Searching for understanding is not about compromising to reach middle ground. It is about focusing on values and concerns that the group shares.
A listening circle helps to:
- Develop and enhance relationships among participants
- Begin to rebuild trust—person to person and members to church leaders
- Develop and strengthen skills needed to discuss deeply held beliefs and values while staying committed to the group
- Develop a “safe space” for all voices
- Offer a tool for discernment
Listening Circle Process
- Contact the Peacebuilding Ministries
- Meet with lead trainers to develop a listening circle plan
- Facilitators receive listening circle training
- Schedule and participate in a listening circle
- Evaluate the experience
Requirements for Success
- An Attitude of Acknowledging God’s Spirit—God is present and working amid the process.
- Active Listening—Paraphrase what has been stated to ensure each participant’s point is correctly interpreted.
- Small Groups—Bring together four to 10 participants. Be sure to welcome and include people who have a variety of perspectives.
- Trained Facilitators—Skilled facilitators must be trusted by the group to guide the group in an unbiased manner, without asserting their own perspectives. They will serve as models and coaches for “active listening” and “genuine questions” and maintain a safe environment by upholding the listening circle guidelines.
- Storytelling—Have people speak from personal experience.
- Speak as “I” instead of “We”—Speak for oneself instead of one’s “side,” and avoid generalizations.
- Trust Building—Opening questions not related to the issue help people learn about one another, gain a sense of safety, and practice authentic listening.
- Examining Stereotypes—Identify and dismantle misperceptions of others and oneself.
- No Agenda—The only purpose is to gain understanding of other perspectives.
- Guidelines—Guidelines for participation should be shared at the beginning and adhered to throughout the process.