The Circle Way works in any setting where there is a genuine desire to hear each person’s voice. People come to family, church, and community gatherings because they seek connection or input. Yet, without structure for gathering voices and careful listening, many people’s contributions and concerns go unnoticed.

A circle empowers even the youngest participants in a family reunion to share thoughts. A circle strengthens and deepens the connections and collaboration in a church leadership team. And a circle helps organize a contentious community meeting into careful listening space for diverse opinions.

Who organizes a circle in a family? 

Someone needs to issue the invitation to gather in circle. (Hey, shall we try something a little different for mom and dad’s anniversary?) There needs to be willingness, either ahead of time or at the gathering, for meeting in this way. And it is helpful if at least two family members share this initial hosting and find ways to make circle inclusive and fun (Choosing a question everyone can answer: finding something meaningful as a talking piece). 

What if people don’t want to be so formal as to use a talking piece?

Again, this is part of invitation. If it is clear that the intention is to encourage each voice to be heard, people who want this to happen will self-select to be present. It is helpful to use a talking piece at the beginning of such gatherings (as a check-in, in order to hear each voice) to really set the pattern of careful speaking and listening. 

Many church and community groups have by-laws requiring the use of Robert’s Rules of Order. How can a circle work for them?

Robert’s Rules of Order and circle are completely compatible. The format and flow of the meeting and voting can follow Robert’s Rules. Circle can be used effectively within the meeting to gather thoughts on various issues, or can be used at the beginning and ending to check in/check out with each participant.

How can a circle work within the hierarchy of a religious community?

If the clergy or lay leader wants participatory membership, a circle is an ideal form. The person who is “in charge” in any given setting must support and agree to the use of circle or it cannot work. Circles work effectively within the triangle of hierarchy to “round out” the edges of competition and hierarchy and give each person a voice.


If you have more questions about how The Circle Way will work where you live, check out our questions page, or visit our resources page for more in-depth support.