Having a consistent moon circle can offer you a deep level of support that is difficult to find in other areas of life. I am so grateful for my Well Circle, which has been one of my favorite things in its existence during the past six years. For the first two years, the Circle definitely went through ups and downs and various phases of participation. Then we landed in a good flow and have stayed consistent with the same members for years, knowing we can count on one another and the circle to keep us grounded. Making it through the heart of the pandemic amidst isolation was a big accomplishment. (Check out my former At The Well blog post about moon circling during a pandemic). Sometimes it can feel like unexplainable magic, which it partly is! But there are also specific practices and qualities to a successful circle that I have been observing and am happy to share with you here.
As someone who frequently organizes community, and dreams up ways for people to gather, I can often fall into the trap of overly focusing on the number of people joining a group or attending an event. But I’ve learned over the years that it is much more valuable to focus on quality over quantity with the members, and this is especially true when it comes to a Well Circle.
One of the most influential books I read this year was The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, a treatise on bringing out the magic in events we host. Amongst many brilliant elements of her book, she writes about the ideal sizes of groups. Her research on groups and events all over the world shows that 6 is an ideal number for a small group where everyone can engage in intimate conversation, and then 12-15 is the next rung up for maintaining intimacy while achieving more diversity of opinion.
In my Well Circle, we have 11 members, which has felt like a solid number for being able to build relationships with everyone, while cultivating deep trust and intimacy. It’s large enough that even when a few people don’t attend, it doesn’t throw things off too much.
One of the most successful ways I’ve found to make participation matter is to have rotating Circle facilitation. Every month, a different person or two people as co-facilitators take the lead and prepare an agenda. The group gives full trust to those people, so they can show up and just receive, knowing another month, they will be leading.
Speaking of members showing up…I’ve been in a ton of groups and meetings where consistent participation is requested or even “required,” but then there is no follow-up if people don’t attend. We’re used to a world where accountability often doesn’t matter, ghosting is a common phenomenon, and we can drop in and out of things anonymously. But in our Well Circle, active participation is a norm. This doesn’t mean people attend every single Circle, but that we have an expectation that everyone tries to prioritize the Circle and if we cannot attend, we communicate that. If someone doesn’t attend and doesn't communicate about it, we usually check in with them to make sure they’re okay and fill them in on what happened in the Circle. This makes everyone feel like they matter and make a difference to the Circle.
Scheduling in our busy lives can be quite difficult and is one of my least favorite things to do with a group, unless there are clear practices. My Circle has a practice of scheduling the next Circle at the end of each meeting, and we try to find a date that works for as many members as possible, as close to the new moon as possible. For people who weren’t in attendance, we reach out to them and ask them to vote on the date that works best for them before finalizing it. Then someone volunteers to facilitate the next Circle, and that person will send a calendar invitation to everyone. Another way to do it could be to create a calendar for the upcoming six months or year, and try to stick to that, but I find that our lives are changing so much, it’s best to schedule about one month out. Once the Circle is on my calendar, I try to honor that date and protect it dearly. The most important thing is having a clear system for scheduling that isn’t too labor intensive.
Every group can benefit from setting norms or agreements about how members treat one another, participate, and resolve conflict. Often groups may have no norms or all unspoken expectations, or if they do form explicit norms, they do so initially and never revisit them again. Make sure the agreed upon group norms are easily accessible to everyone and can be reviewed as needed. Taking the time to review your group norms, see if they still resonate, and adapting or refreshing them can be like the equivalent of renewing your marriage vows. It forces people–in a good way–to confront their feelings about the group and not let anything fester. You can do this on a case-by-case basis as it feels right, or consistently on a set period of time.
I am a strong proponent of finding a balance between consistent rituals that the group can count on every Circle, while also bringing in unique, or even surprising, components. We have a number of traditions that make me feel grounded and like I know what I’m walking into, such as the following:
In addition to the rituals, because we have rotating facilitation, people will bring in new and creative activities. It’s always a joy to see the different things people bring in, and it really develops the leadership of every member.
In conclusion, each Well Circle is unique and needs to find its own ways to form consistency, but I hope these keys have been supportive to you! Know that you can adapt them and try things out, and it’s never too late for a refresh. Many blessings to you and your Circle.