What is a circle?
A circle is:
- Where faith is nurtured and growth take place through worship, study, friendship and outreach.
- Where women are challenged to stretch beyond their limits.
- Where women move beyond the safe places of life and reach out to others.
- Where Christian leadership is born, nurtured and sent forth into ministry.
Many circles meet monthly, although others may meet more or less frequently. If your congregation has more than one circle, try to meet at different times — women can participate in both circles or may be available for only one time spot. Try to be flexible with meeting times.
Make sure meetings are well publicized within the congregation. If your congregation has a welcome or hospitality committee, make sure the committee members have details about the circle meetings to share with new members.
Basic to circle life is the Horizons Bible study. Some circles may have a dual study of both the Bible study and a mission study. Other circles may study current issues, such as peace, hunger, racism or another topic from a Christian perspective.
Vital to the interpretation of mission and meaningful worship is the use of the Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study as well as all issues of Horizons.
What is the life cycle of a circle?
Like any small group, circles have cycles. These are initiation, formation, functioning and termination.
Initiation — ;women come together to share their needs and their gifts with one another and begin shaping their circle.
Formation — building trust, determining the purpose and program and developing a commitment.
Functioning — growth, learning and leadership development. The test of how well a circle functions is not how good the meetings were but what resulted in people’s lives and to what extent society is favorably affected.
Termination — a necessary stage, a natural cycle of life. It means change, not failure. It is a time to celebrate accomplishments, learn from mistakes and move on.
For a circle to be complete, there must be a coming together. Circles shaped around heartfelt needs will achieve the purpose of Presbyterian Women.
How do I start a circle in my congregation?
Before the first meeting
1. Talk with other women about their interest in forming a women’s group in the church. What interests and needs would such a group serve?
2. Identify the categories of women in your church; consider age, marital status, home responsibility (i.e. mother of young children, care-giver for an elderly person), employment, new member of the congregation, etc.
3. Conduct a survey of the women in your church (or community). You could ask them to complete the sentence “As a woman in this congregation, I ...” or “I wish a women’s group would ...”
4. Decide on a date and location for the first meeting, with times to begin and end.
5. Decide what to do at the first meeting and who will be the leader for this organizational meeting only.
6. Invite all women who expressed an interest to attend this meeting. If necessary, provide transportation and childcare for those who need it. Explain that this is a first time event, with no obligation. Remember that home-bound women can participate by praying for the group, making phone calls for the group or offering suggestions.
At the first meeting
1. Arrange the room so that there is a circle of chairs where everyone can see each other at eye level. Add one extra chair as a reminder that the group always welcomes and invites other women to participate.
2. Begin and end on time.
3. Welcome all those present and be sure all are introduced to one another. Keepthe atmosphere friendly and informal. Be enthusiastic.
4. Start by sharing your own faith story — why you want to be a member of a Presbyterian Women group in this church and how you feel this group could help you in your Christian life.
5. Encourage the others in the group to share their own stories, needs and concerns with the group, reminding participants that there will be no judgment expressed about any comments made.
6. List the ideas, responses, interests or concerns of the group on a chalkboard or newsprint. Add the following ideas if they are not already included:
- A circle can help a woman’s personal Christian faith to grow and be nurtured as women share with and pray for one another.
- A circle can provide a Christian community in which women can be strengthened and supported in their needs, concerns, joys and sorrows.
- A circle can provide opportunity for learning skills, developing leadership abilities and for discovering and practicing the talents and gifts God has given each woman.
- A circle can enlarge and enrich the knowledge women have about the Bible, the Christian church, the work of God in the world today and the needs of others in the community and the world. A circle can motivate and provide women opportunities to put their faith into action, to work for justice and peace in their own families, churches, communities and worldwide through personal involvement, financial gifts and prayer.
- A circle “costs” something! Members must be willing to participate in prayer, study, and service, and learn how to be accepting and forgiving of each other.
- A circle offers shared leadership.
7. Request that each woman make a commitment to:
- Attend six meetings as a short-term commitment, with the understanding that she may drop out after the sixth meeting if she does not wish to continue.
- Practice confidentiality within the group; whatever is said within the group is to be kept within the group unless the person permits sharing with others.
- Show respect for others’ opinions and beliefs by listening attentively and not judging the person speaking.
- Share responsibility for the decisions the group makes concerning its identity and focus.
- Do whatever homework is expected, such as reading the Bible passages related to the Bible study for the coming meeting or assuming a specific task for the next meeting.
- Be accountable to the group in its life together.
8. Determine the time and location for the next meeting, the purpose and theme, who will be in charge of the meeting and what other women should be invited to attend and by whom.
9. Close with Bible reading and prayer, including prayer for each person, the group and the church of hich this group is a part. Singing is a meaningful way to meld a group, enriching all who share in it. Include it whenever possible.
10. Evaluate this meeting by considering these questions:
- Was this group representative of the women in this church — age levels, marital status, employment, length of membership?
- Was everything done that could be done to ensure attendance (such as providing child care, transportation and a suitable meeting time)?
- Did the meeting begin and end on time? Was there enough time to accomplish what was planned?
- Did the women seem relaxed and open to the new group?
- What was accomplished as a result of this meeting?
- What needs to be planned for the next meeting to build upon this one?
- How can trust, teamwork, mutual respect and caring within the group be strengthened?
- How can we communicate the purpose and plan for the group to the members of the church?
- In what way can we reach out beyond the group to serve others?