How can we help those in need in our community? This is a question many of our churches are asking themselves. The Connectional Ministries Team wants to share one way that some other churches are answering this question. It is called CIRCLES of Transformation and is an exciting new ministry of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. This program is based on a national model CIRCLES, which operates in 70 communities throughout the nation. But the Alabama-West Florida model is different, in that it has a spiritual component, which makes it a process of loving, learning and leading.
The Circles initiative is built around a family who truly aspires to break the cycle of dependence. After 15 weeks of training, the person in poverty becomes a Circle Leader. The Circle Leader exits training with an action plan that is quite realistic and based on that person’s individual circumstances. Typical goals might include getting a G.E.D., improving the credit history, moving the children to a safer neighborhood, etc. Around that person in poverty, trained Allies are assigned. Allies are most often people on the church pew who want to help but are not sure how to do so. Allies are trained to be coaches and not “fixers.” Circle Leaders and Allies meet at least once per month to review progress on goals. However, the Circle Leader and her family are involved in regular weekly meetings for training, education, and personal development. All weekly meetings begin around a table where people from all races and economic classes share a meal.
Here are some characteristics that distinguish the Circles initiative from other efforts:
· The process is led by the person in poverty (the Circle Leader)
who assumes accountability for driving actions.
· Through their own training, Allies are themselves transformed.
Those on the pews who get involved see the poor with
fresh eyes and have a clearer understanding of the complexities
· There is no exchange of money to the person in poverty. Allies
are told NOT to contribute financially to the family they coach.
· The success of the initiative is based on the establishment of
productive coaching relationships across socio-economic lines,
NOT on throwing money at the issue.
· Circles is a community program – not a denominational one.
Representatives are involved from all segments of the community.
· The Circles process, by design, also facilitates the building of
community capacity to attack systemic issues that enable poverty.
To learn more about Circles of Transformation, the following website shares a video about how it is working. http://www.ourchurchvideos.com/00000/awfumc/videos/417/circles
I will be glad to assist any church who wants to explore the program further.
Linda Gayheart, Chair, Connectional Ministries Team, 606.438.1100, firstname.lastname@example.org .