What are Connection Circles?
A Connection Circle is a group of people who covenant (promise) that they will meet without fail over a period of time, either short term, (say, 8 meetings weekly) or long term (say, 8 - 10 monthly meetings) and explore together “soul matters”, suggested by our worship themes or by other religious themes drawn from the large connection or small group ministry topics available through the UU Small Group Ministry Network. Some Connection Circles have built around common characteristics or “affinities”, (such as being a young adult). Others are newly formed through signups. Others have been meeting with a continuing core group for years and can often welcome new people, Leaders receive a an outline and reading resourves for each group monthly and some groups have decided that this outline should be shared in advance. The meetings have a format guided by the group covenant and a facilitator who leads both dialogue and the deep listening.
Are Connections Circles only for New Members?
Not at all! We encourage experienced members to join a group whose schedule suits them because small group encounter is one of the best ways to make your church experience more meaningful and fulfilling. Sign ups for Connection Circles (CC) typically happen in the Fall and Mid-Winter.
How do Connection Circles work? Groups should spend time at their first meeting creating a “covenant,” that is, establishing group norms on how members will be in relationship with one another. Then, they follow a similar format each month, which is as follows:
What is the purpose of this format?
This form of group interaction emphasizes deep listening, and the use of “I” statements, followed by facilitated conversation allows for soul- space to open up. Dialogue becomes possible that is hard to find outside such a circle. The dialogue that occurs retain the quality of listening in the first half of the time together and does not become debate or intellectual discussion. We have other opportunities at West Shore for that.
How are the topics chosen? The groups that meet monthly from October to May can engage with topics that correspond to the monthly worship themes that are explored by the parish co-ministers or in other topics available to us through small group ministry outlines available online. Our hope and intention is that those who attend both the Sunday service and engage in a Connection Circle will be able to deeply focus on the theme. A minister is usually involved in preparing the outlines for each session and meeting monthly in advance with the facilitators of the small groups.
Is there a cost involved?
No. We do encourage all who participate in any of West Shore’s adult programs to pay the PUURL Program fee, a one-time honor system fee of $10 for members, $20 non-members, one fee for the fall, and one for the winter.
What if I don’t like one or some of the members in my group?
The purpose of Connection Circles is to get to know others better through dialogue and listening. Over time, you may be surprised to discover that your initial concern about an individual changes to respect. However, if, after at least two meetings you still feel your group is not a good “match,” you can be reassigned.
SIGN UP. In order to participate in this first cycle of Connection Circles, you must sign up at the Church Office on Sundays in September or January or May. The facilitators will create groups and determine a meeting time. When you sign up, be sure we have your correct phone number, email and mailing address.
SHOW UP. Show up for the Connection Circles meetings. Make time on your calendar for the regular gatherings. If you’re too busy, then wait to sign up for a Connection Circles until you’re fairly certain you can participate in it fully. Everyone has changing schedules during a year but people in these groups try hard to keep their commitment to the other members and be there regularly.
TELL OTHERS. Invite a church friend to join a Connection Circle. This is a great way to introduce non-members to the West Shore community.
STAY IN TOUCH. Whether you have joined a group and you’ve found you’re unable to continue, or you haven’t yet found your “niche” at
West Shore, let someone know.
WANT TO FACILITATE? TELL US !
Connection Circle facilitators are both recruited and appointed. Training and continuous support is available for all facilitators. Talk or email one of the ministers if you're interested in being a Connection Circle facilitator.