “What is church in a circle?

  1. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church – Part 7: Learning through shared experiences. | Church in a Circle

  2. I don’t like the circles, maybe it is my age or that I don’t interact good with a lot of people, and hearing not so good, wish we would go back like we were I , get more out of it.

    • Hi Linda, thanks for your comment. Not everyone likes change, and some people do find it hard to interact in a group setting. Has your church become more interactive than you’d like? You say that you “wish we would go back like we were” – what do you mean by this?

      – Kathleen

      • You missed Linda’s comment. It is not an adversity to change but to forced interaction with a large number of people–as well as hearing issues that do become more prominent as congregants age. We have also found a tendency for just a few lay attendees to monopolize large group “conversations”. My church utilizes covenant groups which allows interaction on ultimacy with a smaller number of people on a more intimate level. Is there not room in our cultures for both a larger group worship and intimate conversation on a more manageable level.

        • Hi Karen, I absolutely beleive there is room for rows and circles in every church. I write this blog simply to get church folk thinking outside of rows.

          Sorry if my comment to Linda sounded offensive – I phrased it poorly. There are many reasons not to apply circles in a large group setting, and it sounds like your local church is holding that tension in balance.

          Blessings in your journey,

          – Kathleen

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  4. I LOVE this!! I’ve been saying for years we need to change the layout of our sanctuaries, even to putting the worship team in the center or outside of the circle, so that all become participants. LOVE, LOVE this and really see how this would minister in so many ways to people. I want a circle church!!

    • Amen. Thanks for your comment Katie – nice to connect with you. I’m praying we see many churches shift to a more empowering, participatory model in the years to come.


      – Kathleen

  5. This is such a simple yet inclusive idea.
    Interestingly we are going through a church division over a difference of opinion at the moment. The matter in debate is ” should we remove the pews and replace them with chairs?” There is a 50/50 split in the church and mediation is being sought. My personal view is that Pews are beautiful and add to the tradition of church but if we really want to reach the heart of the community and work towards building & bringing the kingdom your circles idea brings a great solution to removing all barriers!

    • Hi Tracey, thanks for your comment.

      We’ve been in churches before who were confronting that very same issue, and it is surprisingly divisive! Our home church ended up selling the pews to congregation members, and we bought one which we used in our dining room for years – it had so many memories with it. That church has tripled since then, and could not be where it is today if it had held on to those pews.

      I pray your church comes to a good place despite and maybe even because of this conflict – and that it challenges them to think through issues and mindsets which could hold it back from where God wants it to be.

      Blessings as you journey through this one,

      – Kathleen

  6. We should talk. We’ve been doing something similar for a xouple of years now. We meet around a large dinner table and have the discussion over dinner.
    Reading theough some of uour posts, it sounds like we have similar experiences as well. Most of our current participants refer to the group as family and everyone pitches in.

    • Great to hear from you Dudley. I like the sound of your community. It’s nice to connect on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂


      – Kathleen

  7. Kathleen,
    Love you site. My question is, how do you arrange the chairs in a circle with a group of about 140 people in a church service? Also, our worship team is up front on a stage. Where would you arrange them? I’d welcome your thoughts on this.

    • Hi Tom,

      With 140 people I’d be looking at creating a “flower” arrangement – an arc of tables, so that people can engage in discussion in small groups, and report back to the larger group, being generally able to see everyone. This may or not work in your space.

      Regarding worship – less is more if you start to gather in a circle. Give people more time to share their stories as worship, and less time singing. Choose songs which are easy to sing and everyone knows. Worship that feels like a “performance” works much better in rows than a circle.

      Transitioning from rows to circles can be bumpy and a steep learning curve, with some fall-out on the way. Good luck!


      – Kathleen

  8. I want to thank the creator of this blog for making this website and has inspire me and my wife embrace this type of church format. It makes sense that empowerment and the use of spiritual gift from Christians is what Jesus intention was for the church. I am currently doing Church in a Circle I was not aware until today but is through a program called Celebrate Recovery which everyone sits in a circle and talk about life hurts,habits and hangup but teach and empower that you can be delivered in Jesus Christ which is a tool from God to provide deliverance.

    • Jose, thank you so much for your feedback. It is very encouraging to hear about your journey. I have a lot of respect for the Celebrate Recovery program, and I believe churches can learn a great deal from recovery programs like this one.

      Blessings to you and your wife as you journey together,

      – Kathleen

  9. This was how Jesus nurtured His disciples. After He resurrected everyone was able to be His disciple with His gifts. We need to follow this practice. It is this way that we do not depend on few “men of God” and these ‘ men of God’ are abusing many.
    Unless the current churches re-designed in small groups in a way that you are pointing out, it will not be relevant to people who seek abundant life that is promised by our Lord. This is a shouting call of God especially this time!
    Remain Blessed!

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  13. All you people who are believing that the Church Circle is great don’t fully know where this is coming from. It is a legendry story from the 1st century and not of God. Honi was a very ordinary man; not like the Apostles, e.g. Peter who were taught by Jesus Christ and they were able to bring people from the dead!!! Honi you main character supposed of slept for seventy years and then wake up. What nonsense!!!
    You people who believe in this CC are being g deceived. It is by faith that we believe in God. Where are your Ten Commandments? Where are your standards? To get rid of pews is absolutely nonsense. If you want to talk to some one from the church invite them home and not discuss how you are or what you have been doing during the week, etc. CC is half truth, and is in my opinion the Satan, the Devil’s work and he is laughing all the way.

    CC is a complete rubbish!

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