We launched community circles back in March in response to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We feared that COVID-19 would cripple our daily lives to the extent that the very practical realities of living would be threatened. We worried that those at higher risk in our congregation. We worried about those people without extended networks of family close by. And so, we rapidly design and prototyped a system that became our community circles. A system that placed each of our households in clusters with two leaders, who could coordinate connecting and care & invite community.
The design of the circles cast a wide net. We erred on the side of including people who may not want to be included because we feared what it would mean to leave them out. We tried to design circles that would be big enough for critical mass but not too big so needs would be overwhelming.
What we learned in those first few months was that we were in the middle of a marathon not a sprint, and as the months drew on noticed the sustainability of the circles in their current iterations being called into question as leaders began to report being depleted or not sure what to do.
In June we struck a core team to explore this challenge, and we began to invite conversation amongst circle leaders on their experience and began a design process (partnering with a design firm) to invite our community into an engaged process of discerning
How the frame the challenge before us?
How to gather insights about the challenge?
How to design a vision for what might be possible?
We recruited over 35+ people to be involved in 7 teams, who works for 7 weeks, conducting 75+ hours of interviews. Together they envisioned new possibilities that would invite sustainable and adaptable ways of
Unleashing us as agents of courageous love
Cultivating spiritual grounding and resilience.
Together they came up with many ideas of how to do this, and each week they worked to refined their ideas to make them deeper and more expansive. You can see captured in the presentation below a snapshot of their work.
Core Teams Work After the Design Showcase
After the designs were finished the core team set themselves up for some big work. The design process brought us deep insights but not a easily applied uniform model or answer to the question of what should happen next. Over two weeks the core team spent 7-10 hours working to answer that question by deeply engaging with the designs to gather insights.
Deeply Engaging The Designs
The core team explored the designs, and asked ourselves: What is at the heart of each design?
When the heart of the idea was naming a deficiency, we asked
What is that need that is being expressed?
And what is the idea telling us about how?
When the heart of the design was a specific idea:
What structures, practices or systems would make it possible for an idea like this to flourish?
From this place we were able to put our insights into context with what we had learned about our experience with community circles.
We gained clarity and insight in a few key areas.
We developed working conceptual models of the 3 defining aspects of our mission as a religious community. What we call our