Commonly Asked Questions About Circles
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A Circle is a group of at least three and no more than ten people committed to connecting online, in-person or through a hybrid of the two that meets regularly.
Circles is more than a simple name change. It represents a completely reimagined way of approaching community ministry at The Bridge. Some of the changes include:
- Clarity around what a Circle is in order to create greater unity going forward as we continue to grow as a church.
- A brand new digital pathway (bridgechurches.ca/circles) that leads people towards connecting in circles either as a host or as a participant.
- New sermon discussion events (3/year) either in-person or online designed to provide opportunities for community connections with a chance to form Circles with people you meet.
- New tools and resources for those starting a circle including our Circle Host Guidebook included in every Circle Starter Kit, a newly developed online training curriculum and a Circle Coach support system.
- A members-only website for hosts to be empowered, equipped and encouraged as they serve.
- New assessment tools to help hosts, and participants, understand what a healthy circle is and assess their own communities in order to pursue growth.
- A scalable and transferrable model which positions us as a church to continue to expand our impact around the globe while ensuring people remain connected.
While we specify in the above question that Circles should establish a regular rhythm of meeting we do not prescribe the frequency or way in which these meetings are to take place. We understand and want to honour, the reality that each Circle will be made up of people with unique circumstances, life stages and needs.
We want to support all groups regardless of how or how often they meet. The overall guiding principle is connecting regularly with each other and is only limited by your creativity. Ultimately it is up to the members of each Circle to decide what this looks like.
i.e. A newly formed Circle of women uses the group feature for devotionals in the YouVersion App. This allows them to regularly connect with God and each other using the shared comment section. Then, once a month, they gather together in person around food and community.
NOTE: The only caveat to this is the initial study that hosts receive in their Starter Kit called, “Circle Up”. This study is meant to be completed during the first four weeks of a new Circle gathering either online or in-person.
To effectively pursue the three elements of a healthy Circle, we believe you should plan to be together between 12 – 24 months.
We believe that every healthy Circle has a “shelf life,” or, a point in time when it is good for people to move on to other things; whether that is a new life stage, launching a new Circle to accommodate more people or if it’s ‘just time.’
With that in mind, we equip each Circle with the tools to discuss that reality at the outset so that, when the time comes, the Circle can end well. Cleared defined expectations ensures that everyone in your Circle is on the same page.
A Circle focus’ on three primary principles; what we call The ABCs. These principles form the benchmark of health that each Circle is to work towards throughout their time together.
The ABCs are:
A = Authentically Share their Stories
B = Build Community
C = Connect with Jesus
These three principles create the framework of expectation, experience and understanding so that we can move forward in unity. An expanded understanding of the ABCs will be provided in the online training for those seeking to become hosts.
There are two reasons for this:
- For many, the idea of leadership is scary and prohibitive. As a result they hesitate to step into the role because of perceived weaknesses, deficiencies or qualifications. The shift to the term Host is an intentional decision intended to remove those barriers and reframe our desire for what this role entails.
- In our training we also purposefully anchor the role of the Host in the idea of a potluck. As with a potluck, the host’s role is an important component, but it is not the only element needed for a successful gathering! Indeed, everyone plays a contributing role in making a great potluck happen! In the same way our desire is to see every member of a Circle play a role in contributing to the success of the group.
“You can’t show up to a potluck with just a fork.”
We believe that accomplishing the objectives outlined in The ABCs is impossible with a group of over ten. This number is not simply arbitrary but, rather, was decided upon in consultation with key ministry leaders, through significant reading and research, from the experience of those on our team and in alignment with the fundamental principles of Circles(ABCS).
Other reasons include:
- Having larger groups discourages shyer attendees from taking part and limits sharing in discussions which directly impacts all three of our Circle principles.
- Most people’s homes can only accommodate a group of this size comfortably and in homes is where we, ideally, would like Circles to meet (NOTE: There are some exceptions to this and can be discussed during Step 3 of our onboarding process).
In the spirit of cooperation and accommodation, all existing Bridge groups (pre-2022) that previously had 10+ members will still be permitted to form a Circle with one caveat: they will be required to create sub-groups that fit within these numerical parameters. By doing this we can continue to create an environment where the principles of Circles can be pursued.
NOTE: Each subgroup will require someone to be a Circle Host.
We believe that this is the best way to honour what was while building towards what will be.
For example, if your previous group had 16 regular members, then during your discussion time, you would form two subgroups of 8.
There are just a few simple steps:
Step 1 – Apply to become a host by going to bridgechurches.ca/circles/host.
Step 2 – Complete the new Circles: Foundations online training course (a commitment of between 45 – 60 minutes).
Step 3 – Complete a call with our Circles Administrator to ask any remaining questions, set up your Circle in Planning Center and discuss next steps.
Step 4 – Receive your Circles Starter Kit (pickup or delivery).
Step 5 – Use the included 4-week Circle Up study to kick things off (NOTE: Existing groups have flexibility in when to start this).
In addition to these initial steps we have created resources and experiences so that you can be supported throughout your journey as a Host. These include:
- A members only section of our website aimed at providing links to suggested group resources, opportunities to share prayer requests (privately or with the group) and a monthly blog (E3) designed to Equip, Encourage and Empower you in your role.
- Monthly coaching “calls” (in a format that best suits you – Email, Text or Phone).
- Semi-Annual Celebration Events
- On-Going on demand support as needed.
We have, in the past, tried to match leaders with participants with mixed success. Many churches leading the field in community ministry are moving away from this type of model because, quite frankly, it is not scalable or feasible as the church becomes more diverse.
Instead, we encourage prospective Hosts to take the initiative by inviting people to participate in a Circle with them. Remember it only takes two friends to form a Circle! Once formed we provide you with all of the tools necessary to help you build a successful Circle.
If you don’t know anyone that you would invite, then we encourage you to start by connecting with people. We provide a few different ways to do this:
- Through serving in an area of the church (bridgechurches.ca/serve).
- Participating in one of our three yearly discussion events (online or in-person).
- Hosting an Alpha At Home group (coming soon) and then forming a Circle.