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Shared Leadership with Circles

By Renee Ruchotzke

How might we create communities where each member can contribute equitably in service of mission and vision? Circles are an ancient tried-and-true practice.

Introduction to Circles

Discussion

Where do  you already use circles in congregational life?

Discernment Circles

Good Enough for Now, Safe Enough to Try

"There are no failures, only lessons." -adrienne maree brown

Discernment Circle Steps

  1. Create a shared understanding of the situation (context and/or challenge).
    • Share in rounds until a common understanding, picture or narrative is reached
    • End with a round to make sure each person in the circle "consents" to work from that shared understanding
  2. Collect ideas for how to address the situation.
    • In rounds, have each person propose ideas
    • Continuing in rounds, affirm ideas that are "good enough for now & safe enough to try"
    • Organize proposals and ideas
    • End with a round to make sure each person in the circle "consents" to the final list of ideas.
  3. Have a smaller group of "shapers" or "tuners" to turn the final list of ideas into a proposal.
  4. The shapers bring the proposal back to the circle for consideration.
    • In rounds, the circle evaluates the proposal for completeness, i.e. does it include all of the proposed elements from the earlier circle.
    • Establish that the proposal is complete using a consent round. If it is not complete, the shapers will need to rework the proposal and bring it back.
    • If the proposal is complete, go around the circle for clarifying questions about the proposal until all clarifying questions are answered.
    • At this point use rounds to  share reactions to the proposal and/or to raise objections with open-heartedness and in service of the mission of the circle and congregation.
    • End with a round to make sure each person in the circle "consents" to the proposal.
  5. Carry out the proposal (Take action!).
  6. Celebrate!
  7. Using rounds, evaluate the actions and impacts of the proposal as carried out.
    • Did we gain any insights about the situation?
    • What went well and should be kept?
    • What didn't go well and should be changed?
    • Proposed tweaks to original proposal (or to start over with a new proposal process)
    • End with a round to make sure each person in the circle "consents" to the revised proposal (or other agreed-upon action).

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.