Tonight I had a church meeting. We talked about the power of restorative circles. There is something about restorative circles that I wish we could normalize in our communities. I do feel strongly that perhaps the Faith communities should lead the way in this practice.
I invite you to be curious about restorative circles.
I am familiar with this concept from my small group work with Open Hearts Ministries, my school board leadership at Living Stones Academy, and tonight heard about the power of restorative circles used at Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church. Perhaps you are aware of other places this method has proven beneficial to a community seeking understanding and unity.
Restorative practices are a social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities. The purpose is to build healthy communities, increase social capital, decrease crime and antisocial behavior, repair harm, and restore relationships. It ties together research in various social science fields, including education, psychology, social work, criminology, sociology, organizational development, and leadership.
Restorative circles are restorative discipline strategies you can use in your classrooms (small groups or congregations) to develop relationships, build communities, and respond to conflicts and problems that arise. With restorative circles, you give everyone an equal opportunity to speak and listen.
Tonight I learned how a congregation might use a restorative circle. Restorative circles are comprised of anyone who will be impacted by a change that is going to be made within a community. An invitation is extended, and groups are formed as they are signed up. As in leadership does not engineer the makeup of a group. Everyone answers the same set of questions, and in this scenario, questions are given ahead of time, so there were no surprises. One can only speak when holding the speaking piece, such as a heart rock or small cross. One individual answers the questions and passes on the speaking piece to the next person. There are no questions, no comments, and no clarifying. The group is simply present to listen and receive the answers given. When the questions are answered, you represent only your thoughts and opinions and do not speak on others’ behalf.
I am a big fan of restorative circles and bring unity, understanding, and healing to the community. As a person who sometimes uses too many words, I am grateful when a structure invites everyone’s voice to be heard. I am thankful when a system is set and invites every individual to share their thoughts, fears, hopes, and beliefs.
I hope my Church will begin using restorative circles and practice the skill of listening well and receiving the thoughts, fears, hopes, and beliefs of others with a full embrace.
I hope your Church will consider this also. I am pretty sure there will be more blogs about this process in the months ahead.
May we listen well to one another and set judgments aside,
Blessed be His name!