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Restorative Congregations

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Restorative Congregations Cohort

Safe Church Ministry is partnering with Pastor Church Resources and the Office of Social Justice to offer a pilot of the Restorative Congregations Cohort in the late fall. 

Are you and your church ready to become part of a Restorative Congregation Cohort? This cohort will be all about learning and experimenting with circle processes to deepen relationships, create healthier church communities and build capacity to transform conflict into opportunity. One way the restorative framework has been used is through the use of listening circles to discuss the Human Sexuality Report through the Challenging Conversations Toolkit

Churches that decide to become part of a Restorative Congregation Cohort will create a Restorative Reference Team of 3-5 individuals who will receive training in one or more of the following:

  • a 3 hour listening circle facilitators training
  • a 2-day training in the Restorative Framework and Circle Facilitation
  • an additional 2-day training for “conflict conferencing.” (The 2-day Framework/Circle Facilitation is a prerequisite for conflict conferencing.)

The cohort is made up of ~3-5 churches that will meet with representatives of each church’s Restorative Reference Team (RRT) with coaches to:

  • Continue to learn to facilitate circles/conferences.
  • Plan circle processes that will be facilitated by RRTs in their churches and communities.
  • Reflect on what happened in the circles and wonder what else could have been done.

To learn more and take the next steps to your church becoming a part of the Restorative Congregations Cohort email Rev. Eric Kas at [email protected].

Restorative Congregations


What are “Restorative Congregations"? What are restorative practices or restorative justice practices? What is restorative justice?

In short, restorative practices are a set of principles and tools for people to use in order to be restorative with one another. In other words, they help us be with one another rather than simply doing things to each other or for one another. They are rooted in the values of respect, responsibility and relationships. They help us to live into God’s story of the renewal of all things and give us the tools to restore or make right where harm and wrong has occurred.

We also, along with many other organizations that train others in restorative practices, acknowledge that using "restorative practices" is not new—we did not invent listening circles. This practice has been happening in many forms in indigenous communities all over the world since the dawn of time. We want to honor the tradition of the circle practice and apply this ancient wisdom to the experiences we are facing in the 21st century. 

Some key restorative questions are:
  What happened?
  Who has been affected?
  How have you been affected?
  What were you thinking at the time?
  What have you thought about since?
  What has been the hardest thing for you?
  What can you do to make it right?
  What do you need to move forward?
  What are you willing to do to move forward?

These questions can be used in a variety of contexts from using them in conversation, informally, to a more formal circle process using a talking piece being passed from one person to another, ending in an agreement between all of those involved in the circle. In the justice system there is a specific way to use these restorative questions to set up a conference between those who were victimized and those who caused harm, which give direct voice for a victim to speak into the justice system and share what they need to make things right.

What would it look like for our congregations to become more restorative in our life together—and be able to connect with the communities of which we are a part, in more restorative ways?

Safe Church Ministry offers the following tangible services and resources for congregations:

  1. In collaboration with PCR and OSJ, Safe Church offers coaching through the Restorative Congregations Cohorts.
  2. As a partner and licensee of FaithCARE (Shalem Mental Health Network) we provide the following trainings:
    1. a 3 hour listening circle facilitators training

    2. a 2-day training in the Restorative Framework and Circle Facilitation

    3. (offered in the future) an additional 2-day training for “conflict conferencing.” (The 2-day Framework/Circle Facilitation is a prerequisite for conflict conferencing.)

  3. Connecting congregations to restorative facilitators and consulting with regards to facilitating a restorative process amidst conflict.
  4. Supporting and catalyzing networks to further use restorative practices in congregations throughout the CRCNA.

If you are interested in any of the above for your congregation, please contact Rev. Eric Kas at [email protected].

Resources

An Overview of Restorative Practices in the CRC provides definitions, links to other organizations, and the history of restorative practices in the Christian Reformed Church.

Other resources related to restorative practices across the Christian Reformed Church: